David Lin­klater.

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - MOTORING -

It seems 2017 is a year of new au­to­mo­tive brands in New Zealand.

Tesla was launched in Fe­bru­ary, In­finiti’s lux­ury divi­sion In­finiti has reached Ki­wi­land and Volk­swa­gen Group’s Span­ish Seat brand has an­nounced spec­i­fi­ca­tion and pric­ing for hatch­back and SUV mod­els.

The fourth and fi­nal new car­maker for Ki­wi­land is prob­a­bly the least glam­orous, but ar­guably the most in­ter­est­ing. Haval is the SUV divi­sion of China’s Great Wall Mo­tors. In its home mar­ket, it’s the biggest­selling SUV brand, hit­ting one mil­lion sales per year for the first time in 2016.

Since 2015, Haval has been on a mis­sion to ex­pand, de­vel­op­ing ve­hi­cles it reck­ons will suit global tastes. It’s cur­rently sold in 30 coun­tries.

Haval is open­ing in NZ with two mod­els, the small H2 (think Mazda CX-3 or Toy­ota C-HR) and the medium H6 (CX-5, RAV4). Both are FWD. The lat­ter is China’s big­gest-sell­ing sin­gle SUV model and the world’s fourth most pop­u­lar over­all.

No­body’s ex­pect­ing Haval to take the mar­ket by storm. The same fac­tory-owned distrib­u­tor rep­re­sents the brand in both Aus­tralia and NZ, so let’s as­sume it’s play­ing a long game. It might be a mega-brand in China, but across the Tas­man Haval only sold 286 cars last year de­spite hav­ing a four-model range. In NZ, a mar­ket one-tenth the size, num­bers will be tiny to start with. It’s def­i­nitely a ‘‘chal­lenger’’ brand.

Both H2 and H6 come in two spec­i­fi­ca­tion lev­els: Pre­mium and Lux. The H2 is priced at $25,990-$27,990, the H6 $30,990-$34,990.

So as you’d ex­pect, these Chi­nese new­com­ers are cheaper than the es­tab­lished play­ers (Mazda’s CX-3 and CX-5 open at $31,395 and $39,995, for ex­am­ple) and they come with an ease-your­mind war­ranty: five years, 100,000km and five years guar­an­teed ser­vice pric­ing.

All Haval mod­els have key­less en­try/start, touch-screen and re­vers­ing cam­era.

In Pre­mium trim the H2 gets 18-inch al­loys, sun­roof and cruise con­trol.

The en­try H6 Pre­mium rides on 17in al­loys and has dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, front and rear park­ing sen­sors and blind spot mon­i­tor­ing.

The H6 Lux adds up­hol­stery in a pseudo-leather ma­te­rial called Com­fort-Tek, panoramic sun­roof, 19in al­loys and gas-dis­charge head­lamps.

But are the H2 and H6 any good? Ac­tu­ally, yes. Wheel time on Kiwi roads is lim­ited thus far, but we’ve had pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of the H6 dur­ing its launch phase in Aus­tralia last year.

Over­all qual­ity is im­pres­sive. Pow­er­train-wise, both also have some­thing to of­fer. The H2 has a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol with 110kW/ 210Nm and a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box, while the H6 sports a 2.0-litre petrol-turbo with 145kW/ 315Nm and au­to­mated dual-clutch six-speed gear­box.

Ex­te­rior styling is a mat­ter of taste but we reckon both look crisp and quite mod­ern. The in­te­ri­ors are a bit 10-years-ago, with weird plas­tic tex­tures and too much sil­ver gar­nish, but the fit and fin­ish is tight.

On the road, both mod­els cope with Kiwi black­top ad­mirably well. The H6 in par­tic­u­lar has a ca­pa­ble chas­sis over wind­ing back roads.

The sore point in both H2 and H6 is steer­ing. The smaller car’s tiller is more con­sis­tent, but strangely heavy – per­haps an at­tempt to make it feel ‘‘sporty’’. The H6s’s wheel is also pon­der­ous just off cen­tre, but also weirdly in­con­sis­tent as you turn into a cor­ner.

But nei­ther car feels out of its depth on lo­cal roads. The pow­er­trains are quite punchy and crisp, the sus­pen­sion com­posed through tricky cor­ners. They’re not up to main­stream Ja­panese/ Korean qual­ity, but they’re by no

Mid-sized H6 is the star of Haval’s range in China.

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