The latest SUV from China surprises in the rough with a smooth ride, head-turning good looks and a low price.
ALWYN VILJOEN goes far to find fault with a Chinese SUV, and fails
HAVAL is the only Chinese car brand to compete in the Dakar, in which race the H8 has finished three times in the top 10 in the past five years.
This tells petrolheads all they need to know about the premium brand from Great Wall Motors (GWM).
Non-petrolheads will, however, be asking “Ha-who?”.
For them this quick refresher.
• Haval is the premium sub-brand of GWM in China, like Lexus is to Toyota, AMG to Merc, Infiniti to Nissan and Genesis to Hyundai.
• GWM last year took full control of its South African subsidiary as part of the giant Chinese company’s international expansion strategy.
• Charles Zhao, MD of Haval Motors SA, said South Africa plays an important part in Haval’s international expansion plans. (This is especially nice to know in the wake of announcements from General Motors, Dodge and Chrysler that they will close their dealers in SA next month.)
• Haval is already exported to eight countries apart from South Africa. Now, back to the SUV at hand —
Wheels recently reported how the H6 passed China’s tough roll-over test, with all doors opening after the car was sent tumbling down a tar road for 100 metres.
So we already know the H6 is relatively safe and now, having driven this SUV for over 1 500 km over the dirt and tar, I can unreservedly recommend the Haval H6 for anybody in the market for a comfortable, affordable family van.
Pricing for the five models, all of them 4x2, starts at a very competitive R330 k and goes up to R390 k.
The models are available in three trim levels — City, Premium and Luxury — all with dual-zone climate control, electric/folding side mirrors with demister, keyless entry, remote audio controls and auto lights/wipers, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, Merc-style “pleather” upholstery, full Bluetooth, Aux and USB functionality.
The Premium and Luxury models come with six air bags, electronic stability programme (ESP), hill descent and ascent control and a reverse camera. The Premium adds a sunroof — not the wisest option in sunny SA — and a higher quality sound system.
I drove the Premium, which retails for just under R340 k, with the twolitre turbo-charged petrol engine averaging just over 10 km per litre (9,7 l/100 km) to the Wild Coast and back to Pietermaritzburg.
Inside, Audi drivers will feel very familiar with the button layout, but this is not just another cheap Chinese rip-off.
I was really impressed at how well the suspension soaked up corrugations on dirt roads and how no dust seeped into the cabin.
The H6 is sold with either a sixspeed dual-clutch or six-speed manual. I had the manual and would have liked a bit longer ratios to crawl along the Wild Coast’s steeper bush tracks. The petrol engine’s turbo kicks in at just over 2 000 revs, which is a bit high for crawling, but very driveable on tar, which is where most H6 models will spend their lives and where the flat torque curve ensures sufficient power when you want to pass a truck.
The Luxury comes with Xenon lights, but I found the Premium’s halogen lights very good at night.
Inside the cabin, ambient strip lighting adds colour at night, much like the top-end Mercedes-Benz models do these days.
And like the Mercs and the Ford Mustang, the H6 projects its logo on the ground next to the front doors when you unlock the car. In the dark, this impresses everyone each time, but also helps to show the puddles before you step in them.
After four days of sitting in it, I can only sing the praises of the driver seat. At the rear, the bench tilts or folds flat into a bed for the children with minimum fuss.
If I have to find a fault, it is the space-saver spare tyre that the H6 comes with. Haval’s more expensive competitors, however, have no spare tyre at all, and those who have been in this position tell me even fitting a space-saver is better than waiting a day for a truck to fetch you from the middle of nowhere and then typically another two days for the right tyre to be delivered from the city.
There really is a lot to like in the H6, which arguably combines all the best design features from the competitors in what everyone I asked agreed is a very attractive package.
All the Haval models are backed with a five-year/100 000 km warranty, a five-year/60 000 km service plan, and five-year/unlimited kilometre roadside assistance.
Model: Premium 4x2 at R339 900 Engine: 2-litre turbo Power: 140 kW Torque: 310 Nm between 2 000 rpm to 3 600 rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual
‘Having driven this SUV for over 1 500 km over the dirt and tar, I can unreservedly recommend the Haval H6 for anybody in the market for a comfortable, affordable family van.’
The Haval H6 combines the best traits from various sport utes into a very attractive package that rides on a suspension set-up that just loves those dirt roads leading to hidden coves on the Wild Coast.
The Haval H6 comes with a space-saving spare tyre, which is not useful on Africa’s rural roads, but when a slow puncture happens, look for the nearest yellow Dunlop franchise, where someone will patch the hole cheaply.