Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring


Chinese challenger gives families a fresh alternativ­e in the hybrid SUV market


It’s rare that a brand gets a free pass in the ultra-competitiv­e car industry, but Toyota has had a huge one with the RAV4 Hybrid. A runaway success since its launch almost three years ago, the petrol-electric SUV has benefited from a lack of genuine competitio­n. Until now. At a time when Toyota is asking customers to wait roughly nine months for delivery of a RAV4 Hybrid, Haval’s new H6 Hybrid is priced and equipped to tempt the impatient.

It costs $45,990 drive-away, roughly $1500 less than the XSE model that sits in the middle of the RAV4 Hybrid line-up. The RAV4 Hybrid GX costs less, at about $41,000.

While it lines up well against the Toyota, the newcomer costs $6000 more than the equivalent petrol H6, with no additional equipment.

Tyre kickers will be impressed by the Chinese-built SUV, though. The cabin looks a cut above the Toyota, with leather-trimmed seats, two large digital screens, a panoramic sunroof and head-up display.

It’s got the Toyota covered in the traffic light Grand Prix as well, with a 179kW petrol-electric set-up, compared to 160kW for the RAV4.

The power comes from a 1.5-litre turbo engine (110kW/230Nm) combined with an electric motor that develops 130kW and 300Nm. The motor is charged by a small 1.76kWh battery.

The hybrid set-up is different to Toyota’s because the electric motor drives the wheels at low speeds. At higher speeds the petrol engine provides the drive, with assistance from the electric motor. The petrol engine will also kick in if you floor the throttle at lower speeds.

The set-up makes for quiet, smooth progress at lower speeds if you’re gentle with the throttle. Under full accelerati­on, though, the front wheels can struggle for grip and there’s tugging on the steering wheel when accelerati­ng out of corners.

Four-wheel drive would do a better job of putting the power to the road, but unlike the petrol H6, the hybrid is 2WD-only.

Claimed fuel consumptio­n is 5.2L/100km, which is pretty close to the RAV4’s claim of 4.7L/100km.

We matched that claim on some trips and generally used no more than 6L/100km during a test drive of close to 400km.

That’s impressive for a mid-sized SUV that is bigger than most, including the RAV4. Rear leg and headroom are generous, as is the rear load area, while passengers in the back have their own USB ports and air vents. The only blot on the copy book is a tyre repair kit in lieu of a proper spare tyre.

Those in the front seats are treated to heated and ventilated seats, while the heated steering wheel is a nice touch for cold winter mornings.

The 12.3-inch centre touchscree­n looks modern and is easy to navigate, although physical dials for the airconditi­oning would be welcome.

The H6 has a comprehens­ive array of driver assistance tech, including auto emergency braking, lane keeping and blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert with braking interventi­on, traffic sign recognitio­n and adaptive cruise control.

Some of the tech is a little heavy handed, though, tugging at the steering wheel when interventi­on isn’t really need. We’re not too sure about the rear collision warning, either. It flashes the hazard lights if the car behind is tailgating, a move that’s unlikely to de-escalate a potential road rage situation.

Thankfully, you can adjust the level of assistance you receive. $45,990 drive-away 1.5-litre petrolelec­tric, 179kW and 530Nm Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert 5.2L/100km 7 years/ unlimited km, $1650 over 5 years

Repair kit 600 litres

While there’s no doubt that Chinese car makers have made huge improvemen­ts in safety and cabin quality, the H6 driving experience still feels off the pace.

Around town, the suspension sometimes struggles to insulate occupants from pockmarked and pot-holed inner city streets, while at speed it takes a fraction to settle from bigger bumps and undulation­s.

The H6 tends to lean and pitch noticeably through corners, while the steering lacks precision, which can dent driver confidence.

There’s no doubt the H6 hybrid will challenge the RAV4 in showrooms, but it can’t match the Toyota on the road.

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