Leave the automotive industry for a while and look what happens – new players pop up from all sorts of places and some of them are better than you’d expect.
Here’s a car you might have heard of, but never seen. That was what was going through my mind as I collected the keys from the Haval representative. Haval is a specialist SUV maker that is intrinsically linked with the Great Wall Motor Company. A little bird has hinted that Haval might well absorb the Great Wall brand before long, and that might not be the worst thing in the world. While Haval is a Chinese brand, you would be hard pressed to know based on the quality of the vehicles it produces if the H6 is anything to go by. First impressions suggest that Haval design teams have spent considerable time observing European SUV makers and accordingly, drawn their inspiration for the two models bearing the H6 nameplate. The Premium grade and the Lux share most of the features, though there are some obvious differences; the Premium for instance, runs on 17-inch tyres as opposed to the Lux’s 19’s. Barring the differences between the seats – electrically adjustable and heated in the Lux, manual in the Premium – the Haval’s interior is well executed and combines quality interior materials, different textures and very logical and sophisticated instrument and control layout. The equipment level is extremely high too, with electric seat heaters, a start/stop system, electrically heated and folding mirrors, hill start assist and hill descent control, blind spot monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, remote tailgate opening, linked air conditioning, an eight-inch touchscreen infortainment system and much more besides. Overhead, a panoramic moonroof brings the outside in to a split tone cabin which reemphasises the level of sophistication Haval has imbued the H6 with. Externally, the H6 is crafted to sit squarely in the middle of the SUV trio from Haval, and arguably, of the three, it is the SUV which stacks up best against its respective competition. In its sector, the H6 is going up against 20 competitors – experienced ones – and it stacks up very well, and that’s just considering the equipment levels on their own. The H6 is powered by a two-litre, turbocharged petrol engine mated to a sixspeed Getrag transmission with paddle shifters and a Sports mode. There is a little hesitancy spooling the turbo up from standing starts, but then SUVS are hardly the weapon of choice when it comes to a street race – personally, I’ll take the comfortable cruising any day. Road holding and general deportment is good, though the 19-inch wheels on the Lux model – visually a drawcard – can translate to a little skittishness on poorly maintained roads. There’s also a modest hint of body roll as the result of the H6’s comfortably tall stance, which of course, is part of the reason people buy SUVS anyway. There’s no faulting the space inherent in the H6, which – while classified as a medium-sized SUV with five seats – makes the most of its available inches to accommodate its five occupants comfortably, in every sense of the word, and still have plenty of rear boot-space. Don’t misread this, the H6 has its faults but they are very minor when you consider the value-for-money proposition and Haval’s ambition to meet and exceed market expectation, in this, the company has succeeded with the H6. Ultimately, the H6 is a lot of SUV for very little outlay.