As a highly determined, wealthy Chinese company, GWM would be silly not to place an SUV within the mid-size segment. Enter its new generation H6. Now I’m quite a fan of the work GWM has done to improve its products; the leap from generation to generation in terms of quality and driveability is astonishing. However, I’m afraid I found more to dislike than to like with the H6 that I received to test. On the face of it, the H6 is quite a handsome steed (pardon the pun) and it certainly features what is becoming the brand’s signature Eurocentric look.
In terms of the oily bits, I have to commend GWM for downsizing and introducing a 1.5-litre turbo petrol model. Then, in the same breath, I have to concede that the engine simply doesn’t work well in this rather hefty car. The problem is the turbo lag; the car feels dead under 3 000rpm and when it’s cold, the problem becomes worse. I had people hooting at me when I pulled out of my house as I simply couldn’t get up to speed. Even once warmed up I found myself having to rev the car up more than I would normally, which meant I could never dip below 10.0 litres/100km when the claimed figure is 8.5 litres/100km.
Then there’s the six-speed gearbox which was reluctant to go into first gear in traffic. Couple this with a very hard clutch action and you have a car that doesn’t like to be in an urban environment. I really struggled on my commute through Johannesburg. I’d like to see if the diesel suffers the same problems as the petrol or, if perhaps my test unit was still tight, mechanically. On the open road it did make up for its lack of urban etiquette as there’s more than enough overtaking ability with a good 210Nm on tap while refinement and interior quality is really very good.
It boasts an impressive and easy-to-use infotainment system which features touch-screen functionality along with AUX/USB and Bluetooth. There are also steering-mounted controls for the infotainment and cruise-control systems, which is convenient. The system proved a joy to use and even has a built-in reverse camera. Another slightly bizarre thing was the key… it seemed to work one minute and then stopped functioning the next. Suffice to say, it had sorted itself out by the time the car was returned.
In terms of practicality the H6 provides quite a bit of interior space with a handy storage area between the seats, a folding cargo area as well as a boot organiser which separates the boot into two compartments, should the need arise. Rear passengers have ample knee and head room while driver and passenger space is comparable with its competitors.
At R309 999 the H6 is certainly competitively priced and undercuts most of its competition while offering a good range of standard features. However, at this price, slightly more money can get you a Volkswagen Tiguan which will recuperate its initial premium over the GWM in the resale stakes in any case. There’s also the likes of the Citröen C4 Aircross, Peugeot’s 3008 in the crossover segment and even Honda’s CRV, Kia’s Sportage, Hyundai’s iX35 and Nissan’s Qashqai in the SUV segment.
In summation, the H6 is a grand attempt by GWM. I do believe the diesel model will be better but having said that it is some R60 000 more than the petrol model so for now, I’d spend my money elsewhere.