A gleeful Public Relations Manager from the brand will call me up and ask me to drive their “amazing” new product. Up until recently, all of these interactions have resulted in me being told that I don’t know what I’m talking about or that I was unfairly harsh when my road test is published. The once happy-go-lucky PR manager suddenly becomes a rather hostile force.
This doesn’t bother me though, because I don’t do what I do for the manufactures, I do it for you, the readers, as a journalist. It is your hard earned money that buys these products, and I’d hate to see you waste it on something sub-standard.
The truth is that there are very few genuinely bad cars for sale today, but still, I am sceptical of any new entrants into the local market. You can probably imagine my hesitation to take delivery of a product from Haval, who are a part of GWM, a brand that I haven’t seen eye-to-eye with in the past. But as I discovered whilst driving the brand’s latest H6 C model, the Chinese have upped their game rather dramatically of late.
Haval prides itself on being an SUV brand, not a bad marketing strategy considering the fact that SUVs are the single fastest growing segment within the global market. If you’re looking for a trend setter, the H6 isn’t likely to break the mould in terms of design. It cuts a rather generic, yet pleasing silhouette.
Up front, there’s a large chrome grille that extends out and integrates with the headlamps while the lower apron and fog-lamp surrounds provide a mildly aggressive front-end design. In side profile there are lovey character lines that extend upward and give an impression of length, while the roof racks add a nice touch. The rear design is again, very simple, but pleasing, with a rounded shape, a silver rear diffuser with dual-exit exhausts and a rather large “Haval” badge splayed across the tailgate.
The interior is perhaps where I was most surprised with the H6. I had the City variant on test, which despite being the entry-level spec, is well equipped. The cloth seats are well designed, comfortable and look very upmarket, while the toggle switch to control the infotainment system mimics that seen in Audi and BMW models.
The infotainment screen itself measures seven-inches and is a touchscreen unit. It’s not class leading in terms of resolution and functionality, but it features Bluetooth and USB and is quite simple to get used to.
The general fit and finish is rather good too. There is the occasional surface that features poor quality plastics, but overall, the majority of the interior feels of a decent quality and well put together. The space for rear occupants is a real plus too, with ample head and leg room for three occupants.
Despite being the base model, I found the specification in the H6 to be good, which it needs to be to try and entice customers from the more established brands. There are items such as cruise control, reverse camera with Park Distance Control, fog lamps, automatic wipers/lights, electric windows all round, keyless entry, multi-function steering wheel, climate control, two airbags and ABS.
Seeing a modest two airbag count in the base model, I would like to see how it fairs in a crash test as I cannot seem to find any literature from outside of China with details surrounding the test results of this model.
Another aspect of the H6 I found impressive, was its ride quality. I use a heavily corrugated dirt road to get to work each day and the H6 handled it very well and felt stable and comfortable all the way up to the 100km/h speed limit. Out on the open road, it whispers along with impressive NVH levels and a generally smooth ride quality.
The powertrain is also rather good; a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with 140kW/310Nm has been mated to a Getrag-sourced six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The combination makes for impressive progress, but fuel consumption was a worry, with my weeklong test of the car registering over 11.0-litres/100km, with the claim being 9.8-litres/100km.
The H6 C surpassed my expectations of what a Chinese vehicle can offer in 2017. The development and improvements made to the SUVs from the GWM stable is remarkable and despite it not being on par with the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan, it does offer good spec-per-rand. The City auto variant will set you back R359 900 and comes with a five-year/100 000km warranty
Article written by Sean Nurse