The Haval H6 is one of the best-selling SUVs in the world - thanks, fairly specifically, to its massive home-market popularity. Given the scale of production and the gobsmacking number of people who worked on the H6 – Haval has 33,000 engineers and it was designed by the man responsible for the BMW X5, Pierre Leclerq – expectations are high.
The line-up is very simple. Two specifications are available in Australia – the entry-level Premium is priced (until the end of 2016 at least) at $29,990 drive-away and our test car, the Lux, is $33,990.
That extra $4000 adds a panoramic sunroof, 19-inch alloy wheels over 17s, electrically adjustable front seats, faux leather seats, a passenger mirror kerb parking camera, water repellent front door glass, an eight-speaker sound system with sub-woofer instead of the Premium's seven-speaker system and self-levelling Xenon headlights over Halogen.
Both have standard safety features like blind-spot monitoring and rear-view camera with front and rear sensors, as well as little extras like dual-zone climate control with rear air-vents, cruise control, stainless steel scuff plates, tyre pressure monitoring system, ISOFIX points, reclinable rear seats and Haval laser puddle lights.
They also share the same 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine teamed with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and both are front-wheel drive. An all-wheel drive is produced, however only with a manual transmission so we're unlikely to see it here.
The H6 makes a pretty good visual first impression. It's nicely proportioned, has a sophisticated, if a little derivative, silhouette. From the side-profile the BMW resemblance can be seen in the shape of the bonnet and headlights, while the rear is reminiscent of the Range Rover Evoque.
At 4549mm long, 1835mm wide and 1700mm high, it is similarly sized to many of its competitors and thanks to the introductory drive-away deal, it's current price is close to the manufacturers' list price of a number of other petrol two-wheel drive medium SUVs including the Renault Koleos and Kia Sportage.
The Haval branding appears on the vehicle far too often: large silver lettering on a red background in the middle of the Ford-esque shaped, very blingy grille; spread across the back under the rear windscreen; and also again on the rear lower-left in make/model format. We get it. It's a Haval - and Haval desperately needs to crowd source a logo.
As tacky as that excess branding looks, inside the SUV, the cabin is sophisticated in its design and well finished. Most of it appears made of quality materials and even the buttons and switches don't feel light, cheap or overly-plasticky. Overall it’s put together really well, though there are a few surfaces scattered about that detract from that premium-ish feel. It's not entirely original though. You'll notice a bit of 'inspiration' from Audi, Volkswagen and more in the layout, style and design of the centre console and cabin.
You'd be forgiven for thinking the fake leather upholstery is actually the real deal. The material is soft, the driving position high, the eight-way electric adjustment with lumbar support (driver's seat only, front passenger is four-way electrically adjustable) makes it easy to get comfortable and they are well bolstered and supportive yet sumptuously cushy. The variant name sums it up perfectly – the seats are Lux. The 'leather' trim is also inlaid on the door panels, along with woodgrain and chrome effect trimmings which make this feel like a much more up-market vehicle than it actually is.
The H6 has an 8.0-inch colour LCD touchscreen which is adequate. It's not the most fancy system, nor is it the easiest to use. The sensor graphic overlays the right third of the screen (there must be a way to turn that off) and what should have been simplistic sub-menus are overly complicated. But it has Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB, AUX and SD outlets as well as MP5 compatibility (MP5 is a digital device that plays video and audio). Satellite navigation wasn't available at the launch, but it will be added and retro-fitted by the end of the year.
Other features that contribute to the luxury, premium feel of the H6 include heated front and rear seats, keyless entry and push button start, and coloured ambient lighting. What isn't very luxurious is the thin blind that covers the panoramic glass roof. It's very flimsy and we could feel the heat radiating through, as well as bright light – not substantial enough for a hot Australian summer day.
As previously mentioned, the rear seats recline and are heated, and they are finished in the same faux leather material as the front seats. There's a very generous amount of room in the second row which doesn't lack for head, knee, foot or elbow room. The rear windows are privacy glass and there's a good amount of storage.
Cargo storage looks a little light on for what you would expect from a car of this size. The previous H6 had a whopping 808-litres of space according to a Chinese website, and it looks like a decent portion of that was reallocated in favour of more room in the second row. We haven't yet been able to confirm the official boot size, but will update this when we do.
The fittings, as in the front and second row, aren't flimsy. The cargo hooks and handles feel strong and solid and the 60:40 split-fold seats can be easily popped forward with the simple pull of a lever. There's also a temporary spare wheel under the floor but no extra storage. As for negatives, the seats don't quite fold flat and there is nowhere to store the cargo cover.
Despite the premium vibe in the cabin, out on the road is where the H6's main shortcomings come to light. The 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine produces 145kW and 315Nm, and while that's not a bad amount of torque, it runs out of puff if you ask a lot of it. It's best for unhurried cruising and smooth inputs and gradual throttle application are needed to get the best out of the Haval. The six-speed dual clutch transmission is pretty good most of the time, but tends to be a little lazy up hills.
Uphill, from a standstill or even around corners at times the front wheels occasionally spin. We pulled off the bitumen onto a grass shoulder with a slight incline and the wheels just spun when we tried to drive forward. In the end, the only way to get it going was to reverse back on to the road. Whether it was the tyres and grip or the drive system, it finds loose or slippery surfaces challenging and isn't as capable as some of its more off-road or even soft-road geared competitors.
The suspension is supple, it feels well controlled and nicely balanced on the road. It's not harsh and, honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so good. The engine noise however is harsh and quite gruff for a petrol.
The steering takes a bit of getting used to, initially it’s very strange – it’s electrically assisted and just feels fake and a little tight around the centre. It's inconsistently weighted and inconsistent in its reactions, creating a disconnect between the driver and the road.
There are a few things that aren’t perfectly suited for Australian roads and driving conditions – the hazard lights are overly sensitive to enthusiastic driving and the ESC is a little sensitive. Visibility through the rear isn't brilliant, and though I found front and side visibility to be acceptable, there were others in the office that felt the large mirrors and A-pillar blocked the driver's line-of-sight, particularly around corners. There's no digital speedo either.
There are Eco, Standard and Sport modes and the H6 will default to Standard when it's turned off then on again. Despite making a conscious effort to flick it into Eco mode each time, over mostly urban kilometres we were seeing fuel consumption figures of around 16-litres per 100km. After resetting the trip metre and doing 160km on the highway it was around 9L/100km. The combined claimed fuel consumption is 9.8-litres per 100 kilometres – we'd suggest you'd likely see a real world combined figure in the vicinity of 12L/100km. Haval also offers a decent five-year/100,000 kilometre warranty, five years roadside assist and capped price servicing.
The Haval H6 is competitively priced, has a good list of standard equipment, well finished inside and is no slouch on the road. It may not have caught the segment leaders just yet – but the Haval H6 is certainly on the rise. It would be hard to overlook the more seasoned players in the mid-sized SUV segment, but if you appreciate the luxury interior and features list more than performance, it could serve you well.
Click on the photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.