By: Stuart Johnston
The flare-up in Covid-19 cases put paid to an overnighter launch for the new Haval H6 in the first week of June, but Haval Motors South Africa went to some lengths to ensure that invited media guests still experienced the third-generation H6, by delivering cars to their homes in a rotation for a couple of days’ duration.
The car I ended up sampling was the H6 2.0T 2WD Luxury model, which sells for the remarkably-reasonable price of R454 900. It is one of four two-litre Haval H6 models launched now, while an even more-affordable 1.5-litre line-up is scheduled for launch this August. The other models currently available are the 2.0T 2WD Premium at R419 900, the 2.0T 4WD Luxury at R479 900 and the 2.0T 4WD Super Luxury at R514 900.
It has to be said at first glance that all of these offer a lot of car for the money, which has been Haval’s stock in trade since it entered the market here in 2017.
South Africans didn’t get to sample the second-generation H6, so this latest large SUV represents quite a big step forward for the model range. It uses the Haval L.E.M.O.N modular platform, the first example of this being the smaller Jolion, which arrived here in April. Haval says the key-note of the new modular platform is high-strength and low-weight, with nearly 72 per cent of the car’s overall construction wrought in hi-strength steel. The new H6 that I had the pleasure of driving over the weekend weighs in at around 1 600 kg.
The front-end of the new Haval is its most dramatic styling statement. A large bright-metal mesh grille is augmented by deep, angular recesses for the fog lights and hooded-eyed LED light units, while the flanks of the car are more conventional with a lack of sharp-edged styling accents. The rear end sees the taillights linked by a red plastic insert of similar texture to the lights, that runs the width of the tailgate.
The front-wheel-drive model that I sampled uses 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/60 R18 tyres. The more-expensive All-Wheel-Drive Super Luxury model employs 19-inch wheels, and I have to say that aesthetically this was the one jarring note of the new H6 Luxury package. With the smaller wheels installed there is too much exposed wheel-arch recess area, and on the front end the exposed suspension components detract somewhat from the intended suave presentation.
As you step inside the new H6, two aspects strike you. Firstly, a lot of work has been done to give the dashboard area a thoroughly modern look, with a large 12.3-inch touch screen that sits atop brushed metal styling strips. Neatly-stitched leather features prominently and high-quality black plastic augments the dashboard and console area, while the new rotary gear selector is well-presented.
The second aspect is a bit of a downer, looks-wise. This refers to the seat design. Unlike quality European and Japanese offerings in this size of vehicle, the seat squabs and back-rests offer minimal pleating and very little in the form of side-bolstering. The grey leather covering looks bland compared to the rest of the sci-fi look that Haval say they were aiming at, and makes one think of some luxury cars that were popular in the 1980s! On the plus side, due to the lack of hefty bolstering, getting in and out of an H6 is very easy, and the seats are in fact quite comfortable.
The latest version of Haval’s direct-injection petrol turbo engine has been up-rated to produce 150 kW and 320 Nm from its two-litre capacity. Haval says this new engine has a particularly high level of thermal efficiency, and enjoys a “smooth, linear power band.” Driving the front wheels on our launch model was the new second-generation 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
On first sampling, I was quite astounded at how sensitive the car was to throttle-inputs from just above idle speed! In fact I found it needed extraordinary control of the right throttle-foot to enable a smooth parking-speed. Similarly, the amount of power fed in to the front wheels when pulling away in my suburb, which has old well-worn roads, resulted in wheel spin when aiming purely for a reasonably-speed pull-away!
Even when attempting to drive at normal, law-abiding speeds through the suburbs, I found myself constantly driving faster than I really intended. And again, wheel-spin was promoted far too easily, unless I was concentrating fiercely to open the accelerator only by marginal increments.
As an enthusiastic driver, I found it strange that I was criticising a car for being too quick! On the plus side, however, the new H6 has very impressive acceleration for such a big vehicle. I would estimate that the 0-100 km/h time would be easily in the eight-second region, possibly quicker. Haval doesn’t quote 0-100 km/h times for the car at this stage.
However, it turned out that my car was delivered to me with the engine on a sports setting. This wasn’t immediately apparent, as the Haval H6 is not equipped with a button in the cockpit to adjust between sport and other settings.
It was only later that I discovered a setting on the infotainment system (which has a vast array of menus!) that there was a setting for “Standard, Eco, Sport and Snow”. There is a big difference in initial acceleration between “Normal,”, “Eco” and “Sport”, and owners would be well-advised to ensure their H6s are left in one of the lower-power settings if the car is to be driven by less-experienced divers.
Again I should stress that the motor is very impressive when you are in a situation where you can use all the performance. It revs freely and smoothly up to red-line area at around 6 500 rpm, and it should make a great tow-vehicle.
Working my way through the infotainment system, I searched initially for functions to turn off the irritating speed limit warning devices which are part of this car’s “Generation of Safety” package, that Haval says gives close to Level L3 autonomous driving capability. There is lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, a 360-degree and rear-view camera, and a sophisticated adaptive cruise control system that includes traffic jam assist.
Steering accuracy was quite good, but with not too much in the way of feedback through the steering wheel. Ride composure over smooth roads is very good. Overall, I was very impressed with the chassis integrity of the car, the solid build-quality, and the performance in general.
The new H6 is bound to win many more friends for Haval. The rear cabin offers acres of leg room, head room is generous throughout the interior and there is plenty of luggage room and loading versatility (no figures for this were released in the specs I was given by Haval).
Even in Sports mode, I would suggest that dampening the power outputs at low revs would make it easier to park and to pull away sans unintended wheel-spin (the 4WD example I drove briefly was much more manageable in this respect). One could get used to this sharp-throttled characteristic over time, and in certain situations it is fun, but it still took far too much concentration.
The new Haval H6 is a great value proposition made even better by the fact that the fittings look durable throughout, and fit and finish is good. To make things even more attractive the H6 comes with a 5-year/100 000 km warranty and 5-year/60 000 km service plan.
HAVAL H6 2,0T LUXURY
Price: R454 900
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbocharged petrol
Transmission: 7-speed automated dual-clutch
Power: 150 kW @ 6 000 – 6 300 r/min
Torque: 320 Nm @ 1 500 – 4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: Not listed
Fuel consumption: Not listed