What is it?

The best Chinese car we’ve driven yet.

It’s not perfect, not by any means, but there’s no major reason you wouldn’t buy one.

Haval and Great Wall are two faces of the one company.

Haval is the name they use for their SUVs while Great Wall is well known to Aussies for its cheap, robust work utes.

A mid-sized, five-seat front wheel drive SUV, the H6 is the work of French designer Pierre Leclercq – the same bloke who penned BMW’s polarising X6 (you know the really odd looking one).

 

What’s it cost?

Kicks off from $29,990 drive away.

The upmarket Lux version that we drove is $33,990 drive away.

Standard kit includes cloth trim and two-zone climate, with rear air outlets, plus 17 inch alloys, daytime LEDs, blind spot alert, front and rear park sensors, a reverse camera and 7 inch touchscreen.

The upmarket Lux adds larger 19 inch alloys, faux leather trim, power operated front seats, heated seats front and back, plus a large full length sunroof and the addition of a subwoofer for the audio.

It’s also got a kerbside camera to make parking easier.

The bit we really don’t get is why it doesn’t come with satellite navigation.

Seriously? When eBay is awash with cheap Chinese GPS units. How could a Chinese vehicle possibly not have one?

 

What’s it like to drive?

We drove this car at launch and looked forward to having another crack.

The H6 is a huge step forward in terms of quality and performance and surely the forerunner of things to come.

It’s amazing how quickly the Chinese are catching up with the rest of the world.

No one seems to have a problem buying Chinese made flat screen TVs and cars will be the same before you know it.

The finish in our test vehicle was good inside and out, with an attractive combination of chrome, bone coloured leather and grey wood grain trim in the cabin.

Although missing the very latest safety advances, it does have six airbags, electronic stability control and a reverse camera, just like most cars these days – but is still to be rated by ANCAP for crash safety.

The only Haval ANCAP has tested so far is the larger, older H9 and it got four out of five stars – it’s no deal breaker but it’s something to keep in mind.

Behind the wheel the feel is sporty, with punchy performance and plenty of grip – albeit with plenty of tyre squeal when cornering hard.

With 145kW of power and 315Nm of torque, the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine lights up the front wheels if you hit it too hard too soon, but that isn’t a bad thing because it gets you off the line more quickly (makes it’s more fun too).

We did however scrabble for traction on a steep, damp driveway.

The turbo is teamed with a 6-speed Getrag, twin-clutch auto that includes gear change paddles, but we didn’t find ourselves using them very often.

There’s also three drive modes: standrard, sport and “economic” but their effect is limited to the throttle and they seem to have little impact.

Annoyingly, you need to re-select the mode you want each time you re-start the engine.

The H6 is easy and comfortable to drive, although the throttle was a little touchy which is often the case with twin-clutch transmissions.

Rear legroom is generous with rear air outlets for back seat seat passengers, but the boot is a bit small and shallow.

The ride is firm but smooth on well formed roads, but tends to become jiggly on country roads, where the dampers struggle to soak up smaller bumps.

The turning circle is something of an issue too, as we often had to back and fill to get into parking spaces that weren’t that tight.

With fuel consumption rated at 9.8L/100km, we were getting bang on 10.0 after two weeks and 850km behind the wheel.

That’s a bit high for our liking and we found ourselves returning to fill up too frequently, but at the same time it’s on par with the new 2.0-litre version of the Ford Escape that we also drove recently.

Also note it requires the more expensive 95 RON petrol.

 

What we like?

  • Looks smart
  • Sharp performance
  • Cabin bright and airy
  • Comfortable with generous rear legroom
  • Well equipped but to a point

 

What we don’t?

  • Way too many badges
  • Big touch screen but no satnav
  • Fuel consumption is too high
  • Usual jerkiness you get with twin clutch trannies
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
  • Service costs too high

 

What are the alternatives?

  • Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport, from $33,490

The market leader. New model about to be released ensuring continued leadership, but moving up the range can prove costly. Sets the standard for safety, with auto emergency braking now standard across the range.

  • Hyundai Tucson Elite, from $36,750

Never cared too much for the iX35 but its replacement is a much better thing. Looks good, goes well and is great value for money, with fixed price servicing and a 5-year warranty. BUT auto emergency braking is only available with the top spec Highlander.

  • Toyota RAV4 GXL, from $35,390

Looking pretty schmick these days but the whole Toyota thing is starting to wear thin. People are looking for more than reliability, they expect the trimmings without having to extra for them.

 

The bottom line?

Mark my words. The H6 is a serious contender.

It looks terrific, is finished to a high standard and goes like stink.

With a bit of fine tuning and satnav thrown in, it would be a no brainer for those not wanting to spend a fortune on a car.

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.