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WITH the weight of expectation riding on its elevated shoulders, we approached the Haval H6 wide-eyed and full of beans. As the biggest-selling SUV in China (580,000 in 2016) and the first Chinese-brand car to ever feature in a Wheels comparison test, it marks a historic moment in motoring.
This ‘premium’ SUV from the Great Wall empire is no bargain-basement knock-off. Sure, the glasshouse looks a little Range Rover Evoque-esque, but it succeeds in yielding more kit for your coin than its rivals, and the H6 carries a promising mechanical spec.
Packing a powerful 145kW/315Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four tied to a Getrag six-speed dual-clutch ’box, plus enough cabin acreage to rival a warehouse, the H6 Premium brings sufficient spec-sheet swagger to make its $30K driveaway sticker temptingly persuasive.
But it doesn’t take much digging to reveal the H6’s true colours. Beneath its wafer-thin upmarket veneer hides the bones of a much older Great Wall SUV dating back to 2011. And while the H6’s acceptably refined engine and reasonable seat comfort give it some semblance of respectability, it has so many rough edges it’s virtually saw-toothed.
The H6’s interior works on a superficial level – much like its ride quality on relatively smooth roads – until you start poking and prodding its switchgear, exposing an inconsistent lack of quality and attention to detail.
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Its cheap touchscreen disperses a rainbow of colour from your finger every time you press it, while shuffling through Standard, Sport or ‘Economic’ drive modes (to alter steering weight, transmission and throttle calibrations) is accompanied by a microwave-like ‘ding’. And another one five seconds later! But only if you’re doing less than 100km/h. Above that speed, the Haval locks you out of any drive-mode selection, and into an unsettling ride that’s barely contained by its judicious ESC system.
Aspects of the H6’s dynamics are a reminder of what HQ-HX Holdens used to drive like. Turn in well before a corner to account for front-end lean and steering vagueness, then moderate throttle inputs to limit plough understeer. Except that the Haval isn’t as predictable as a pre-RTS Kingswood, with little cohesion between its front and rear ends.
Get your trajectory wrong and you’re more likely to startle oncoming traffic than the inside of a corner, and any sudden steering movements are greeted with severe intervention from its ESC that lasts several seconds. That the hazard lights switch on every time you brake and steer at the same time speaks volumes about the H6’s handling shortcomings.
The steering is disconnected and oddly weighted, like two bags of sand suspended from either end of a rope, each fighting to point the H6 straight. In overly hefty Sport mode, it’s even worse. On a bumpy surface, the H6’s suspension and steering each shimmy to the beat of a different Tina Turner hit, equally flummoxed by what to do, and when you want to pull up, the wooden-feeling brakes offer neither decent retardation or confidence.
And the list goes on. The Haval’s thirst for fuel is the least of its problems, given that we’ve driven prototypes that feel eons closer to engineering sign-off than this. All the lounging cabin space and warranty coverage in the world have little chance of salvaging a car with the active-safety handicap of a Haval H6.
Model: 2018 Haval H6 Premium
Engine: 1967cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max Power: 145kW @ 5200rpm
Max Torque: 315Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch
Fuel economy: 13.3L/100km (tested)
On sale: Now
Medium SUV Megatest Results