By Paul Gover.
“Is that the new Haval? It looks pretty good,” says a passerby as I’m parking my Haval H6 test car.
He is right, because the H6 is one of the most attractive cars in the mid-sized SUV scrum. It continues the good work inside the cabin, with faux leather trimming and a clean dashboard layout with twin display screens.
The pricing is good, too, from $30,990 drive-away.
Are you waiting for the big But? Well, here it comes.
The Haval H6 looks good but is underdone in many areas, from the suspension to the response of the transmission.
Even the infotainment system is clunky, with a complicated menu and slow response. And the driver-assistance systems are coarsely calibrated, with over-eager intervention and a counter-intuitive response to non-threatening situations.
Worst of all, for someone tracking the fine details, the front-passenger seat does not slide back far enough for anyone over 1.8 metres tall.
Will any of that worry the people who see the Haval on television, or just do interweb research on things like cabin and boot space, and that price?
Probably not. After all, it is big inside and even the basic $30,990 car – on the road – is loaded with everything you need for day-to-day driving.
But, sliding into the H6 in a back-to-back drive with the MG HS, it’s clear that not all Chinese cars are created equal.
That can be fine if you have a tight budget or you’re looking for a value buy in the ute world, or you feel the comfort of a seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
But the MG feels to be a generation better than the Haval, and the proper pace-setters in the class – think Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson and the rest – and even further up the road.
The Haval goes well enough with a 2-litre turbo petrol engine and front-wheel drive, but the suspension is very ordinary with poor control over bumps, minimal cornering feel or grip and – as I discovered on a slimy wet morning – a worrying lack of grip in conditions that was reflected in spinning front wheels despite standard traction control.
It can also be heavy on fuel, but the real disappointment is the response to the controls. The steering is over-light, there is a significant delay when using the trendy rotary controller – think Jaguar copy – to shift from drive to reverse, and the CarPlay hook-up is slow and variable.
So, despite the looks, the Haval is not the winner that some might think.
Price: from $30,990 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Transmission: 6-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Safety: no ANCAP rating
Position: Chinese style leader
Plus: design and price
Minus: too many flaws
THE TICK: not even close