Great Wall Motors is dead, long live Haval. Okay, perhaps that adage doesn’t entirely work in this context, because GWM continues as a bakkie brand, but earlier this year its SUV products morphed into Haval Motors SA, distributors of China’s best-selling SUV range, having sold more than 1-million units in 2016 alone.
As part of its rebranding exercise, the manufacturer has launched the H2 crossover, which essentially competes in the B-segment of the market occupied by the Hyundai Creta, Renault Captur and the like, but offers significantly more space.
We managed to drive that vehicle briefly at its launch at the Kyalami racetrack and the most significant thing that stood out was the much improved tactile quality. However, we recently spent time at the wheel of the H6 C (C for coupe), which is a step up the ladder from the H2 and essentially competes in the C-segment of the crossover market occupied by the stalwart Toyota Rav4, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan, to name a few.
The H6 C is not a new car entirely as it has been available in China for almost four years now. We also have it on good account that the new model is standing in the wings in the local market after its reveal at this year’s Shanghai motor show.
Back to the H6 C, though. I reckon that the styling is inoffensive as it seems to have borrowed some cues from well known brands such as Audi’s grille up front, while the tapering roof, narrow glass house and rear look very much Range Rover Evoque inspired.
The cabin, too, looks as though it was inspired by the aforementioned German marque, particularly the switchgear and overall layout of the cabin appointments. Overall tactile quality was better than I had anticipated and there was little in the way of rattles and squeaks while driving over undulated urban roads.
I also liked the Haval logo projected on the ground from the side view mirrors, something we first experienced with the Evoque.
Powering the model is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine mustering 140kW and 310Nm through a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission to the front wheels. The engine delivers decent power for daily cut-and-thrust traffic and has decent overtaking poke. However, there were a few anomalies with the model where I felt the engineers needed to go back to the drawing board.
For starters, the engine seems to have an insatiable appetite for fuel and, no matter how thriftily I tried to drive the vehicle, I couldn’t get it below 12.4l/100km, even with eco mode engaged.
Then there is the lack of refinement in the way the engine spins as it becomes rather coarse as the revs rise. Not helping matters was the gearbox, which tended to hesitate while setting off or during kick-down situations where you required immediate power delivery. Also, the brake pedal’s initial bite felt decidedly spongy.
These issues aside, I found the rest of the package quite a decent and notable attempt from a Chinese manufacturer and it is a far cry from some of the models hailing from that country I had previously driven.
Then there is the price tag, which at R359 000 for the City 4×2 automatic variant we tested, offers exceptional value, particularly once you start factoring in the standard specification level on offer.
One of the biggest hurdles for the model, however, is perhaps how the vehicle will hold up in the next three to four years and, invariably, how it will hold up as a pre-owned proposition. In isolation, the Haval H6 C is arguably an indication of how quickly the Chinese car industry is catching up to the rest of the world’s marques. It took Hyundai and Kia a while to be regarded in the same breath as any of the Japanese and European offerings and I feel Haval is moving quickly on that same trajectory.
The Haval is without doubt the company to look out for in the future.
Fast Facts: 2017 Haval H6 C
Engine: 1 967cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 140kW at 5 500rpm
Torque: 310Nm at 2 000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic
Top speed: 190km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 9.8l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 225g/km (claimed)
Price: From R359 900