China introduces Haval to NZ
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China has given us some amazing things; the Great Wall, fireworks, Chinese food. Their food is such a winner you can head to any local takeaway and trust you are getting a decent meal at a good price.
You can also invite someone to a Chinese restaurant and they will be happy to come along. Fifty years ago, conservative Kiwis would not have been so keen, but these days we all know Chinese food is great food.
When it comes to Chinese-built vehicles, there is still a preconception about them, but brands such as Haval are trying their best to change those opinions.
The Haval brand (pronounced ‘have-ill’) is the SUV subsidiary to Great Wall Motors, a brand slightly more familiar here, though not as familiar as Korea’s Hyundai or Mazda from Japan.
Despite its relative newness here, last year Haval was the world’s fifth best-selling SUV. Admittedly nearly all of those were in China, but it’s a fair claim nonetheless.
This week I was given the Haval H6 — a 2.litre litre petrol turbo, front-wheel-drive, mid-sized SUV. It produces 145kW of power and 315Nm of torque.
It’s in the same category as Toyota’s RAV4, Mazda’s CX-5, and Hyundai’s Tuscon — but not from an Asian country we are comfortable with buying cars from just yet.
Many years ago every other motoring journalist and his dog parped on about how Japanese cars weren’t accepted at first, then we didn’t hold the Koreans too highly, either, a few decades ago. But we came around eventually.
The Korean-built Hyundai Santa Fe entered the market at a paltry $30,000; now you have to pay upwards of $80,000 for the top-of-the-line model and we happily buy them, probably because we don’t mind people seeing us driving one.
Having driven the H6 for a week, I found most folk were intrigued by what they saw — that is, until I told them it was a Chinese brand and then most folk were turned off instantly.
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But this is misdirected snobbery as Haval is destined to be a genuine player in the SUV market.
The H6 has a lot going for it once you get past what you think you may know about Chinese manufacturing and look at the vehicle for what it is — a genuine low-cost SUV.
Advances in Chinese manufacturing mean they can produce an item cheaper than most. This H6 “Lux” model is the top of the range and comes with all the features you would have to pay a lot extra for if you wanted it made in Japan or Korea.
Leather seats, heated front and rear, blind spot monitoring, excellent surround-sound stereo and, for some reason only the Chinese will know, six-colour disco inspired ambient lighting.
The Haval has what it takes in the looks department. Most comments were, “Oh is that a Range Rover Evoque?” Well, no, but from side on there are some slight similarities.
The xenon headlights have the Haval name etched into them and when you unlock the car “Haval” is projected on the roadside at your feet. It’s just one of many classy elements that come with the H6.
On road, there’s plenty of power, but it’s probably a bit too much as it’s not the most economical 2-litre engine in the category. The H2 claims 9.8 L/100km compared to the RAV 4’s claimed 7-l/100km.
Handling wise, it’s a mixed bag. Around city streets it’s a comfortable cruiser; on the motorway you can overtake with ease, but once you get into the curves it is a bit wobbly on the bends.
The Haval H6 is missing a few things — good handling in corners, the prestige of a well-known brand and, most disappointingly, no ANCAP safety rating. Haval has not submitted its cars for the test yet.
Haval H6 SUV
Engine: 2.0l petrol turbo engine, 145kW, 6 speed DCT
Price: Premium model $30,990, Lux model (as tested) $34,990
Pros: An SUV at an affordable price
Cons: Missing ANCAP rating
Delivering on promise of well-priced option
Following on from driving the H6, Driven dropped down the menu to the Haval H2. This vehicle is in a similar category to the Toyota CH-R, the Mazda CX-3 or the Kia Soul, similar in the fact that they are all compact SUVs.
Where they are definitely not similar is price. The H6 we drove previously was within a reasonable price differential but the H2 comes in well below the starting point for other well-known small SUVs.
At $25,990 for the base model or $27,990 for the Lux Driven had this week, that price is $5K less than the next closest car, or in the case of the Nissan Juke, nearly 15K cheaper.
But keep clear of that word “cheaper” and its connotations of shoddy merchandise, as Haval is delivering on their promise of a luxury car, without the cost.
As with the H6, the H2 comes with heated seats, leather in the top model and fully electronically adjustable.
The dials in the H2 are a step down from the touch-screen adjustments of the H6 but the dual colour interior adds a bit of a classy feel to proceedings.
The smaller 1.5L petrol turbo engine, although far more economical is a bit of a let down in power when compared to the 2.0L turbo in the H6 or some of those other compacts mentioned above that have 2.0L engines such as the CX-3.
Handling wise, a compact SUV usually performs better than a large SUV, but the H2 could do with a little more work in that department.
Steering wheel paddle shifts are not part of the H2, neither is an Ancap rating.
Design-wise, it’s nothing extravagant or remarkably different from the norm so don’t expect it to turn heads as does the “uniquely” shaped Nissan Juke, the box-like Kia Soul or sharply contoured CX-3.
What you get is an affordable small SUV well-suited to getting around town. However, if you want to go away for the weekend, perhaps find something with a bit more power and handling.
Engine: 1.5L petrol turbo, 110Kw
Price: Starts from $25,990
Pros: Great value for the amount of features you get
Cons: The engine could do with a bit more power