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First drive: Australia waits on Haval H6 updates

Hit for 6: While Haval’s new H6 mid-size SUV (below) still feels rough around the edges, its offerings under the premium brand Wey, including the VV7 (left), are a noticeable step-up in all areas.

Revised powertrain, tech for Chinese Haval H6 but local debut still years away


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4 May 2018

HAVAL has uncovered its revised H6 mid-size SUV at last week’s Beijing motor show, introducing a more powerful 1.5-litre turbo engine and Chinese developed seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but the older model will continue on in Australia until the arrival of a new-generation platform in two years.

While the just-revealed H6 bears little resemblance to the Australian market SUV baring the same name – our version is actually the previous-generation H6 Coupe with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine – new products will share the one architecture using updated versions of the new powertrain combination.

Speaking to Australian journalists on the Haval show stand, Great Wall Motors (GWM) Group chief powertrain engineer Koen Kramer said the Chinese auto-maker was starting to consider overseas markets when developing new technology for its products.

“We are thinking further afield, yes, we are currently developing engines for all of the world,” he said.

“From our marketing and our vehicle product planning, we get the targets to develop engines to meet certain emissions requirements and they are, all over the world, different.”

Haval claims its new 1.5-litre turbo-petrol GDIT four-cylinder unit, that also powers the new F5 also revealed in Beijing, meets Euro 6 standards, while peak power is up 12.7 per cent to 124kW, which is available from 5000-5600rpm, and maximum torque jumps 35 per cent to 285Nm, which is on stream from 1400-3000rpm.

Haval’s short-term focus also appears to lie with petrol powertrains, with GWM Group vice-president of product planning Sam Chen saying that diesels play a small role in their SUV product worldwide, while full-electric drivetrains would be the domain of its new sister-brand Ora.

“Our goal is to be more efficient in terms of fuel economy, in terms of power and performance, so what we have in store for our future is actually 48 volts,” he said.

“So we have 48-volt BSG (belt starter generator) in the plan, we have 48 volt, which is basically e-four-wheel drive.

“We are also considering e-turbo … so these are some of the priorities for our company in terms of powertrain engine development.”

Haval’s in-house developed seven-speed wet-dual-clutch automatic underpins the new H6, as well as the rest range of luxury Wey SUVs including the VV5, VV7 and just-revealed VV6.

Mr Chen revealed the automatic unit would be upgraded to an eight-speed shifter in future to keep its drivetrain technologies competitive against the rest of the world.

The new drivetrain – which has also been developed to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels – reduces fuel economy in the Haval H6 by 8.4 per cent to 6.8 litres per 100km, while the landmark zero to 100km/h sprint is dispatched in 9.6 seconds.

Compared with the Australian-market Haval H6, which uses a Euro 5-compliant 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four producing 145kW/315Nm and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), the Chinese H6 is down 21kW/30Nm in power and torque, but is 3.0L/100km more frugal.

Updates to the exterior styling for the Chinese market H6 extend to a new-look front grille and LED headlights, while it gains more ergonomic heated front seats, updated air purifier, two rear USB ports and larger panoramic sunroof inside.

Safety systems have also been given a boost with the inclusion of semi-automatic parking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, hill hold and descent control, and 360-degree view cameras.

Our drive of the new H6 consisted of a quick drive loop on Beijing’s extremely busy roads – not the best environment to test a vehicle – but we came away with a solid impression of the Chinese-domestic market SUV.

Shoehorned under the bonnet of the H6, the new 1.5-litre engine feels adequate, if not overly eager or engaging.

Through Beijing’s stop-start traffic, the powertrain performs admirably, but lacks any real punch in getting the H6 closer to triple-digit speeds.

The seven-speed DCT however, rows through the gears quickly and smoothly without any fuss or obvious shortfalls.

Dynamically, it is hard to gauge how well or underdone the H6 performs on the open streets of Beijing, but a few things such as vague steering and an overly-sharp brake pedal could be easily smoothed out to offer a more appealing package.

Inside though, the H6 impresses with a sleek cabin layout including dashboard-embedded touchscreen infotainment system with rotary dial control, brushed metal highlights, all-digital instrumentation and array of safety systems.

Compared with the H6 Coupe though, which is the updated version of Australia’s H6, the Chinese H6 leaves a lot to the desired.

Our issues with the steering and brake feel were alleviated behind the wheel of the H6 Coupe, which offers a more compelling and conventional package overall.

Throttle response feels a little more eager and turn-in is noticeably sharper, so it is a shame that this version of the H6 Coupe remains unavailable to Australia due to its left-hand-drive-only status.

While we did not get any wheel time in Haval’s new H4 – a smaller mid-size left-hand-drive-only crossover – the build quality and polish takes another step up compared with the H6 and H6 Coupe, while the 1.5-litre engine/seven-speed DCT combo feels peppier from the passenger seat.

However, we walked away the most impressed after a brief stint behind the wheel of the Wey VV7 large luxury seven-seat SUV.

The compliant and punchy 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine develops 174kW/360Nm, which is sent through the seven-speed DCT to the front wheels.

Ride quality is smooth and supple, befitting a luxury SUV, while power delivery is also punchy and can be augmented via the Sport or Eco driving mode.

Noise, vibration and harshness levels are also excellent in the VV7, cossetting occupants from the hustle and bustle of busy Beijing.

Features such as blind-spot monitoring, digital instrumentation, power-operated tailgate and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters dispel the myth that Chinese cars are under-equipped tin cans.

Meanwhile, Wey has opted to replace the traditional rearview mirror with a camera/display system that takes a while to get used to, but also shows the Chinese brand’s willingness to experiment with new technology and forge its own path.

The current VV7 may not make it to Australia, but we suspect once the new-generation version rolls around on a new platform with updated technologies, the Wey could be a serious rival for the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.

Although our time behind the wheel of some of Haval’s catalogue was brief, we walked about with a very clear and obvious impression that its products are on an upward trajectory in terms of quality and appeal.

If this trend continues, by the time Haval is ready to launch its new-generation offerings in Australia after 2020, we suspect its products will offer a genuinely compelling and competitive alternative to the already established marques.

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