I remember them still, those original Hyundai Accents and Elantras of 1996 vintage. Oh, how we laughed at their Honda-aping aesthetics, their silly names and questionable reliability. But since then two things have happened. Firstly, they’re still running, aren’t they? And more critically, Hyundais and KIAs are now some of the best looking people-movers on the road. It was around the time of the Getz and original Tucson that South Africans began taking them seriously. Just a year or two later Geely brought out their LC micro-hatch styled to look like a panda (allegedly) but with poor build quality and questionable mechanicals. Oh, how we laughed some more, but I remember thinking at the time, if it’s taken Korea just 10 years to get where they are now (circa 2008) then there’s no reason why China can’t pull off a similar trick in 5.
Fast forward to now and the Koreans have over well 20 years in the hearts and minds of South Africans, with styling well-honed by Mr Peter Schreyer. And if this Haval H6 C represents how far Chinese manufacturers have come ten years after the LC then well, consider them in the running, if not quite at competitive pace. Now, I do think they’d have gotten here quicker if it wasn’t for the time they wasted bastardizing familiar designs from other manufacturers – a case example must be the Land Wind X7 - there are literally dozens of examples ready to reveal themselves via a quick Google search.
Looks fancy and... er, quite European
Correct! On the topic of styling, the H6 C is a great success. Yep, don’t ignore the ‘C’ in its title, that denotes Coupe but what they really mean is sporty – a reference to the engine (which we’ll get to later) and discerning it from the regular H6 (originally badged as a GWM) despite all the badges on the H6 C simply stating H6.
Side by side there’s no confusing the two. The old car looks downright frumpy compared to our test car which evokes... well, the five-door Evoque really, as well as VW’s new Tiguan and a few other flairs reminiscent of fine Euro machinery. The key word being reminiscent – no copying here, rather a holistic design with massive 19-inch hoops at each corner. This is the range-topping Luxury model which retails at R389,000. Ten out of ten uninitiated passers-by thought it was "European or Korean”, but mostly the prior. So well done Haval.
I'm sold on the styling, but I bet the interior is a letdown...
Well hang on a minute. Hop inside and it’s a similar experience to the exterior, with a blend of premium surfaces and ergonomics straight out of Germany. Haval has further blessed the cabin with mood lighting and a fully panoramic roof. Also here lives dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, an eight-way electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and Xenon lights. The soft-touch dashboard is punctuated with a massive infotainment system but is sadly devoid of Satellite Navigation. Even safety has been addressed with passive and active systems including airbags all round, Blind Spot Monitoring, and the usual raft of systems.
Okay, so what horrors lurk under the bonnet?
None! The heart of the Haval H6 C is a healthy one, 140kW and 310Nm from a turbocharged 2.0 litre inline 4-cylinder accelerating from 0-100kph in 9 seconds. It’s mated to a 6-speed Getrag DCT automatic transmission, optionally operable from the steering column via flappy paddle shifters. The motor and gearbox complement each other well. With that, however, comes high fuel consumption – I struggled to get it under 11l/100kph but I’ll be honest with you, I could have tried harder. It’s just an easy car to go quickly in, until you hit the national speed limit when you’re beeped back into submission.
And the handling?
There’s no point in sophisticated power delivery if it’s all wasted at the wheels – not the case here where the H6 C benefits from fully independent suspension. That means MacPherson Struts upfront and double wishbones at the rear – essentially the European standard. What that means is a tall car that you can actually appreciate when the road ahead gets interesting, especially if you’re the type who enjoys flapping away at the paddles. Yet another reason we never spent much time North of 11l/100km.
Okay, let's wrap this up
Are we there yet? Almost. For *beep* instance *beep* the tone that *beep* engages each time you choose a driving mode, first to disable the mode you’re leaving then again when it enables the new mode and then again if you go over 120kph. We also encountered a “kluck!” noise on full lock of the steering wheel but that could have been limited to our test unit which had in excess of 13,000km on its clocks, all from enthusiastic helmsmanship by other motoring journalists.
Furthermore, I can’t believe what a complete motoring experience the Haval H6 C is, in terms of refinement and even performance. But its trump card remains affordability at a time where Korean cars are challenging their European rivals. You could still with an extra R40 – 80k reach to something from a more established brand but you’d be sacrificing so much in terms of kit that for the first time, you might not want to nor need to. It could very well be a watershed moment for the term; Made in China.
Haval H6 C DCT Luxury 2WD Specs:
|Engine/Gearbox||2.0 litre VVT, 6-speed DCT Auto|
|Suspension||McPherson Front, Double Wishbone Rear|