The HAVAL H6 product is increasingly popping up in car parks around South Africa, often seen next to what used to be the mainstay brands of South Africa. The striking design of the H6 takes pride of place and commands more presence than the many products with which it competes. Such is the strength of Phil Simmonds’ design that brand-conscious and historically loyal consumers are choosing to spend their money on a relatively new brand, despite the woeful performance of Chinese brands and products in the past. We’re into a new era now. HAVAL is chomping away market share and exceeding buyer’s and even our own lofty expectations.
But design isn’t all there is to it. HAVAL has made significant progress in South Africa, launching commendable products in SA with inarguable value for money. The H6 is one such product offered with a full-house of tech and features within a very attractive package and price point. Its initial criticisms have centred around the engine choices on offer being uneconomical…enter the H6 HEV that was launched in late 2022 to fill that gap. The launch of this new HEV is a noteworthy testament to HAVAL’s ability to make strategic calls like that and then quickly land a new or improved product on our shores.
TopGear SA spent a significant amount of time with the new HAVAL H6 HEV, covering over just under 4 000kms in the car over a 4 week period. The H6 HEV is a head turner and conversation starter. Its futuristic design has hints of sportiness, elegance and intelligence, more handsome that the non-hybridised versions and certainly one of the standout designs in the class. It’s an approachable car too, and that’s no metaphor. It provoked others to not just look, but to enquire more about what it is, where it’s from, how much it is and so on.
The conversation continues as you step inside the H6 HEV. Much like the exterior effort, the interior too is a fresh impression of HAVAL’s design architecture. It’s not unlike the other H6’s, but in the HEV model, consider it an Ultra Luxury spec model. Its cabin includes nearly everything technology and feature you could imagine and it feels as if HAVAL has done this in a bid to win customers yes, but to also justify the price…more on that later. The floating console design prioritises space and practicality partly freed up by the rotary drive dial. Above this, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen looms within which you’ll find plenty of functions. Sitting directly in front of the driver is a 10.25-screen and beyond that, projected onto the windscreen is a high resolution Heads-up Display that is configurable and dynamic. We’re talking full marks here – the 360-camera resolution is top-notch in the segment as is the HUD and the sheer number of functions within this car.
Technologies like phone mirroring are given. Add the myriad driving modes and steering weight modes and you have a car that in many ways, can be tailored to your preference. A panoramic roof adds the ambience and electronically adjustable leather pews make the driving position almost perfect…almost. Within this accumulation of tech, there a few oddities. The UX is decidedly odd. There are far too many sub-menus to access certain features and it sure takes a while to firstly figure them all out. That can be overcome but thereafter, certain functions are too complicated or hidden under a sub-menu and another one. Something as simple as volume control isn’t so simple unless you’re the driver and you control it from the multi-function wheel. Or the ability to access the climate control menu to adjust the temperature isn’t fast or simple enough. These are just a few functions that whilst they aren’t hard to employ, they’re just not where they should be.
It brings me to the drive itself. Let’s start with the good stuff. Hybrid drive makes sense in our nation. It allows you to travel fair distances whilst still conserving fuel, both in urban and extra-urban environments. The H6 HEV pairs a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol motor to an electric motor. The system, though somewhat complex, isn’t all that complex from behind the wheel. The powertrain provides small-car economy with exciting performance. The H6 HEV is the most powerful H6 you can buy dishing 179kW of combined grunt. Command it from your right foot and it is delivered in front-wheel driven spades. It is exciting for what it is, a family-friendly SUV for the urban buyer. Onn gravel surfaces, a suspension that is on the hard side is shown up but for the most part it is as you’d expect from this type of vehicle. On the open road, the ride is good with fair NVH levels and a comfortable ride. Consumption can be very impressive, provided you’re in the right driving mode and your battery regeneration is set to ‘as much as possible.’ Braking regeneration charges the battery as soon as your foot comes off the pedal, while coasting or when you’re on the brakes and this can extend your battery life so you can go further in electric mode. Our best consumption around the city was 5.9l/100km and over the entire test, we managed a very respectable 6.9l/100km. That really is impressive for a car that was called in to haul a family of 5 and all of their luggage across all sorts of roads and activities. It’s SUV’s are for right?
So where’s the rub? There are two big ones in the full-spec H6 HEV. The first has to do with the Adaptive Cruise Control technology. On paper, this is a smart system but my concern lies in the execution of the braking control. The H6 will slow the car down when needed but it does but depressing the brake pedal at your feet. This is an old technology decision that not only disturbs your sense of driving feel, but it also changes the pedal feel entirely if, for instance, you need to apply more pressure to the brake. The other Adaptive Cruise control issue is perhaps a sensor-ranging issue where the system seems to apply the brakes when this isn’t needed. On the highway without any obstructions in front of the car, the H6 will just randomly hit the brakes. Or perhaps while cruising around a slight bend in the road, the car seems to brake at the sense that it’s a corner, no matter how slight – and the application in most cases is quite harsh.
The other big issue has to do with the braking regeneration. No matter what regen setting you’re in, the H6 charges the battery when coasting, especially down a hill. As I mentioned above, it does this by depressing the brake pedal, in essence, riding the brakes. Where it gets most concerning is on extended downhills such as mountain passes where the vehicle seems to ride the brakes to a point where the pedal feel is totally lost and the entire car shudders when you take braking action yourself. Imagine driving a car with warped discs? That’s what it feels like and to make matters worse, the actual braking efficiency is compromised. This then becomes totally unnerving to the driver, not to mention the passengers who can feel the discomfort and shudder.
These are technologies that aren’t unsolvable, and the fact that HAVAL has loaded this car with so much is something to be celebrated. My suggestion to HAVAL is to offer the H6 HEV in a slightly lower spec, as they have done with the Jolion Luxury model – a spec that does away with all the fancy self-driving tech and instead just gives you cruise control.
That will revise the price too which, for what it is on paper, doesn’t seem ridiculous given the H6’s competition in the Toyota RAV4. But when you consider that the H6 HEV is around R90 000 more than Super Luxury 4WD model, one has to weigh up whether the saving in fuel economy is worth it. Over the cost of ownership, this may prove to be a enough of a swing to the HEV.
The H6 HEV is a smart addition to the crowded SUV field and it will find homes nationwide. Were it not for those flawed bits of tech, it would score much higher in our rating but we can’t forget about those as they are fundamental to a confident driving and ownership experience.
The HEV is sold with a 5 Year/60 000km Service Plan; a 5 Year/100 000km Warranty and a Hybrid-Battery Warranty of 8 Years/150 000km.