Haval's new H6 Hybrid SUV now in SA – a sensible energy solution for 'right now'

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Haval H6 HEV - distctive front end and tasty wheels distinguish the Hybrid model H6.
Haval H6 HEV - distctive front end and tasty wheels distinguish the Hybrid model H6.
  • Haval is bolstering its H6 model line-up with the addition of a new HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) model.
  • The new model comes just a few weeks after its sporty new H6 was launched in South Africa.
  • With constant load shedding, the Chinese automaker feels it is the perfect energy solution for locals. 

With so many manufacturers gearing up for an all-electric new-car policy, the Haval approach to offering a sensible and affordable Hybrid version of its H6 makes a lot of sense.

With Gauteng currently coping with up to eight hours of load shedding each day, Haval's announcement at the H6 Hybrid HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) launch that it believes a petrol-electric hybrid is right for the times was somehow reassuring.

Haval HEV GT
Haval HEV GT

Experiencing the car over a launch route that consisted mainly of freeway and open-road driving, the sampler revealed that the H6 HEV is a very attractive package and, like all Havals, well-priced.

The new 1.5T HEV is priced at R669 950, which is just R40 000 more than the next-most expensive H6, the 2.0T S-Luxury All-Wheel-Drive model. Apart from the hybrid drive train, the new model also includes a few HEV model-specific extras, such as attractive 19-inch sports alloy wheels with 225/55 R19 rubber, new futuristically-styled LED headlights, gloss-black styling accents, a sporty rear spoiler, and the panoramic sunroof fitted as fitted to other top-level H6 models.

The HEV spec also includes fully automatic valet parking and a raft of safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.

Getting under way is a matter of pushing the start
Getting under way is a matter of pushing the start button and selecting Drive on the rotary gear selector.

How does it drive?

But the big question is: what's the hybrid petrol-battery-electric package like to drive, and does it deliver on its promises?

Haval claims an overall fuel consumption figure of 5.2 litres/100km for the new car, which is impressive for a large SUV with one of the most considerable luggage capacities in its class. Allied to this is an acceleration claim of eight seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, a figure that on paper seems eminently attainable, given that the H6 HEV has a combined power and torque endowment of 179kW and 530Nm.

Beautiful cabin, but infotianment menu is less tha
Beautiful cabin, but infotianment menu is less than user-friendly.

The turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine and the electric motor are linked to a complex transmission system that combines elements of Haval's dual-clutch transmission, as used in the petrol-fuelled H6 models, and a special two-speed Dedicated Hybrid Transmission which allows the electric engine to provide pure electric power up to 50km/h and extra power assistance to the 1.5 Turbo petrol engine when full-throttle applications are used, all the way up to the stated top speed of 180km/h.

In practice, you simply select the 'Drive' mode on the gear selector rotary knob on the console, and the car moves forward silently and smoothly. The electric motivation is indeed useable up to 50km/h on a little throttle application, and when the petrol engine does kick in, it is unobtrusive. You have to really listen for it to realise that you are now running on dual-power.

Haval HEV GT
Haval HEV GT

If you then floor the accelerator, the instant surge is impressive. This is thanks to the two-speed electric-drive transmission shifting to second gear and enabling electric torque assistance at higher speeds than the petrol engine.

In traffic situations, this Haval Hybrid offers impressive overtaking acceleration and, what's more, the same is true at highway speeds too. There is little engine noise that intrudes into the cabin, or noise of any sort, for the ride is quiet, and there is minimal tyre noise and wind noise.

Of course, a hybrid is all about the fuel consumption you are likely to expect. Here, we should point out that hybrids traditionally offer their most notable consumption advantages in urban situations, where the electric engine comes into play more often.

Leather upholstery enhanced by fine-quality contra
Leather upholstery enhanced by fine-quality contrasting stitching.

In the case of this Haval, at highway speeds, we achieved consumption figures of between 6.4 and 5.8 litres/100km, which leads us to believe that the overall claim of 5.2 litres/100km is indeed realistic.

Regarding the driving experience, we would definitely like to know more details about the transmission's inner workings. Because in practice, this is one of the most satisfying hybrid cars we have driven, especially compared to CVT-equipped hybrids, which are often prone to droning from the petrol engine under full acceleration.

In this case, the petrol engine made muted high-revving noise under full throttle when accelerating, but as soon as the throttle was lifted, the engine revs dropped, just like a well-behaved conventional automatic transmission.

Unfortunately, climate adjustment means accessing
Unfortunately, climate adjustment means accessing the infotainment menu.

As for the rest of the H6 HEV experience, we were not impressed with how the memory has to be accessed in the central infotainment pod to achieve functions such as climate controls, audio adjustment and the like. Some of these functions are obscured by being listed under other headings in the memory. On the move, you want to be able to quickly adjust cabin temperature and the like, preferably via a rotary control switch.

It was also difficult to switch off many of the warning beeps emitting from the car when it detected, for example, a possible lane departure when no such situation was happening. Perhaps familiarity with the systems would improve things, but on a new model launch, there is never the time to settle into a long perusal of infotainment menus.

Haval HEV GT
Haval HEV GT

Overall, this H6, with its impressively-stitched full-leather interior, offers a pleasingly up-market experience. What's more, all the fittings in the interior are properly located and fastened, and there is no feeling that such opulent quality is only skin-deep. From an engineering perspective, Haval has made tremendous strides over the past few years. This includes both dynamic functions and cosmetic build-quality relating to dashboard panels, speaker mountings and the like.

For a first rendition of a hybrid model, the Haval H6 HEV is very impressive, mainly due to the excellent integration of the transmission system with the petrol and electric engines. I never detected any awkwardness as the two power units worked together to produce an awe-inspiring blend of power and economy. Incidentally, even with 530Nm of torque available, I never felt that this HEV is a front-wheel-drive car made for any compromises. I didn't detect any meaningful levels of torque steer, even under full throttle.

Haval HEV GT
Haval HEV GT

At just under R670 00, the Haval H6 Hybrid should make a lot of friends. It comes with a five-year or 60 000km service plan, a five-year or 100 000km warranty and an eight-year/150 000km warranty on the hybrid battery (a separate 12-valve battery is installed for starting the car).

At the launch in Johannesburg, Haval also showed a sneak preview of the upcoming, smaller Jolyon Hybrid. Again, this car is bound to generate massive interest for this up-and-coming Chinese brand.

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