The Haval H6 offers seemingly unbeatable value, so where's the catch?

Brand values are important, but in a difficult economy, value for money may become more important than a nice badge.

South African car buyers are a loyal bunch, and tend to stick to their brand of choice even in the face of compelling competitors. More than mere brand loyalty, the cachet that comes with a premium badge on a key fob can become a part of an owner’s identity - something to set them apart from the rest of the crowd.The Chery Tiggo 7 Pro MAX is one of the Chinese vehicles currently stealing Korean lunch money.

But, when faced with ever-increasing new-car prices in tight economic conditions, a multitude of buyers are starting to let go of their long-held brand preferences and embrace comparative newcomers to the motoring scene. In the same way as the subcompact/compact hatchback and crossover segments are gradually being taken over by high-value offerings sourced from India, the mid-sized SUV space is under attack from Chinese alternatives.

It’s all in the numbers

November 2023’s naamsa new vehicle sales report makes for interesting reading. Haval Motors (GWM, Haval, and recently Ora) registered sales of 1,556 passenger vehicle units during this month, netting them a respectable eighth position on the local sales charts. This continued for the rest of 2023, as is evident in naamsa's December report.

The H6 is one of the models that is helping Haval to sales prominence, alongside the smaller but even bigger-value Jolion.

That figure seems like small fry, right? It’s only about 13% of Toyota’s total passenger car sales and 29% as much as the VW Group’s figure, after all. The bulk of both Toyota and VW’s passenger vehicle sales are made up of smaller and more budget-oriented hatchbacks and SUVs/crossovers, and these segments also account for most of our new-car sales figures, so they’re both sitting pretty.Kia's Seltos family are still quite popular, but losing sales to larger and more-powerful Chinese alternatives.

However, the reality is that Haval has already passed more-established names like Kia in the local sales race, and that’s without even fielding a single offering in the small or budget hatchback or SUV classes. And then you notice that Chery is nipping at both Kia’s and Haval’s heels, albeit this time with a slight leaning towards the budget-minded buyer with their new entry-level Tiggo 4 Pro LiT.The Chery Tiggo 4 Pro LiT is the only current Chinese car at all aimed at the budget segment.

That’s not bad going for a brand that’s only been back in South Africa for about two years, especially so when you remember that they also make do without a compelling supermini like a Suzuyota Staleno alternative. They also don’t have a pure budget-focused offering like the Kwid and Kiger that do such a fine job of propping up Renault sales, either.

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View the numbers from a slightly different angle, though, and it transpires that total Chinese-brand passenger vehicle imports amounted to more than 75% of total Korean passenger vehicle imports already, with most of that action happening in a fairly narrow, middle-class price bracket. While entry-level buyers are looking at Indian products nowadays, the family car market is increasingly looking even further East.With available big wheels and LED lighting, a Haval H6 looks a lot more expensive than it is.

The facts, exposed

Let’s compare the least-expensive Haval H6 variant to some of its size- and/or price competitors. With a base price of R 484 750, the Haval H6 2.0GDiT Premium goes up against the Mazda CX-5 2.0 and Mahindra XUV700, to mention only two alternatives. But Toyota can only give you a significantly less-powerful Corolla Cross for that kind of money, and Volkswagen fields the small T-Cross with an 85 kW engine for a similar asking price to that of an entry-level H6.

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The picture gets even murkier when all-wheel drive becomes a must-have item, because Haval will give you that in an H6 for R 560,950. Its logical opponents include the least-expensive Toyota RAV4, which costs about R 135 000 more, but brings 127 naturally-aspirated kW to meet the Haval’s 150 turbocharged kilowatts. The least-expensive AWD Volkswagen crossover is the significantly smaller T-Roc 2.0TSI 140 kW, which is more than R 100,000 pricier than the Haval and not as well-equipped.

Haval offers a hybrid H6 variant too, with more power and equipment but for less money than a RAV4.If you want a hybrid, Haval has you covered as well, with their very efficient H6 1.5T HEV costing R 669 950 in fully-loaded “Ultra Luxury” trim. You’ll pay more than R70,000 more for the least-expensive RAV4 Hybrid, yet get less power (163 kW vs 179 kW in the H6) and a features list that simply can’t match that of the top-line Haval.

The least-expensive Haval H6 compared to its price rivals

The models selected for this quick comparison were chosen with three criteria in mind: They all had to be crossovers, they had to be roughly similar in size, and they had to have similar pricetags to the Haval H6 2.0 GDiT. For some extra spice, we threw the newcomer BAIC Beiling X55 1.5T as well, because its entry-level Dynamic trim doesn’t cost very much for the power and space on offer. We’ll let the numbers do the talking first.

The BAIC Beijing X55 has a great entry price and good performance for the money.










H6 2.0 GDiT Premium

Tiggo 7 Pro 1.5T Executive

Beijing X55 1.5T Dynamic

Corolla Cross 1.8 XR

T-Cross 1.0TSI 85 kW Comfort

Seltos 1.6 EX+

Grand Creta 2.0 Exec Auto

Base Price

R 484,750

R 477,900

R 429,900 (*)

R 483,500

R 456,100

R 490,995

R 553,900

Engine Output

150 kW/ 320 Nm

108 kW/ 210 Nm

130 kW/ 305 Nm

103 kW/ 172 Nm

85 kW/ 200 Nm

90 kW/ 151 Nm

117 kW/ 191 Nm

*The Beijing X55 does not include a service plan as standard, but a 5 year/150 000 km plan is optional.

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Haval’s contender sits in the middle of a very busy market segment, with all major manufacturers offering something of this size. Few do it as cheaply and potently, though, because the H6 is one of the most practical here and has easily the most power and torque in this group. And, even in base spec, it matches or betters almost every opponent’s standard equipment list - any exceptions being other Chinese products.

If you want an automatic Hyundai Grand Creta, you'll have to shell out a lot more than a Haval H6 would cost.And now, with Chery still gaining momentum and BAIC offering something competitive at a comparative bargain price, the decision doesn’t boil down to a choice between Chinese, South Korean, Japanese or German anymore. Instead, buyers are starting to ask themselves: “Which Chinese brand should I consider, seeing as the others all apparently offer less for a bigger pricetag?”

The downsides

There are some drawbacks to Chinese motoring, though. Generally speaking, their products present very neatly, with good fit and finish and spec sheets as long as your arm, but their driving experiences lack that final level of polish you’d get in their opponents. The suspension tuning sometimes isn’t quite settled, their turbo engines' power delivery could be abrupt and their gearboxes could be indecisive at times, and all of this shows that most of the Chinese offerings need some more honing on the software and setup side.

If futuristic design is your thing, the BAIC X55's interior will light up your life!

There’s also no accounting for the public perception of the durability of Chinese-made cars, which is mostly built around the spotty legacy of old-generation efforts sold locally in the past. However, using that starting point and witnessing the rapid improvements wrought by both GWM/Haval and Chery over just the past decade, it’s fair to say that actual durability should have improved as much as the products on offer have.

Some may express doubt about the finish of Chinese cars, but their interior designs are clean and classy.

Time and experience will tell, but remember that it took even Toyota years to build their solid reputation, so public perception will need to be swayed by other factors in the meantime.

The fact that a Corolla Cross costs as much as a basic Haval H6 is giving buyers reason to pause for reconsideration of their brand loyalty.

Should legacy car makers be concerned?

Keep in mind that many car buyers don’t really care much about top-notch detail finishes, dynamic adeptness or perfectly-programmed gearshifts - witness the depressing popularity of the CVT-equipped Nissan Almera right up to its miserable end as proof of this assertion. For those buyers, a car is good enough if it is good enough, but it’s even better if it’s spacious, well-equipped, and comes with a big touchscreen at a bargain price as well. That’s why we see so many Renault Tribers trundling about.

Haval's leather seats look great and are very comfy, but how long will the leather look this good?The bonus here is that the Chinese alternatives are more than just “good enough” in many respects. They shine in on-paper performance, space, and equipment levels, and are much less expensive to buy new than longer-established brands. Furthermore, while Chinese cars historically have much poorer resale values, if you pay so little for them to start with, losing a large chunk of that value should sting less.

Should legacy automakers be concerned about this swing to Chinese products? Yes and no. As long as Chery doesn’t bring over a bargain-priced compact hatchback or more small and inexpensive SUVs or crossovers, Toyota and Volkswagen can sleep easy.

Would you rather drive a dumpy-looking and expensive Hyundai, or the sleek and suave Haval H6?Other challengers like Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, and Mahindra may have a battle on their hands, however. This market segment used to be their bread and butter, but now their lunch money is under threat of being taken by the Chinese makers. When something like the automatic Hyundai Grand Creta costs almost R 70,000 more than the base Haval, one has to wonder how long it will take China to completely devour South Korea here in South Africa.


Martin Pretorius


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