There’s good reason to believe that Great Wall Motors' recently announced grand Malaysia plans are to be led by their SUV-centric brand Haval, and that the H6 will be the tip of the spear. Here’s why:
Far from being the newest entrant in Haval’s growing range of models, the H6 actually spent a bit of its history teased as a car to be offered to Malaysian buyers. Despite a lot of swirling rumours, ultimately an official local launch never materialised to join the H1, H2, and H9 a few years ago.
Haval H6 incoming - Proton X70 in trouble?
Fast forward to 2022, the Chinese automotive brand is keen to re-enter the country in earnest with much more gusto than the sheepish approach taken with their previous attempt. Now not only does Haval have a more established line-up, it boasts world-class powertrains, design, and technology features.
Alongside this are its newer sister marques under GWM such as Ora, TANK, and POER who have also been committed to join the Malaysian offensive to offer EVs, 4x4s, and pick-up trucks, respectively. However, leave no doubt that Haval is the one that stands to gain the most customers.
What Is The Haval H6?
Brands have rightly chosen certain cars to debut in a certain market in order to kick off with the most momentum. In 2018, Proton chose the X70 to mark its new era with partners Geely, which is a badge-engineered and only lightly altered Boyue. The order books were quick to fill.
Like the X70, the Haval H6 is a C-segment SUV, but one that’s now entered its 3rd-generation as of 2020, making it a few years more current than the vehicle the Proton is based on. Even a quick glance at its design signals modernity and aesthetic poise that’s uncommon from a non-premium automotive brand.
For all the same reasons, the H6 stands to be received just as warmly. Its size conforms to the needs of the majority of SUV buyers - plenty big but not excessively so - while it boasting impressive equipment levels and build quality. On a more subjective level, the H6 even makes the X70 look a little dated both inside and out.
Haval H6 - Price Factor
Of course, all this only matters if Haval can deliver a product that remains impressive relative to its price. That was the Proton X70, and later X50’s, ace in the hole. GWM knows that it can only achieve this kind of value to buyers if it engages in local assembly. And thankfully, it looks like they’re planning to do exactly that.
They’ve certainly got the resources to establish a factory within our borders and, failing that, are already assembling the H6 in neighbouring Thailand if the Malaysian launch doesn’t coincide with the CKD plant being finished. Remember the X70 was on sale for 2 years as a CBU before being locally assembled.
Haval H6 - A Clear Powertrain Advantage
Though we’d hazard the concession that the H6 wins handily in a prettiness content with its shape that has echoes of the VW Tiguan and even a little Jaguar F-Pace, it might be the breadth of choice between petrol, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains that stands to be the H6’s biggest draw.
It’s built on GWM’s unfortunately named LEMON platform, which was engineered from the start to support multiple propulsion solutions, including pure electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cells (FCEV). For now, Haval hasn’t taken it that far, but recently unveiled the first H6-based PHEV for the Thai market.
Its powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that’s paired to an electric motor for a stout combined output of 326hp and 530Nm. Most shocking, though, is its pure electric range of 201km (measured on the NEDC test cycle)!
Haval has not disclosed the exact capacity of its hybrid battery, but given that it’s enough to propel the H6 without invoking the combustion engine further than some dedicated EVs leads us to believe its pretty friggin big, perhaps with an energy capacity in excess of 40kWh. Again, this would make it larger than the one found in the Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus (39.9kWh), the MINI Cooper SE (32.6kWh), or the Mazda MX-30 (35.5kWh).
If a PHEV isn’t to your taste, the H6 has you covered on most fronts with a series hybrid alternative that uses the same 1.5-litre petrol engine (albeit down-tuned) and electric motor as the PHEV for equal peak torque of 530Nm but instead uses a 1.8kWh battery to boost low speed efficiency for fuel economy gains.
Apart from this, there’s also a good amount of conventional variants powered by internal combustion, and this spectrum of electrification is dependent on the sales strategy at play based on where its being sold. Given that Thailand gets both flavours of hybrid, Malaysia should follow suit besides possibly offering a 2.0-litre turbo with 200hp and 320Nm to either front wheels or all-wheel drive.
In contrast, Proton seems very keen on streamlining around a single engine, that being the 1.5-litre (JLH-3G15TD) turbocharged 3-cylinder that originally featured on the X50 Flagship, but is now the engine on all variants of the X70 except for the range-topper, supplanting the 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo, opening a new engine manufacturing facility to service this goal.
Should Proton Be Worried?
If GWM play their cards right and introduce the H6 as a powerhouse of features and value, there’s no denying that the X70 will have quite a formidable opponent to contend with. Out of all the possible newcomers to challenge Proton’s sales crown in C-segment SUVs, even counting those coming from China, Haval definitely poses the biggest threat.
The most worrying thing for Proton is the deficit in powertrain technology. Neither the X70 nor its overseas market counterparts (Boyue, Azkarra, Emgrand X7 Sport) have any form of electrification currently forthcoming.
That said, this is likely to change in dramatic fashion with the all-new - due in 2022 - Geely Boyue that’s built on the much more contemporary Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) vehicle platform shared with the Volvo XC40, Polestar 2, and various Lynk & Co models.
Should the current X70 start to lose ground to the incoming Haval H6, there’s definitely hope on the horizon that most, if not all, of its shortcomings will be rectified by its successor. When that does happen, it should be a very close and entertaining fight in which only the consumer (all of us) stands to benefit.