The Affordable Luxury Cruiser?
It's not surprising to see high-riding vehicles sell like hotcakes in today's market where crossovers and midsize SUVs dominate. Not only are they practical, but the tall ride height and turbo-diesel engines (mostly) make these vehicles great as an all-around family car.
But if that's what you're after, why not consider an MPV instead? They're slightly more practical than SUVs, have better riding comfort, and have more ample space for both cargo and passengers. And where there was once the Toyota Innova, there are now more contenders in the class like the Maxus G50 and Geely Okavango.
Perhaps this is why GAC launched its newest model to date: the GN6. Serving as their midsize MPV, it sits below the GM8 luxury minivan but has some similar features available.
Will a slightly smaller people carrier help GAC attract more customers? Is the GN6 a good option for an MPV in a market addicted to SUVs? And is it really practical and comfortable at the same time?
Let's start with its looks; its dashing looks, rather. MPVs are not exactly known for having the sleekest of designs, but GAC made sure this MPV appear respectable. Borrowing cues from its sedan sibling (the GA4) the GN6 gets a bold front grille, a neat set of headlights, and a sporty front bumper. It also comes with a nice set of taillights which are actually quite eye-catching, especially at night. Finally, there's its exterior shade called 'Peacock Blue' which grew on me over time.
So it looks nice despite being a people carrier but its good looks are let down by its small 16-inch alloy wheels. On a vehicle this size, it might actually look better if it came with 17-inch alloys that look more stylish than what the MPV currently has. Perhaps it could get a new set of wheels in a future update. But for now, these will have to do.
Climb aboard the GN6, and clearly, GAC wanted that luxury impression with all this leather. Instead of the typical black hue, the GN6's cabin gets predominantly brown leather on the seats, door cards, steering wheel, dashboard, and interior panels for a more sophisticated finish. The faux chrome accents, piano black accents on the buttons, the soft-touch buttons/switches, and the power sunroof make for a premium feel too.
Perhaps the GN6's most important feature is the pair of captain seats occupying the second row. While it may only be manual adjust, the seats are very comfortable and come with armrests as standard. You can also recline the seats which make for a nice lounge-like feel, especially when you're on a long road trip. There are no ottomans; those are only available on the more luxurious GM8.
As much as the captain seats are the “best seats in the house” (or in this case MPV), they do lack provisions for cupholders. Sure, there are bottle holders on the side which can hold tumblers, but if you plan on bringing a hot (paper) cup of coffee or tea while seated at the back, you're better off with a thermos flask.
Those in the third row, however, benefit from cupholders on each corner. They even have charging ports to allow occupants to charge their devices. So while those in the third row may not have the best legroom, they do come with more amenities on hand.
Providing in-car entertainment is a touchscreen infotainment system. It doesn't have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but at least it comes with Bluetooth as standard. Connecting an Android device to the touchscreen was a breeze as it immediately paired up with my phone. Unfortunately, iOS devices take a little bit longer to connect to the system as my colleague found out when he tried to pair his phone. Speaking of phones, you can recharge your smartphones via a 12V power socket, or a more powerful 2.4A fast charging port placed on the center console.
Should you have a flash drive, the touchscreen system can also play videos and show pictures, besides music. But since it lacks rear monitors for the passengers seated at the back, only the front passenger will be able to watch videos.
Under the hood of the GN6 is not a turbo-diesel engine. Instead, this MPV has a gasoline-fed 1.5-liter inline-four. But before you scoff at it, this motor has a turbocharger. The result? It makes a respectable 171 PS along with 265 Nm of torque. It is then paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual select.
Upon startup, the engine appears and sounds docile. But when I took it to the open road, that's where the engine surprised me. Despite its compact size, the turbocharged inline-four has some eagerness and then some. Put your foot down and the transmission quickly kicks down a gear while the turbo engine picks up the revs. It's no turbo-diesel, but there's generous torque at low revs.
This actually gave me confidence in overtaking other cars on the road without fear of being short on power. It does lose some steam at the higher rev range, but that's not uncommon for turbocharged engines; the middle of the rev range is where the good stuff is.
If you prefer the GN6 to be sportier, you can set either set the gearbox to manual mode and choose the gears yourself, or set the powertrain to Sport Mode. Yes, it has selectable driving modes which include Normal, Eco, and Winter. Personally, I left the driving mode to Normal and I rarely used the manual select for the automatic transmission since it was doing a good job of going about its business.
With just me inside the GN6, the MPV was able to return an admirable 8.0 – 8.5 km/l in the city. Not bad, considering the size of the van. Once you have extra people inside the GN6, however, fuel economy dips to around 7.0 – 7.5 km/l while in the city.
I wasn't able to take the GN6 on a road trip (due to pandemic restrictions), but I was able to stretch its legs on an empty stretch of Marcos Highway near Marikina. Despite its weight and size, the people carrier was able to return around 15.0 km/l with just me in the driver's seat. Should you be carrying additional passengers, expect highway fuel economy to dip around the 13.0 km/l mark.
When it comes to its ride quality, it's a mixed bag. Those seated at the front and on the captain seats are treated to a comfortable ride. But if you happen to be sitting on the third row, it has a slightly stiffer ride quality. That makes sense because GAC likely tuned the rear axle for load-carrying capacity in order for the GN6 to be capable of carrying passengers plus cargo.
As far as handling is concerned this is still a big vehicle to maneuver, but I'm happy to report that the GN6 does come with electric power steering. That means it's light to steer for such a heavy vehicle. What I would like more, however, is better steering feedback from the GN6. There were times driving the GN6 felt numb, which meant there was no road feel coming from the steering wheel.
But if there's one gripe that GAC could improve on the GN6, it would be the brakes. Yes, they're powerful and can stop this MPV on a dime, but I wish the brake pedal had a better feel. I actually have to give the pedal a good prod before I'm confident the pads are doing the job. It's not that the brakes are weak, they just feel very different if you've become accustomed to other models like, say, an Innova. Maybe GAC can do something about its brakes in a future update.
At PHP 1,480,000, is the GN6 a good buy? Well, if you're looking at getting an MPV with minivan-like luxuries, the GN6 is a nice vehicle to get. Its closest competitor, the Maxus G50, is more affordable but doesn't come with captain seats like the G50.
What's more, is that it comes loaded with safety features too. From anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, reverse camera with parking sensors, electronic stability, and traction control systems, and a host of airbags, the GN6 is a safe vehicle to be in. Again, you do have to get used to the rather different characteristics of the pedal.
The question is whether or not this can pose a challenge to the Innova or the Okavango. Those two vehicles set the bar high in different ways, and the GN6 may be priced a bit too close, so much so that sales agents might have an uphill battle to win over hearts and minds.
Still, the GN6 has the makings of a good people carrier as well as a family car. What it lacks in ride height, it makes up for in better riding comfort. It may not have a diesel engine under the hood, but the 1.5-liter turbo makes decent power and is fairly frugal. In case you don't have extra passengers, you can fold down the third-row bench and treat the GN6 like an MPV limousine of sorts. I know I did.