The Bigger Brother
In the typical Filipino family, it's always the “Kuya”, or the bigger brother that has to be the role model for the younger ones.
He has to be the more mature, the more prim and proper, and basically the “Kuya” is the one that should set a good example for his siblings.
For GWM, the “Kuya” happens to be the Haval H6 HEV.
My first experience with the new GWM brand was with the smaller Haval Jolion HEV, which proved to have a lot of good things going for it. From my review, the Jolion was solid in many aspects, and its hybrid system worked great in terms of fuel economy and power.
So when I was handed the keys to both variants of the bigger H6 HEV, I had to raise my expectations. Did it impress me as much as the Jolion did? Well, read on to find out.
GWM is on the move to make a bigger presence in the Philippine market, and soon they are about to expand their model lineup. The first three were the Jolion, the H6, and the Cannon pickup truck, but soon they will have the Tank 300 SUV and the Ora 03 EV added to the list.
The H6 is the bigger crossover offering of GWM. It's a five-seater, and in terms of sizing it belongs in the C-segment class. Basically, the GWM Haval Jolion and H6 are what the Corolla Cross and the RAV4 are with Toyota.
In terms of styling, the H6 arguably has a sportier look than the smaller Jolion. The front grille is large and imposing, it's finished in chrome and its identifying mark as a hybrid is through the Haval badge that has a blue background.
As I've mentioned earlier, the two H6 variants were handed over to us, but really the main difference on the outside is that the Max variant wears 18-inch wheels with a two-tone finish, while the Supreme has bigger 19-inch wheels and they are painted in gloss black.
I'm quite surprised the H6's minimum ground clearance stands at 170 mm, as the crossover's high beltline does make it look taller than it actually is. But during my time with the crossover, I had no worries about scraping the undercarriage unlike my daily driven hatchback, and I believe it will be the same for those who would take the H6 through an executive village's humps and the occasional light trails going to the beach.
Much like the Jolion, the H6 has a Euro-esque vibe to it. The test units we had came in Atlantis Blue (Max) and Metal Gray (Supreme). But there was one time Niko (our creative director) and I saw an H6, and we honestly thought it had the appeal (not the look, to be clear) of a Porsche SUV, especially in Jet Black.
Inside, the H6 Max and H6 Supreme variants don't have the tito-ish combination of cream, rose gold, and black that I saw with the Jolion. Instead, most of the interior is finished in black, while the top half is in gray. There are some silver accents on the dashboard and door cards, and there's white contrast stitching on the seats. The piano black on the power window and center console panels is a nice touch, but be ready to have a microfiber towel all the time as it tends to be a fingerprint magnet.
There are also very few buttons found on the dashboard, which I found to be very neat. In the middle of it lies a “floating” 12-inch touchscreen with very crisp graphics, and it's great that GWM knows Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are key features for cars nowadays by making both available on the H6.
GWM has also been very generous in giving a comprehensive list of interior features, as both variants of the H6 come with a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, and hands-free power tailgate as standard. The features exclusive only to the H6 Supreme are the HUD for the driver and a wireless charging pad.
In terms of space, there's plenty of room for five adults. Given its size, leg room, knee room, and elbow room won't be a problem, but thigh support for the seats can be improved.
Much like the Jolion, the battery pack of the hybrid system does take up some height in the H6's cargo hold. Nevertheless, you can still put in a lot of travel bags and groceries since the cargo area still measures 31 inches long, 39 inches wide, and 28 inches high. With the 2nd-row seats folded and the tonneau cover tucked away, the cargo length increases to 63 inches.
However, there are some things I do wish the engineers of GWM could have done differently. First, I found that the digital screen for the multi-information display is a bit small, considering the Jolion had a bigger one. I also find it a bit odd that while it's placed in a recessed manner, it doesn't have a cluster; hence you can't call it a digital instrument cluster. Normally in the model range, the bigger cars get bigger screens, but in this case, it's the other way around.
The second is the A/C controls. While there are physical buttons for the on and off switch, it could have been better if they included the blower and climate control buttons as well. In a country like ours, those prove to be a lot more used than the buttons for the front and rear window defoggers.
I would also have preferred the H6 to have a physical drive mode selector; like a knob or a physical button. If I had not gone over the infotainment screen's submenus, I wouldn't have known the H6 had sport, eco, and snow drive modes. But then again, that's what our job is for; to discover and tell you things like this.
Going back to the Corolla Cross and RAV4 reference, the H6 has a more powerful hybrid powertrain than the Jolion. The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder turbo alone already makes a decent 148 PS and 230 Nm of torque. But together with the electric motor, the hybrid powertrain sends a combined 243 PS and 530 Nm of torque to the front wheels via the DHT or the dedicated hybrid transmission.
Initially, I thought the H6 was more or less the same as the Jolion HEV in terms of driving. But when I got behind the wheel, it was a much different experience and it turns out, it lives up to the “Kuya” reference.
For starters, the H6 is a lot smoother. There's less audible noise and vibration when the hybrid powertrain switches from EV to ICE, so GWM may have put in a bit more sound deadening with the H6. It's not as zippy as the Jolion, and the power delivery is more linear even if there's plenty more horsepower on tap with the bigger H6.
It's also a different story in terms of road manners. The H6 rides a bit firmer than the Jolion, especially with the top-spec Supreme that wears 19-inch wheels. There's a lot less body movement thanks also to the rear multi-link suspension (the Jolion has a torsion beam rear), giving you a bit more confidence in the corners when going through winding roads.
Watch your speed as you go over humps though, as the combination of the H6 HEV's tall ride height and the front-heavy hybrid powertrain could compress the front shocks more than usual if you go over it quickly. It's like going over humps in a fully-loaded sedan; it has that floaty feel.
Fuel economy meanwhile is great. In fact, I actually had better numbers with the H6 in the city than the Jolion. At an average speed of 16 km/h, I achieved 18 km/l. But on the highway, the Jolion's naturally aspirated engine (as expected) sips less fuel than the H6's 1.5 turbo. I was able to get 20 km/l at an 82 km/h average speed.
The GWM ADAS suite works just as well in the H6 as it was with the Jolion HEV. The operation of the adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist is very similar to the Honda Sensing and Subaru's EyeSight, though the lane keep assist can still use a bit more tweaking to achieve a similar level of smoothness.
But speaking of fine-tuning, the H6 also suffers from the same horn delay as the one I experienced with the Jolion. As it stands, the Jolion HEV indeed got a lot of things from its “Kuya”, the H6, including some of the things that GWM can improve upon.
With an introductory price of PHP 1.788 million for the Max variant and PHP 1.888 million for the Supreme, it's hard to find a full hybrid crossover that currently matches the value being offered by the GWM Haval H6 HEV, especially in its segment. Its closest competitors are the Toyota RAV4 HEV and the Honda CR-V e:HEV, but those come with a price tag that's well in the mid-PHP 2 million range.
We all know the market is already saturated by crossovers with turbocharged engines and mild hybrid powertrains, and a lot of Chinese brands entering the Philippine market are looking to add more. But with GWM offering something that's less common, but is definitely very relevant in today's automotive landscape, their full hybrids like the Haval H6 HEV could be the key for the GWM brand to establish themselves.
The strategy is good, and currently the same can be said with their cars. Hopefully, they give the same attention in terms of aftersales.