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Champagne driving on a beer budget

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Champagne driving on a beer budget

Electric vehicles continue to challenge the internal combustion engine and, writes BRUCE McMAHON, the future of the motor car is closing in at a steady pace.

While in 2023 there remains a number of electric vehicle dilemmas to be resolved there will be more, cheaper, EVs headed this way soon; many from China. More, and more generous, taxpayer subsidies will also help out.

Yet the ICE – internal combustion engine – has many, many kilometres to run. (And fuel excises to pay). And Chinese makers are now well-established here too with petrol and diesel-engined cars to spark up another season.

Take the Haval family of SUVs built by GWM; aka Great Wall Motors.

These SUVs first arrived as straightforward, if cheapish, family wagons. Style and substance improved, while prices stayed low, to a point where it was hard to ignore them up against offerings from Japan and Korea.

That transformation is highlighted by the Haval H6 GT, a hulking SUV with fastback-coupe styling, reasonable road manners and a la-de-dah interior. Think BMW X6 look-alike at a third of the price.

On the face of it, the German machine should be better built, with finer attention to detail, more sophisticated engineering and generally be more nuanced in the drive experience. Perhaps the BMW will last longer with better quality mechanicals and trim materials. Perhaps that badge is worth a dollar or two. But with 3-1 pricing there’s fair odds the H6 GT will attract more custom (if you like this coupe-style SUV fad that’s spreading through the suburbs). And two Havals should last as long or  even longer, as one BMW with money left over for a decent holiday.

The Haval H6 GT has an imposing road presence, a clean collection of body lines though there’s maybe one too many badges on the rear. The body’s bulk translates to good accommodation for four or five full-sized adults.

Back seat head, leg and knee room is good, along with a decent rear luggage compartment considering the sloping rear hatch. Below that is a space-saver tyre.

That bold exterior is matched by a 2023-and-beyond interior, a tad fancier than a standard Haval H6 wagon.

It’s smart and attractive, full of all the bits and pieces of convenience and safety today’s crowd seek. For some there’ll be one too many buzzers and bells for all manner of driver transgressions. The touchscreen and its controls can take a few days to learn but there’s not much left out here. The GT has as much standard gear as offered by premium car makers.

Drivers have electric adjustment for their seat and there’s decent ergonomics aside from a restrictive rear view through that narrow back window. It feels big and tough, a bit of a bully-boy.

All up this is a handsome, well-equipped and value package powered by a two litre, turbocharged petrol motor and with seven-speed, all-wheel drive transmission, plus look-at-me style for a reasonable $46,490.

It rides well with fair road manners  yet the H6 GT’s sophisticated style is not quite matched in the engineering department. It is a safe, honest drive but the engine-transmission combination can act sluggish from the get-go, steering feel is a touch awkward and the heft of that big body can be felt when pushing down a country road.

All this probably won’t worry most customers happy to swan around in a cut-price luxury machine.

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