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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Road test: 2019 Haval H6

The Chinese unit-shifter arrives in the UAE, but are the numbers justified?

Confidence will get a long way in life, regardless of ability. Look at public schoolboys. Or Robbie Williams. And you certainly couldn’t accuse the Haval H6, the Chinese brand’s latest SUV to be launched in the UAE, of lacking pluck in its presentation.

In following a growing trend for cars that project an illuminated logo from their front doors, broadcast via blooming great big red letters that stretch for half a metre in the H6’s case, Haval seems to be saying: “Don’t be ashamed. You own a Haval. Let everybody know. It’s cool.”

That could be tough talk from a carmaker that is relatively unknown in the UAE, but why shouldn’t it be confident? In China, Haval shifts more than 100,000 units a month. The H6 accounts for about 40 per cent of those sales. That’s close to half a million H6s hitting the roads every 12 months. Given it has been on sale since 2011, there are probably about as many of these compact SUVs out there than there are people living in Abu Dhabi and Dubai combined.

So does the H6 back up its puff-chested attitude? From the front, at least, it makes a decent fist of taking on a whole stack of American and European rivals – there is more than a hint of the GMC Acadia about the shape of the grille, for instance. The rear is blander, however – with badges removed, you might struggle to differentiate it from various Korean SUVs.

I almost let out an involuntary giggle when I first clamber in and see that the H6’s speedometer goes up to 240kph – yeah, sure, guys, and you won’t find any tea in China. Yet the perky turbocharged 2.0-litre of my GDIT model is certainly no embarrassment, with the 197hp feeling more than adequate, even if you won’t be approaching any land-speed records or want to attempt to punk anybody at traffic lights.

You might accidentally get closer to that unlikely speedometer peak than you imagine, though, if the slightly sticky throttle on my test car is anything to go by. Such worries certainly don’t help perceptions of poor build quality in Chinese cars.

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Inside, the virtual dash dials look contemporary enough, although the overall effect is poleaxed by the infotainment screen, with a gold, black and white colour scheme that evokes early videogame consoles – not in a fun, kitsch way. Ignore the dated screen, however, and the wide, sweeping dash gives an illusion of space with its flowing design, and holds together the cockpit. It looks really quite smart – the little lever for switching between normal, eco and sport modes is strangely satisfying, too.

A poky back windscreen is compensated by big door mirrors, albeit ones you worry might be prone to getting snapped off in the UAE’s more parsimoniously dimensioned car parks. The reversing camera display takes a moment to engage after you shift into reverse, meanwhile, occasionally to the point where you begin to wonder if it has broken entirely. The general level of kit is above average for an SUV at the top end of the budget scale, though.

We won’t, I think it’s safe to say, see half a million H6s hitting the UAE’s tarmac before the calendar strikes 2020, but at its entry-level price – a mighty affordable Dh69,900 – it does look set to become a regular sight on the roads here.