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2014 Great Wall H6 on the way

The new H6 will be a petrol-only SUV to begin with.

The bargain basement end of the compact soft-roader market is likely to get a shake-up in the new year with a fresh arrival from China’s Great Wall Motors. The new generation Toyota RAV4 rival -- called the Great Wall H6 -- has been caught on camera in Australia ahead of a showroom debut early next year.

The top-sellers in the compact SUV class start at close to $30,000 but Great Wall is understood to be targeting a sub-$25,000 price point for the H6. The Great Wall’s sharp price will likely force the established brands to discount, giving all buyers a better deal no matter which SUV they buy.

Unlike the current Great Wall SUV -- which has a body mounted on a ute “ladder frame” chassis -- the new H6 model has a modern monocoque car-like construction. Chinese cars are yet to set any new safety benchmarks in Australia but the new model is expected to be the best from that country to date in crash tests.

Apart from being an all-new design it will come standard with six airbags and stability control. The current Great Wall SUV earns a four-star rating and it is understood that the company was aiming for a five-star ANCAP result. However, Great Wall would not indicate the results from internal crash tests, instead preferring to wait for the independent umpire to test and rate the new model.

The new H6 will be a petrol-only SUV to begin with, powered by an all-new super-efficient 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Carsguide understands that Great Wall will continue to sell the X200 diesel SUV alongside the H6 for at least another year, until a diesel becomes available in the new model.

After a strong start in the first two years sale, official figures for the first nine months of the year show Great Wall Motors deliveries are down by 40 per cent compared with the same period the previous year -- in a record market that is up by 3.3 per cent. Other Chinese brands such as Foton have also had a stalled start. After announcing big plans two years ago Foton has sold fewer than 300 pick-ups in that time.

Budget brand Geely has still restricted its sales to Western Australia and Chery’s small cars have been stymied by newer competition from established brands. Chery sales are down by 20 per cent year-to-date. The Chery J1 hatchback was the cheapest car in Australia in almost two decades when it went on sale with a $9990 drive-away price in 2011. But it too has failed to rock the sales charts.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling