Mahindra XUV500 VS Haval H6
- Cheap way into seven seats
- Petrol/auto combination a winner
- Hugely spacious third row
- Underwhelming safety
- Steering that requires plenty of guesswork
- Cheap-feeling interior
- Great value
- Looks stunning
- Nice to drive
- No hybrid version
- Thirsty petrol engine
- No diesel version
Just in case attacking Australia's crowded SUV market with a virtually unheard of Indian brand wasn't a high enough hurdle to leap over, Mahindra had made its task even harder - think a Bollywood version of Mission Impossible - by launching its XUV500 SUV here with a diesel engine (which nobody wanted) and a manual gearbox (which few could even remember how to use).
Fortunately, it fixed one of those issues late in 2016, finally adding an automatic transmission to the line-up. And now, at long last, it's fixed the other.
For one, it's a ferociously cheap way into a new seven-seat SUV. For another, it's pretty well equipped, even from the base level. There's a long warranty, an equally long roadside assistance offering, and there's capped-price servicing, too.
So, should the mainstream SUV players be looking over their shoulders?
Spoiler alert: no.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
There are good surprises and bad surprises. Like the time I was driving my ute and the steering wheel came off. Bad surprise. Or the time the chicken shop accidentally gave me a large chips when I paid for a medium. Good surprise. The Haval H6 also surprised me. And it was up there with a large chips type of surprise.
See, my expectations of Haval have been of a brand which is really big in China where its owned by Great Wall Motors, but can’t keep up with the likes of Toyota and Mazda when it comes to driving and styling. Instead, their strength seemed to be just value-for-money.
Surprise! The new generation H6 isn’t just good value-for-money any more. It’s still really well priced but it has stunning looks, too. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
This petrol-powered and well-priced XUV500 W6 might mark Mahindra's most convincing effort at cracking Australia's congested SUV market, but we're still not completely convinced.
That said, it's certainly cheap, the ownership credentials stack up and it's a very comfortable way to transport seven people.
Will this Mahindra's low price and upgraded spec win your SUV vote? Tell us in the comments below.
The H6 could be the turning point for Haval in Australia. The brand’s first big success that changes the way Aussies view this Chinese carmaker. The H6’s great value and stunning looks will win over many but add an excellent warranty, advanced safety tech, plus the surprisingly good, and you have a package that appears right up there with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5.
The sweet spot of the range would have to be the Lux - the car I tested with its leatherette seats, privacy glass and dual-zone climate control.
There's no getting away from the fact the XUV500 is not the sleekest, prettiest SUV in the pack. But it's not ugly, either. More that it looks like it's doing its best with a design philosophy hatched a generation or two ago.
Its best angle by far is when viewed straight on, where the piano-black grille, dual bonnet bulges and complicated (read: a little weird) headlight clusters all add some road presence to Mahindra's only SUV.
A side-on viewing, however, is less satisfying, where a combination of strangely placed and super-sharp body creases (including one over the rear wheelarch, which adds a Harbour Bridge-style crescent to the otherwise-straight window line) and serious rear overhang give the XUV500 an inescapable awkwardness.
Inside, expect a vast collection of rock-hard (though nicely patterned) plastics, with the ambiance rescued somewhat by the clean-looking and vertical central control unit, which is home to the media screen and air-con controls.
Ready for some hashtag real talk? There are better-looking and better-feeling seven-seat SUVs out there. But there aren't many that start at $25,990 drive-away. And I think that's Mahindra's point.
This new generation H6 is ridiculously good looking. So much so that my Dad thought it was a Porsche when I arrived to pick him up. But in saying that Dad also has a glass coffee table supported by a golden naked lady and thinks I work in a car dealership, despite me explaining that motoring journalism is an actual job.
He’s not wrong, for once. Well, it doesn’t look like a Porsche, but I can see what he means given the way the LED strip across the tailgate lights up and connects with the tail-lights either side.
I don’t know what kind of deal with the devil the H6’s designer made but there isn’t an angle from which this SUV looks nothing short of beautiful. There’s the flashy but not over-the-top grille, the sleek headlights, and the smooth lines in profile which wrap around to the curvaceous back end.
Havals in the past have seemed low quality and unfinished, but this new H6 seems the opposite.
The same goes for the minimalist cabin. Those screens house almost every function except for the climate control and that clears the dashboard of buttons.
This cabin is a premium design with a floating centre console and metallic trim. Stepping up to the Lux from the Premium adds 'leatherette' upholstery, a leather steering wheel and then the Ultra takes the high-end feeling further with a 12.3-inch media display and a panoramic sunroof.
The six exterior colours are, 'Hamilton White', 'Ayres Grey', 'Burgundy Red', 'Energy Green', 'Sapphire Blue' and 'Golden Black.'
Pretty damn practical, actually, regardless of whether you want to carry people or cargo. Carrying both at the same time, however, is tricky.
But let's start with people. There is a huge amount of room in the third row of the XUV500, a space with enough head and legroom to put plenty of its competition to shame.
Thanks to second-row seat backs that fold flat, before the the entire seat lifts up and pushes forward, climbing into seats six and seven isn't too big a drama, either.
We rarely say this about seven-seat cars, but at 175cm, I'd feel plenty comfortable back there on a longer drive. There are two air vents in the third row, too, along with bottle storage and side-seat storage for thin items.
The space in the middle row is ample as well, and you'll find three ISOFIX attachment points, one for each of the three seats. There's also a door pocket in each rear door and storage nets on the rear of the two front seats. A pull-down divider that separates the back seat is home to two cupholders, matching the two for front seat riders.
The only downside to all this people-lugging happiness is that, with the third row of seats in place, there is absolutely no room for luggage. Mahindra doesn't quote a litre storage figure when seven are seated (mostly because it would probably be embarrassing to write "one litre"), but trust us, you'll be lucky to squeeze a soft backpack in the boot with all seats in place.
Things improve considerably when you drop the third row of seats, though, which unlocks 702 litres of storage, and that number climbs to 1512 litres with the second and third row folded down.
The H6 is cavernous for a mid-sized SUV with large and wide seats up front and excellent leg and headroom in the second row. The H6 doesn’t come with a third row which is shame because there’s room for one.
A 600-litre cargo capacity is big for the class and cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the second row, another two up front, a large space under the floating centre console, although the door pockets could be better.
Second rowers will be pleased with directional air vents back there, plus two USB ports. There are another two USB ports either side of the floating centre console, too.
The leatherette upholstery in the Lux I tested was easy to keep clean and would suit families better than the cloth material used in the Premium.
You’re going to notice the high load lip on the boot and for people as tall as me (191cm/6'3") the opened tailgate and your head may meet occasionally. Still the H6 is super practical.
Price and features
Make no mistake, this Mahindra kills the competition on price. The entry-level W6 version will cost you a lean $25,990, while the fruited-up W8 version will set you back $29,990. You can even have an AWD W8 for $32,990. The best part? All of those are drive-away prices.
Go for the W6, and you can expect 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, air-con with vents (powered by a second compressor) in the second and third row, cornering headlights with DRLs, front and rear fog lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a 6.0-inch multimedia screen linked with a six-speaker stereo.
You’re saving a decent amount of moolah choosing a Haval H6 over, say, a Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 or Nissan X-Trail. The H6 entry-grade is called the Premium and lists for $30,990 drive-away, while the mid-range Lux is $33,990 driveaway.
Both come in front wheel drive only. If you’re after all-wheel drive you’ll need to step up to the top-of-the-range Ultra for $36,990 drive-away, or pay $2,000 less and have it in front-wheel drive.
In comparison the RAV4 and CX-5 ranges start more than $3K higher than the entry-grade H6 and don’t get the same level of features. Let me show you what you get for your money.
Coming standard on the Premium are two 10.25-inch displays with Apple CarPlay, six-speaker audio, digital radio, air-conditioning, proximity key with push-button start, a reversing camera, paddle shifters, LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Stepping up to the Lux adds dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, power adjustable driver’s seat, the front seats are also heated, leather steering wheel, 360-degree camera and roof rails.
The Ultra brings in a 12.3-inch media screen, power adjustable front passenger seat and both front seats are now heated and ventilated. There's also wireless charging, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, and auto parking.
That’s incredibly good value. Normally things that are cheap (like a Jetstar flight) offer nothing in return (like a Jetstar flight). Yep, nobody is going to accuse you of being ripped off here.
Engine & trans
There's a diesel engine currently available, but the clock is ticking - Mahindra expects it to be phased out within six months. But the big news here is the new petrol engine, a turbocharged 2.2-litre unit good for 103kW/320Nm. It's paired exclusively with an Aisin-developed six-speed automatic transmission, and will send it's power to the front or all four wheels.
Mahindra doesn't quote official performance figures, but those engine outputs hardly scream excitement, do they?
The same four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine is in all three grades. It’s a 2.0-litre and makes 150kW/320Nm.
This engine had no problems pulling the H6 around when I tested it with my little family onboard with good acceleration and smooth shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
When pushed hard the four-cylinder responds well, but it’s on the noisy side.
The car we tested was the front-wheel drive Lux, but we’ll be able to review the all-wheel drive version when it arrives in our garage soon.
On paper the all-wheel drive Haldex system in the H6 looks promising and in this generation the SUV has a rear differential lock for better off-road capability. That said, the H6 is not an off-roader in the Toyota LandCruiser sense, and you should keep your adventures in it mild rather than wild.
There’s no diesel in the H6 line-up, nor will you find a hybrid variant or and electric version of this SUV at this stage.
Braked towing capacity is 2000kg for all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive H6s.
In my testing of the front-wheel drive I measured 9.1L/100km at the fuel pump. That was after an even split of motorway and urban running.
Thirsty work considering most of the time it was just me and an unloaded car. Add a family of four plus holiday gear and you can expect that mileage to be worse.
It’s here that the H6 is showing a weakness in its offering by not having a hybrid powertrain in its Australian range.
About as old school as rocking a pair of button-up tracksuit pants with a Run-DMC cassette stuffed into your Walkman.
On a straight and unchallenging road, there's stuff to like about the petrol-powered XUV500. The engine, while gruff under heavy acceleration, doesn't feel too wheezy when you're not asking a great deal of it, and nor is the cabin overly loud at suburban speeds. It's a comfortable space for driver and passengers, too, and the gearbox performed seamlessly on our short test drive.
But that's about where the good news ends. There's an unshakeable agricultural feel to the way this Mahindra SUV goes about its business, and nowhere is that more obvious than through the steering wheel, which has only a vague and difficult relationship with the the front tyres, making it seriously tricky to approach twisting roads with anything approaching confidence.
The steering is slow and cumbersome - light when you first begin turning the wheel, with a ton of weight appearing by surprise midway through the cornering process - and it has a tendency to fight back should the front wheels find a bump or corrugation in the road, too.
The body lolls about when challenged, too, and the tyres are quick to give up their grip on tighter corners. All of which would give it a certain retro charm if it wasn't so very new, and I must admit I was cackling maniacally on some of the more twisting roads.
But it's simply not a car I could live with.
I’m still in shock. This is the biggest surprise. The H6 I tested was effortless to drive, with a comfortable and composed ride. I was not expecting it, not when most Havals I’ve piloted in the past have disappointed when it comes to the driving bit.
Sure, the engine isn't overly powerful, but it's responsive, and the dual-clutch transmission shifts smoothly whether driving in slow traffic or at 110km/h on the motorway
Sharp speed bumps taken a bit too fast in the front-wheel drive Lux I tested reveal only modest suspension travel, causing a reverberating ‘bang’ as the shocks and springs react. I’ve experienced the same thing in many cars I’ve tested – even properly prestige ones.
This though is one of very few complaints I have about the way the H6 drives, for the most part this SUV performs remarkably well with a (high) level of refinement I seriously wasn’t expecting.
I can’t tell you what the all-wheel drive version of the H6 is like to drive having only tested the front-wheel drive version, but we’ll no doubt have one in the CarsGuide garage soon.
Expect dual front, front-side and curtain airbags (though the latter don't extend to the third row of seats), along with rear parking sensors and ESP. Stepping up to the W8 trim adds a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines. The XUV500 was awarded a four-star (out of five) ANCAP assessment when tested in 2012.
Is the Haval H6 safe? Well the H6 hasn’t been given an ANCAP rating yet, but this new generation car looks to be equipped well with advanced safety tech across all three grades.
All H6s come with AEB which can detect pedestrians and cyclists, blind spot warning and lane change assistance, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and rear collision warning.
The Lux adds adaptive cruise control, while the Ultra brings rear cross-traffic alert with braking, and an 'Intelligent Dodge' overtaking system.
Along with all that tech there are seven airbags on board, too. And for child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts.
All XUV500s are covered by a five year/100,000km warranty (though the final two years apply only to the drivetrain), along with five years of complimentary roadside assistance.
The XUV500 is also covered by Mahindra's capped-price servicing program for the first three years of ownership, and will require servicing every six months or 10,000km.
The H6 is covered by Haval’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km, although the first service is required at the 10,000km point, then 25,000km and so on. Servicing is capped at $210 for the first service, $280 for the second, $380 for third, $480 for the fourth and $210 for the fifth.