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
- A good looker
- Nice space inside
- Good equipment for expenditure
- Disappointing to drive
- Expensive servicing
- No AEB
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|
If you’ve not heard of the Haval H6, you’re probably not alone. In fact, if you didn’t even know that Haval was a thing, you’re still probably in the majority.
The Chinese maker and its medium-sized H6 SUV are here to compete with the big players. The H6 fights in the largest segment of the SUV market, against the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail and all of those other very impressive, family friendly offerings.
With two trim levels available, and aggressive pricing on both the entry-grade Premium and top-spec Lux tested here, the Haval H6 seemingly has something to make it stand out in the Australian market, offering customers who want a lot of car for their cash an alternative to the entry-level grades of the mainstream Korean and Japanese players.
But in the midst of fierce competition, ever-sharpening prices and the continually expanding equipment lists of base model SUVs, is there really a place for this Chinese model? Let’s see…
|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.
This is a hard sell. I mean, you could look at the Haval H6 and think to yourself, “that’s quite a handsome thing - I think that’d look good in my driveway”. I’d understand that, especially when it comes to the high-spec Lux.
But buying one of these over a Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail or Toyota RAV4 - even in base model trim - would arguably be a mistake. It simply isn’t as good as any of those vehicles, despite its best intentions, and no matter how good it might look.
Would you roll the dice and choose a Chinese SUV like the Haval H6 over a mainstream competitor? Let us know in the comments section below.
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.
It doesn’t look very much like the other models in Haval’s range, and that’s a good thing. The H2, H8 and H9 all have the rounded edges of yesteryear, where the H6 is sharper, smarter, more sophisticated. It looks more European than Chinese, to my eye.
The proportions of the Haval H6 are quite fetching - the brand, cheekily, labels it the H6 Coupe in its home market. It has lines in the right places, a shapely silhouette and a pert backside, all of which combine to give it a certain presence on the road. It is more stylish than a few of its class compatriots, that’s for sure. And the Lux model rolls on 19-inch wheels, which certainly help in that regard.
The interior, though, isn’t as amazing, despite looking inviting. There’s a lot of fake wood and hard plastic, and it doesn’t have the ergonomic intelligence of the better SUVs in the class. The swooping roofline makes for difficult rearward vision, too, with a letterbox rear windscreen and thick D-pillars.
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 Haval H6 doesn’t set any new standards in terms of cabin space and comfort, but nor is it a bottom-feeder in the segment - there are some older cars from better-known brands that assume that mantle.
The good bits include decent storage - four door pockets that are big enough for water bottles, a pair of cupholders between the front seats and two in the back in the flip-down arm-rest, and the boot is decent, too. Plus you’ll easily be able to fit a stroller in the back if you have kids, or pushbikes if you’re that way inclined, and the opening is wide, if a little high when you’re placing heavy items in. There is a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor, a 12-volt outlet in the boot and a pair of netted cubbies. The rear seats fold down almost flat in a 60:40 fashion.
The rear seat is comfortable, with a long seat squab making for good under-thigh support, and plenty of space - even for taller adults there is plentiful legroom and decent headroom. Because it is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, it doesn’t have a big transmission tunnel eating into floor space, making sidewards slides pretty simple. The back seats recline, too.
Up front, the button placement isn’t as logical as you might find in some of the other SUVs. The large volume wheel between the seats, for instance, and the array of buttons that reside down there, are out of your line of sight.
The digital information screen between the dials in front of the driver is bright and has a fair few things to look at, but crucially - and annoyingly - misses out on a digital speedometer. It will show you the set speed on cruise control, but not your actual speed.
And the chimes. Oh, the dings and dongs, the bings and bongs. I don’t need the cruise control to do a warning beep every time I adjust the speed by 1km/h… But hey, at least there are six mood light colours to choose from, using a rather innocuous button between the seats (the colours are: red, blue, yellow, green, pinkish purple and orange).
If the tech were more user-friendly and the plastics a little more special, the H6’s cabin would be a much nicer place to be. For roominess, it ain't bad.
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.
Until recently, the Haval H6 definitely offered truly good value for money. At launch it arrived with a base price of $31,990 drive-away for the entry-level Premium and $34,990 drive-away for this Lux version. But since then, there has been a lot of new model activity in the medium-SUV segment, and some hallmark players have added kit and dropped prices to boost sales and maintain relevance.
The Premium comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog-lights, auto headlights and wipers, laser puddle lights, heated auto-folding side mirrors, tinted glass, roof-rails, cruise control, mood lighting, stainless-steel scuff plates, electric driver’s seat adjustment, fabric seat trim, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia unit with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB input.
The Lux adds a panoramic sunroof, heated front and rear seats, power-adjustable passenger seat, fake leather trim, its sound system gains a sub-woofer, and it has better headlights - xenon units with auto levelling - plus 19-inch wheels.
There are seven colours to choose from, six of which are metallics that attract a $495 premium. Buyers can even choose between a range of different coloured interiors; the Premium has the choice of black or grey/black, while the Lux has black, grey/black or brown/black, as you see here.
And there are deals to be had. The H6 Premium can now be had at $29,990 drive-away with free sat nav (usually $990 more) and a $500 gift card. You’ll get the Lux for $33,990 drive-away.
The H6 doesn’t have sat nav fitted as standard in any spec, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone mirroring technology isn’t available at all.
Safety kit is respectable, if not class-leading, with a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, dual ISOFIX child-seat attachment points (and three top-tether hooks), and blind-spot monitoring included in both variants.
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?
There is only one engine available in the Haval H6 line-up - a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder with 145kW of power and 315Nm of torque. Those figures are good for its competitive set - not as strong as a Subaru Forester XT (177kW/350Nm), but more than, say, a Mazda CX-5 2.5-litre (140kW/251Nm).
It has a dual-clutch automatic transmission from Getrag, but unlike plenty of its competitors, the H6 only comes in front-wheel drive.
Haval claims fuel use of 9.8L/100km, which is high for the segment - in fact, it’s about 20 per cent more than most of its rivals’ stickers suggest.
In our testing, we saw even higher than that - 11.1L/100km over a mix of urban, highway and commuting. Turbocharged engines in some rival models find a better balance of performance and frugality, which the Haval just doesn’t quite have yet.
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 could just leave this review at that. But here's the justification.
The engine is decent, with a nice amount of zing once you’re off and running - particularly in the Sport mode, which ekes the most out of the turbocharged mill.
But getting away from the line is sometimes a stumble, with a bit of hesitation from the transmission, coupled with mild turbo lag, making for frustrating motoring at times. Cold starts aren’t its friend, either - at times it feels as though there's something wrong with the drivetrain, such is the chug factor. The refinement on offer just isn't what it should be.
That’s not the worst part, though, I also found the steering to be very hard to judge. At times the electric power steering system would load up, almost for no apparent reason, making roundabouts and intersections a bit of a guessing game. On the straight-ahead it is lacking meaningful feel, too, but it is easy enough to keep in its lane. When you're getting around back alleys and the like, the slow steering rack makes for plenty of arm-work - at least at really low speeds the steering is light enough.
It's hard to get a comfortable driving position for six-foot-ish tall adults, too: the reach adjustment doesn't quite reach far enough towards the driver.
The front-drive underpinnings struggle to harness the torque of the engine at times, with notable slip and squeal in wet conditions and some torque-steer under hard throttle.
The brakes lack the progressive pedal travel we’ve come to expect of a modern-day family SUV, with a woodenness at the top of the pedal, and they don’t pull up as strongly as you might hope, either.
The 19-inch wheels and confounding suspension setup makes for unsettled progress in many situations - on the freeway the suspension can rebound a little abruptly, while around town it isn't as comfortable as it could be. It isn't harsh or uncomfortable, but nor is it plush or well resolved.
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.
As for safety items, the bare essentials are there, such as six airbags, a reversing camera, parking sensors and electronic stability control with brake assist. Daytime running lights are standard, as is blind-spot monitoring.
It also has hill-start assist, hill-descent control, tyre-pressure monitoring and a seatbelt warning system - in our early build test car, the rear-seat warning lights (housed in the bottom of the auto-dimming rear-view mirror) stayed illuminated at all times, which was really annoying at night. Apparently that has been fixed as part of a running change.
Haval says further safety tech is on its way, with an update due in the third quarter of 2018 set to bring the addition of forward-collision warning and auto emergency braking. Until then, it’s a bit behind the times for its segment.
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.
Haval hit the market with a five-year/100,000km warranty, which didn't redefine the class, and it backs its buyers with the same duration of roadside-assist cover.
Your first service is due after six months/5000km, and from then on the regular interval is every 12 months/10,000km. The brand’s Service Price Menu runs out to 114 months/95,000km, and the company’s average cost per service over that entire period works out to be $526.50 - which is expensive. I mean, it’s more than what a Volkswagen Tiguan costs to maintain (on average).