Suzuki Vitara VS Haval H6
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
- A good looker
- Nice space inside
- Good equipment for expenditure
- Disappointing to drive
- Expensive servicing
- No AEB
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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|
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know 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.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
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.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
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
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
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
The 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
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.
The non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
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.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
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.
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.
Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.
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).