GWM and Haval are eager to please – Media drive preview

Mark my words, 2023 is the year of Chinese manufacturers. In the past week alone the local market has received the introduction of 3 new Chinese automakers. I was able to experience 2 of the 3 new brands in-depth, Haval and its parent company GWM (Great Wall Motors).

The GWM Haval Media Drive

Normally when we’re invited to a media drive the details are given to us as to what we can expect to do during the drive. However, GWM decided to keep its cards close to its chest, all we were told is to be at the Bellevue hotel in Alabang by 7:00 am.

Following orders, I arrived at the venue and was ushered into a huge ballroom with the LED screen proudly hiding something behind it. “Obviously, a car is being launched today” (I thought to myself) so after breakfast and short pleasantries with some colleagues the program began, and as expected the Haval brand along with 2 crossovers was launched.

These vehicles were the JOLION and the H6 HEV, and before anything else I need to mention both vehicles come with Hybrid powertrains. This is a smart move given that such vehicles are exempt from the dreaded number coding scheme, both vehicles also aren’t just your run-of-the-mill hybrids, they contain a more complex and are said to be a more efficient hybrid system.

Haval GWM drive

We were finally allowed to see the vehicles up close and personal after the program and at first glance and feel it was apparent to me that a lot of thought was put into the design. Both the Haval JOLION and H6 certainly look the part of a modern crossover with stylish angles and curves implanted into the bodies of the vehicle.

Haval GWM drive

While that is a compliment it’s also another problem, despite looking good both cars aren’t unique looking enough to be instantly recognizable as the Haval H6 and JOLION. Again, they look very good but unfortunately, they look similar (in some ways) to some of their competitors.

Haval GWM drive

Stepping inside though is a different story, both the JOLION and H6 interiors look fresh with bright two-tone color schemes. I particularly liked the cream and brown ensemble because it’s just so much more creative than the usual (and quite boring) piano black we normally get nowadays. In terms of quality, I can say that the H6 and JOLION are a far cry from being cheap, the interior components feel solid and not like egg crates mashed together to make a dashboard or door card.

Overall, in terms of looks I’d give both cars a 7/10, and quality comes in at 8/10 so not bad at all. With that done I was eager to find out if they were any good to drive, and to do so the brand sent us all the way to the Batangas Racing Circuit (BRC) to find out.

Haval GWM drive

From launch to track day

I’m going to skip the part about driving from Manila to Batangas because we drove our own cars there. Anyway, we arrived at the track just before 12 pm and we were briefed about the activities we were going to be doing. Before I dive into any more detail though Haval wasn’t the only brand we would be testing out, we were surprised that the GWM Cannon pick-up truck was also there, and lo and behold so was an off-road track for us to test the Canon in.

Haval GWM drive

As for the JOLION and H6 track experience, we would be doing the usually controlled tests such as acceleration, hard braking, and following each other using the adaptive cruise control feature. After a quick lunch, we were ushered to the track and I was first slotted into the H6 HEV and after a sightseeing lap with the instructor, we were given free rein to test the cars out for ourselves.

Haval GWM drive

Now the H6 with its hybrid system puts out a combined 240+ power figure and 500+ Nm of torque, which on paper are very healthy figures for any car (not just from a China car). Yet, during the acceleration test, I can’t say that it felt powerful, it wasn’t slow by any means in fact it can get up to speed, but not as brisk as I thought.

In terms of handling and ride is where the Haval H6 HEV is all aces, despite having very light steering it was still engaging in a track setting and not vague. What was great though was the ride, because BRC is known to have a very bumpy track surface, and despite that the H6 barely made us feel anything. It was really smooth and easy to drive which is what you want from something like the H6. It’s predictable and predictable means it’s safe.

Haval GWM drive

Getting out of the track meant it was now time to get dirty with the GWM Cannon and before I go any further I’d like to point out that the Canon was the vehicle that impressed me the most, by a country mile. Upon first seeing it I didn’t pay much attention to it because it looked like a typical Chinese pickup truck, with a lot of chrome and an imposing grille and logo combination that gave me the impression that the Cannon is very proud it’s a GWM.

Anyway, we drove to the dirt course situated right across the BRC entrance, and to be honest I underestimated the course and the Canon. The course looked like nothing more than a dug-up field and having done some more “intense” off-roading before I thought it would be a breeze. That wasn’t the case, at some points, we were nearly fully hanging sideways through the dirt path and the tall mounds were so high up that I thought I was on a rollercoaster.

Haval GWM drive

Despite my sudden fear of the dirt course, I realized that it was misplaced because the GWM Canon is super capable when the going gets tough. Not once over the bumpy or off-camber surfaces did the body make any flexing noise, and the traction control system was more than enough to get me out of the sticky and muddy situations. Add that to the fact that the ride was actually very good, it really took me by surprise just how good the Cannon actually is.

Lagi Executives


GWM and Haval have a lot going for them, individually each of the 3 vehicles we were privileged enough to preview that day has strong selling points. What we weren’t able to find out though was the actual prices of the vehicles because April is the official launch month, but if rumors are to be believed the brands are hoping to seriously undercut or match the competition. It now falls to the people in the brands to ensure that the merits of the Haval H6, JOLION, and Cannon are properly communicated and priced.

In my honest opinion, with the short time I spent with the vehicles, I can say that they’re quality products. With that being said, they aren’t exceptionally good to oust the already established brands… yet. That’s not to say they don’t warrant any attention, I think the fact that Haval is doubling down on offering Hybrids is very good, and I genuinely think the Cannon is a good truck.

It’s all about the pricing now, with more and more Chinese manufacturers entering the Philippines the gamesmanship just got harder, but GWM and Haval are more than eager to make a mark locally.

Pablo Salapantan

Pablo Salapantan

Pablo's first word was probably "Car", and this has developed into a personal passion that has consumed his professional life as well.

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