Sunday, September 13, 2015

Test Drive Review: Great Wall Haval M4 AMT (NOW Called the Haval H1) - The most affordable mini SUV in Malaysia now shifts gears by itself


I was recently invited over to Gurun, Kedah by Go Auto to take a look at their automobile assembly facility and to test drive the Great Wall Motors Haval M4 AMT which they distribute (Now called the HAVAL H1). If you folks remember, I managed to spend some time with a Manual transmission M4 in October of 2014 and came away pretty impressed with it.

The GWM Haval M4 is a B segment SUV and possibly the most affordable high riding car in its price range. The standard manual comes in at RM49,739.59 up to RM59,755.19 for the Premium specced manual. The standard AMT is priced to sell at RM51,716.71 and the top spec Premium is RM62,759.87. There is a comfort spec that comes in between, splitting the already super affordable prices that GWM is asking.



So if you had read the previous review, I mentioned that the GWM Haval M4 is an affordable, decently put together, pretty good looking mini SUV that actually saves petrol coupled with the fact that everything from China is technically built to last horrendous traffic jams that may last for days if not weeks as well as other ridiculous conditions in China like super dense drivers and blind pedestrians. Its affordability, practicality and predictable handling may be a good buy for most people who want something high riding instead of the usual Proton and Perodua offerings. What you need to do is throw away the prejudice for anything 'Made in China' and try the darn thing.

Of course, now GWM / Go Auto has the Automatic transmission variant for sale (production of the M4 AMT started in April 2015 with the first delivery sometime after that). The M4 has a 6 speed Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) in place of the 5 speed manual. Everything else about the M4 is the same as the manual variant with the exception of trim in the vehicle. This time I was driving the Premium specced version which can be differentiated just by looking at the front and rear bumpers (which have more silver paint or trim on them compared to the more basic models), a full screen infotainment system with navigation and the different pattern alloy wheels of the same size (15inches).


The drive experience of the AMT M4 is slightly different from what a standard torque converter or DSG type transmission in auto mode. The AMT is obviously a manual transmission with something to help it clutch and de-clutch for you. It uses electronic sensors, pneumatics/motor, an ECU and actuators to shift a gear on input from the driver (via flappy pedals or the gear lever) or by a computer (the AMT's full automatic mode). The motor operates the clutch pedal which the driver otherwise needs to depress before making a gear change. According to the people at Go Auto, the M4 AMT gearbox is based on a system made by Getrag, the renowned transmission specialist.

Leave the M4 AMT in full auto you can tell that it is shifting its gears when you will feel a sudden lull in power just when it upshifts. There is no harsh jerk at all. Just a feeling when power is cut before coming back when the gear shift is completed. Downshifts in auto mode are smooth and you do not notice it too much. The sudden lull or drop in power which is felt during upshifts can be negated by using the gear shifter yourself. If you want to lessen the lull or dip in power, shift manually, lifting off very slightly when you change up or down and progress is quite smooth. It takes a slightly different driving style to be smooth in one of these M4 AMT compared to a manual or a traditional automatic. It is not jerky or rough at all. The setup of the gear lever is easy for this. From N or neutral, you pull down for reverse or you push it to the left for D or Drive. If you want control, you push up or down to shift whilst in D. Quite straightforward and easy actually. The only real thing about the AMT is that like a manual, you would actually need to press on the accelerator when you are on a slope to keep it from going backwards. There is no creep forward function like most normal automatics.

The best thing about heading out of town to test drive a car is the places I get to try out the car is totally different. I got to take the M4 AMT through Gurun's paddy field dirt roads. It was raining and it was therefore muddy out there. The M4's suspension was not even worried about the usual dirt, sand, earth and small stones of the roads around the paddy fields. I was actually doing a good 50kmh on the dirt (and mud). No rattling from the dash or my teeth. The suspension coped well with the road conditions.

We also headed up and the down Gunung Jerai with the M4 AMT. It was actually fun taking it up Gunung Jerai. The road up to the Jerai Regency Resort has a lot of tight switchbacks and steep 45degree angles up. Much like Genting but instead of a three lane per side wide road this is a two lane road with one lane for each direction with parts that narrow to something like one and three quarter of a lane road. Mighty fun up and down. The AMT has one extra gear. It has a 6 speed gearbox – the fifth gear is direct 1:1 which allows it to pull to about 170kmh and the sixth is an overdrive that would not allow the car to hit over 135kmh but would save a whole lot of fuel doing to. The first five gears are close, allowing some nice second and third gear action with the use of first on the switchbacks (there are about six to seven really sharp switchbacks on that road minimum). The AMT isn't VW DSG rapid. I don't think anything is as rapid as a VW DSG but if you time it correctly, you can make decent progress even with that 103hp / 138Nm 1.5liter 4 cylinder VVT equipped engine driving the front wheels.

Somehow everything works well. The front end does not wash out in sharp corners and you can point it where you want it to be. It's rear isn't as mobile as I would have liked as it does not actually pivot out like something overtly sporty would. Of course, this is a small affordable SUV. It isn't a small affordable warm hatch that you can punt around. But I did just that and the darn thing actually performed well up and down a mountain road. Reaching 984 meters above sea level was actually done in about 15 minutes or so. Going down was a great deal faster. The brakes, were a tad bit over servoed but I got used to it sometime before going up the mountain. So it wasn't an issue. So again, if you drive it at normal city and highway speeds and don't decide to corner like it is a Honda Civic Type R then this M4 AMT will perform as well as it should. Even with an automotive journalist behind the wheel.

The only issue I had with the burnt orange M4 AMT was there was quite some tyre noise. The GWM Haval M4 AMT will come with Continental CC5 tyres. This orange car is actually the test mule for Go Auto so the tyres have some mileage under them and were about half worn. In fact the car had over 205,000km of testing kilometers piled onto it. It was the test bed for the AMT to see how reliable the transmission is/was. The promising thing is that the M4 AMT with over 200,000km is still running strongly with the same engine and transmission unit. There have been periodic adjustments to the AMT clutch as recommended by GWM and the usual fluid changes. The AMT has held up to some abuse. And then I came to Gurun and used it to climb Gunung Jerai. Redlining the engine, upshifting and downshifting pretty hard too.


And as for the rest of the car, there were no rattles whatsoever. The burnt orange test mule was well screwed together (granted aside from the leather trim and premium infotainment system everything is in the budget airline class). The white M4 AMT shown above, which I also drove, had about 13,500km on it and that had two tiny squeaks. One on the front passenger door trim and another one on the driver's side seatbelt brackett. Both very minor and have been brought up to the people who assembled the car directly after the test drive. As a matter of fact, the visit to the assembly plant was an eye opener. The levels of Quality Control and Assurance processes are actually higher than most other vehicle assembly plants in the country even though it is small. This is something I will write about sometime soon.

So the GWM Haval M4 AMT is again something you can buy if you're looking for an affordable mini SUV something other than a Proton Saga or Perodua Myvi sized Hatchback. I have to say that recent transmission technology has made the AMT Gearbox into something that is actually liveable on a day to day basis (with the caveat – you got to get used to it first). It seems to be reliable too unlike what we used to hear about the last affordable AMT sold here (the late Proton Savvy AMT). According to Go Auto, spare parts for the M4 are reasonably priced. No sky high prices for a car that is priced under RM62.759.87. One reason for this could be that GWM and Go Auto also trade in China's RMB currency instead of only in USD.

Go try one first before you make any decision. Quite a bargain these days. And these days where the Malaysian economy is getting hammered we need more bargains like the GWM Haval M4.

Pros: AMT allows us to relax in traffic, high equipment levels, all round disc brakes, traction control (ESP) not intrusive, ABS, 185mm ground clearance, comfy ride, confident handling up and down a steep windy road, good build quality, Land Rover-like looks (some like the opportunity to buy an affordable lookalike), affordability, cheapest high riding car in the market

Cons: B segment SUV means a tad bit heavy for its 1.5liter engine, AMT still requires drive input to be properly smooth, tyre noise from the half worn tyres, some may still find the AMT to be a chore (especially on slopes), Land Rover-like looks (hey, some may not like cloning)

Conclusion: It may be from China but it actually is a tidy performer which offers super value for money and quality too. AMT offers more traffic jam friendly operation. Prejudice must be put aside and a test drive is warranted before you head out and buy some local brands. Made in China cars have moved forward a fair bit.

Beautiful place, this Gunung Jerai


Great Wall M4 specifications:
Length x Width x Height (mm) 3961x1728x1617
Wheelbase (mm)2383
Ground Clearance (mm)185

Transmission Type5MT / 6AT (AMT)
205/60 R16
Water-cooled 4 stroke inline four-cylinder DOHC electronic throttle VVT MPI gasoline engine
1497CC
103HP/6000
138/4200
6 ltrs/100 kms
Euro IV
Ventilated Disc Brake (4 wheels)
McPherson Type Independent Suspension/Trail Arm Type Torsion Bar Composite Suspension









36 comments:

  1. Hi Motoring Malaysia, kudos on the great review on the car. I've also manage to give this car a test drive at Glenmarie branch, it does absorb the shocks from potholes and road pretty well. My test drive unit also had about 100,000km on the mileage and it works fine. BUT one thing I was not able to experience was the rear seat experience, because the seats seem rather straight and not as inclined as other cars. Hence, passengers may experience discomfort for long journeys due to the rather straight sitting position. Just wondering whether do you have any comments to share?

    Cheers,
    Joe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there is no difference to sitting in this car or if you had sat in a myvi at the rear.

      Regards

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply. Noted with thanks. That convinces me even more.

      Regards,
      Joe

      Delete
  2. Does the manual come equipped with EST, Hill assist, brake assist, TCS? The salesman insisted that the manual and AMT are similarly equipped until I asked him to show where were they written in the published specs for the manual. Btw I am from KK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The manual only comes with ABS and EBD if I am not mistaken.

      No traction control system or hill assist like the AMT. Hill Assist is usually an auto 'brake' on a slope (this is not a hill descent control system like some 4x4). It is needed in an Automatic where you cannot balance the car on the clutch. The manual does not need and cannot have this function.

      I suppose since the AMT is full specced it has all the bells and whistles. Plus I think the manual transmission gives you more control over the AMT ultimately (i,e if you are good with the manual tranny, you're the best traction conttrol device out there). So there are plus and minuses for both vehicles. If I were living in KK (whether Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Kangsar), I'd go for a manual. Less traffic less rowing through the gears. But still more fun.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for the info.

      Delete
  3. Excellent post.
    Now you've convinced me - despite the general prejudice against China vehicles, this looks like the best bang for the buck. Especially if you're like me...someone who doesn't care what others think about my ride.

    ReplyDelete
  4. the leather seat design is like proton gen2 cps 1st batch seat design...very sporty

    ReplyDelete
  5. If GVM can extend the warranty for the AMT Box up to 300,000 km, I will consider buying this reasonably priced horse.

    (a very easy request to fulfil if GVM is confident with its products' reliability and quality)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. are you stupid? you pay for cheap price and ask for 300k km warranty? even Honda,Toyota and BMW never give that warranty until 300k km. But the price very expensive. please use your mind. before you talk.

      Delete
  6. I have had bad experience with savvy amt despite servicing the car according to its manual religiously and all were done at proton service centers. Hmmm...bye bye proton

    Anyhow, amt is fun to drive. You feel you have the control over the car. GVM, give us 300k km warranty and i will buy ur car.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Control is there because when you shift manually, like a manual, you get control. You should ask them directly whether they are willing to do so. I don't work for them so I wouldn't know.

      And pray tell us where in the whole of Malaysia is there any car manufacturer willing to give 300k km drivetrain warranty?

      Delete
  7. I have had bad experience with savvy amt despite servicing the car according to its manual religiously and all were done at proton service centers. Hmmm...bye bye proton

    Anyhow, amt is fun to drive. You feel you have the control over the car. GVM, give us 300k km warranty and i will buy ur car.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, I would like to know is the maintanence fee price high or not for M4?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, I would like to know is the maintanence fee price high or not for M4?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      It shouldn't be expensive. More of less like any other budget car out there. Furthermore, I noticed that they have a 7 years unlimited mileage warranty. So all you should pay are servicing costs, usual wear and tear items like brake pads, discs but anything major and out of the ordinary should be covered by the warranty. Go ask them directly and see. They won't bite.

      Delete
  10. Hi... A quick check...any DRL avaialable?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. You can see it in one of the pics above

      Delete
  11. Thanks for the good review. I'm thinking of buying one. Don't mind the clone Land-Rover lookalike

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just bought the AMT Premium model. Why is it that it `jerk' when I started to drive? Should you start driving with D or 1st gear?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it should not jerk actually. Just start in D and apply power gently like any other car. It is only when the car changes gear you will feel a cut in the power if you do not lift off the accelerator a little.

      Delete
  13. Thank you for the wonderful review. And I actually went out and bought one after reading it. Now I am a proud owner of a M4 and so far so good! Done around 7K mileage and no problems detected. Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Write to us and tell us how it performs especially once you put on more miles on the car. It is a different experience from the usual national car types isn't it?

      Regards

      Delete
  14. yes it is. in fact we are delightfully surprised by the performance, petrol consumption and comfort level. kudos M4!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Im looking a car for my wife. Small, save fuel, fun. Now under processing loan golf tsi 1.4(used) first choice. 2nd choice M4.
    So compare with this 2 car, any advantage from M4? Compare with:
    FUEL(town usage),
    SPEED,
    spare part,
    Comfort,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somehow, small, save fuel and fun as well as affordability does not really happen in the real world. The used Golf TSI you're looking at is which model? The Mk6? That model is not as good as the mk5 or the current mk7 golf tsi. The m4 is not as fun to drive as the golf tsi but it will be much cheaper to maintain in the long run as it is NEW and comes with a long warranty. Parts should be cheaper. China car. Obviously cheaper to maintain than a German one. Comfort? Around town not much difference. On the highway, the Golf would be better. It is a C segment hatchback whereas the M4 is a B segment SUV.

      Delete
  16. Seen today the M4 at Giant Kangar Perlis with 7 years unlimited mileage warranty! Wow..

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi... I m an auto car driver since i got my license 18 years ago... i totally forgot how to manage a manual car... will i haf problem using an AMT car.. ?

    ReplyDelete
  18. An AMT drives quite like an automatic. You only need to lift up the throttle pedal a little when the gear shifts upwards (you can tell when the engine slurs)if you want it to feel smoother. You can just keep your foot down but it would feel like the car is slightly hesitant. Learn to get used to it and it will feel normal to you after a while.
    Aside from that, it is basically like an automatic.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi... this mini mpv car (twin of range rover for me) made me wipe over my dream to buy new local sedan. I would like to know more about fuel consumption, 1km equal to how many liter? One more thing, is there any branch or cnter in JB? I would love to look closer. Thnk you in advance anyway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try www.haval.my and see whether there is a website in JB. I think I have stated the fuel consumption as 6 liters per 100km in the article. Try doing the maths. 1liter is now around rm1.80.

      Delete
  20. I plan to buy H1 fr my daughter..n test drive once at Glenmarie...compare to another options on saga n persona...i prefer grab H1....now i will go for next teatdrive n observation to make my choice finally....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup. Give it a try and see. Do remember that it comes with the AMT type transmission. While it changes the gears for you like an automatic, it requires a bit of timing for it to be smooth (lift the throttle pedal a little just as it shifts gears). But I got used to it and so can you.

      I suppose the plus point of the H1 is the SUV height and styling. A little different from a saga or a persona.

      Delete

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