Mentioning the name Haval seven years ago would have elicited a blank expression from virtually anyone in the UAE, but that’s not the case any longer. The Chinese SUV specialist has carved a niche for itself since its 2016 entry into our market – its rapid rise founded on a combination of competent products and keen pricing. The H6 is particularly noteworthy.
The latest addition to the range is the Dargo, pitched as a bona-fide all-terrain vehicle that – at least on paper – offers the go-anywhere capability of a Jeep Wrangler. Only one spec level is available for the time being, the generously appointed High Deluxe 4WD, priced from Dh119,900. Included at no extra cost is a six-year/150,000km warranty and three-year roadside assist.
The boxy shape has elements of Land Rover Defender, Kia Telluride and Ford Bronco, so it’s more imitator than innovator in the design department. The Dargo is dimensionally similar to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, measuring 4,620mm long, 1,890mm wide and 1,780mm tall. The wheelbase is a lengthy 2,738mm, which makes for generous space inside the cabin.
The Dargo drives OK, but disappoints in a few key areas. For starters, its 190hp 2.0-litre turbo motor has a flat spot down low, so it feels sluggish off the mark and doesn’t really get going until you have a few revs on board. There’s also noticeable wind noise from around the A-pillars, which compromises refinement levels when cruising at the highway speed limit.
It rides and handles acceptably up to a point, but it pitches and rolls if you try and hustle it, so a far better approach is to cruise at a moderate pace and make the most of its supple ride.
The Dargo’s all-terrain credentials appear legitimate on paper due to its various off-road drive modes and locking differentials. Ground clearance is also reasonable at 200mm, but the approach and departure angles (24 degrees and 30 degrees respectively) are nothing special.
It’s clear Haval didn’t conceive this vehicle to genuinely go off-road as the road-biased 235/60R19 standard-issue tyres are an immediate giveaway to the vehicle’s true intended application. The Dargo is conceived more for inner-city schlepping and the daily commute than conquering towering dunes.
The cabin is fairly spacious and it’s clear that some thought has gone into its layout, which is neat and attractive at first glance.
If you poke around a bit, though, you’ll discover most surfaces are made of hard plastic. Haval has clearly borrowed from the Land Rover styling manual in the design of the steering wheel and rotary transmission knob. The same goes for many of the exterior design cues, including the lettering on the bonnet and the badge on the tailgate.
On the plus side, the leather seats look and feel nice, and they do a good job of cossetting the torso. There’s ample knee and head room in the rear, so the Dargo can transport four adults and one child in comfort. Luggage capacity isn’t quoted in the spec sheet, but the Dargo’s main storage is quite spacious and has a flat floor. Naturally, there’s the option of folding down the rear seats to increase load space to what we imagine is about 1,500 litres.
The Dargo High Deluxe 4WD comes generously equipped as standard features include Nappa leather seats, 19-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof, roof luggage carrier, front and rear fog lamps, 10.25-inch virtual instrument cluster, 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, Head-up Display, Apple CarPlay, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, four-way adjustable passenger seat, massage seats with heating and ventilation (front only) and dual-zone air-conditioning.
The question you have to ask yourself is: why are you interested in buying the Dargo? If the answer is to cruise around in a vehicle that looks like a budget Land Rover Defender with off-roading pretensions, then it’s worth considering.
However, if your priorities are focused on more tangible aspects such as driving dynamics and refinement, then we’d encourage you to look elsewhere – perhaps even at Haval’s own H6, a decent mid-size crossover.