When you think of a vehicle with captain’s chairs, images of the Toyota Alphard and Super Grandia as well as those if the Kia Carnival come to mind. You can argue that the top-of-the-line variant of the Innova is a cheaper alternative, but what if I told you there was an option with a similar set of features for less money?
Enter the GAC GN6. It’s the little brother of the much more expensive (and opulent) GN8 van, but it offers a healthy number of luxury-oriented features without breaking the bank.
One look at the GN6 and the design immediately reminds you of some more upmarket vehicles. The big, bold grille up front merges with the front headlights and the LED running lights. While the fog lamps are LED, the projector headlights are not. The taillights have a Dodge-esque look to them.
It’s one of the more stylish minivans out there, but the small 16-inch wheels make it look cheap. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the thick rubber, but I think the rims could be bigger by an inch or two to spruce up the car’s exterior.
The cabin is solidly built but is a mix of both premium and budget materials. Supple brown leather adorns the seats, the armrests and most of the dashboard, while satin-chrome accents add some much-needed bling to the cabin. On the flip side, a swath of piano-black surfaces and hard plastics can be found, but they are not enough to ruin the riding experience.
If we’re talking about interior amenities for the driver, there’s not much. Sure, the front occupants do get a power sunroof and seats that feel like captain’s chairs, but that’s about it. The biggest annoyance for me is the seven-inch infotainment screen. The display is recessed into the dashboard, which makes it hard to reach, and the somewhat finicky user interface is full of quirks. For example, the climate control menu covers whatever is on the screen and takes a couple of seconds to disappear.
Well, at least it supports Apple CarPlay, which is a godsend. Also, the speakers sound really good for a stock, non-branded system. My recommendation? Set up everything (like hands-free devices, equalizer, and so on) and leave it in Apple CarPlay. There’s no Android Auto, unfortunately, so it’s back to Bluetooth for my Samsung-toting friends.
Things get a lot better in the second row. This is where you want to be. If you hate the third-row passengers, you can recline the two manually adjustable captain’s chairs pretty far back, giving you tons of legroom. Curiously, there are no center-mount cupholders and USB ports (but you do get storage pockets on the doors). Third-row occupants have access to both charging ports and bottle holders.
And speaking of the third row, it offers decent legroom and ergonomics (depending on the mood of the second-row passengers). It has enough space to accommodate three people abreast with no complaints, although they would wish they were seated in the second row.
But the GN6 has one party trick. In its default configuration, you have about 320L of storage with a low load floor. Fold the third-row seats down, and capacity increases to around 1,100L. Aside from being luxurious, this minivan is pretty practical.
So, how does it drive? The 1.5-liter gasoline engine is surprisingly well-executed. It doesn’t feel labored and it doesn’t emit any annoying drone like other Chinese-built engines. It pulls surprisingly well, and when the turbo spools up at around 2,000rpm, the car surges forward like a turbodiesel. The transmission does a good job of staying within the power band.
I also got a respectable average fuel economy of around 8km/L for mixed city-and-highway driving carrying three adult passengers with the air-conditioning running at maximum.
MPVs like the Innova are notable for having a better ride when loaded. But the GN6 is surprisingly quiet and comfortable even when it isn’t fully laden. It doesn’t soak up the bumps or muffle the road noise as well as more premium offerings, but you get what you pay for. If you find the steering feel a too light or too heavy, that can be easily changed in the car’s settings.
The GN6’s closest competitor (aside from the Innova) is the Maxus G50. But the latter seems to be of the sporty type, while the former appears to be the entry-level luxury offering with a reasonably attainable price tag (P1,480,000). It’s a car that can be both a practical family vehicle and a cut-price executive limo. Just ditch the stereotypes surrounding Chinese vehicles and you might end up liking the GN6.
|Engine||1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline|
|Power||170hp @ 5,000rpm|
|Torque||265Nm @ 1,700-4,000rpm|
|Dimensions||4,780mm x 1,860mm x 1,730mm|
|Upside||It offers a lot of luxuries for the price, all while still being very practical.|
|Downside||Some interior elements have questionable ergonomics, and buyers might be concerned about parts and servicing.|