New 100% electric Aiways U5 test: the Chinese outsider

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It is rare for a new brand to launch on the French market. This is now done with Aiways, which is putting on sale a brand new electric SUV, the U5. Make way for the full test!

Founded in 2017 in China, Aiways took only three years to create a car ready to take on the Asian but also European markets. Starting from a blank sheet of paper, the teams led by big names in the automotive industry – such as Gary GU or Roland Gumpert – have been able to overcome the technical difficulties of a thermal car thanks to the great increase in demand in electric vehicles.

Discreet look

Without much style in terms of style, the AIways U5 remains a pretty good car overall. If we like SUVs and full grilles, usual on electric cars, its design is relatively versatile. No frills on the horizon, nor tortured lines, it will aim to seduce those who do not want to be in the flash. More personally, I have reservations about the not very sexy front end, but its profile or the rear are already nicer. Note in particular the light signature inspired by what is done here, with a large band on the trunk. The general lines are very fluid, and the retractable door handles reinforce its clean look. Finally, its configuration will be very simple by offering only three colors in the catalog (Aubergine, Electric blue and Glacier white). The last two can benefit from a black roof for an additional € 830.

A great effort inside

On board, we will be particularly struck by the space available. Its architecture and its large wheelbase of 2800 mm allow it to offer exceptional roominess. Up front, you can quickly find your marks there and feel good, but it is in the back that he scores the most points. In the absence of a transmission tunnel, it has three real seats and accommodates three adults without problem, either in the legs or in the head. Due to its clear headliner, and the panoramic roof available as standard on the Premium trim, it also helps you not to feel too locked in. To this, we add a work of dressing and choice of materials that seems really sought after. The European market being the most tedious to seduce, it was necessary to bet on an irreproachable finish. We find foamed plastic on the upper parts and materials well found in the middle parts. Even some German references now resort to more unsightly plastic. If the lacquered plastic of the center console already seems to suffer from scratches, we quickly forget this thanks to the beautiful steering wheel in front of us. Honestly, the set is successful and makes you want to check out the miles in the pretty seats. Especially since the 432 to 1555 L trunk allows you to take a few suitcases. It's more on the infotainment side that the shoe pinches. If the integrated software is attractive and ergonomic, the screens (4 in number) do not appear to be very qualitative and responsive. In terms of sharpness and fluidity, I sometimes had this feeling that you get when buying a few cheap electronic devices on the internet. Pity !

For the love of the road

At the wheel, we notice from the first turns of the wheels the technological paraphernalia that equips the machine. Driving aids are frankly too intrusive with unwanted beeps and voice messages. With a camera aimed at you, the U5 can analyze whether you are starting to tire or remind yourself to order when using the phone. Also, and as we are used to now, brake assist, line maintenance and adaptive governor are obviously fitted as standard. Rest assured, all of this is easily disconnected, feature by feature, directly on the touch screen.

Under the body, there is an electric motor that sends its power of 150 kW or 204 hp to the front wheels. With the massive use of aluminum, it claims a very contained weight of 1720 to 1770 kg and thus achieves a decent 0 to 100 km / h in 7.8 seconds. Little helped by a wet pavement and tires unknown to the battalion (Cooper Discoverer HTT), this power unfortunately struggles to pass to the ground. At start-up or hard acceleration, it easily tends to spin well and trigger ESP. This lack of dynamism is confirmed by arriving at the first tight turn where it is inclined to wallow on its supports. The handling is there, no worries, but it does not have the sharp handling that we have enjoyed for a few years. In addition, its steering, yet electrically adjustable to several levels of stiffness, lacks precision and does not offer the most exciting feeling. There is also a weak bite in braking.

"Ai" meaning love in Chinese, you can easily see that the brand name is for love of the road. To achieve this, everything has been focused on passenger comfort, according to the young manufacturer. So let's go over the fact that this car is not dynamic, and see if the bet is successful. Without further suspense, the answer is overall yes if your driving style is rather “cool”. First of all, we are delighted to note the good work done on the soundproofing. The noises of wind or rolling are absent subscribers; we will even note the absence for the moment of unwanted creaking in the passenger compartment. Electric energy therefore allows exceptional silence and we appreciate being able to relax at its controls. It is soft and smooth, especially in Eco mode, and this philosophy makes it really pleasant. To my taste, on the other hand, it is too suspended and ends up playing too much with the pendulum when the layout is distorted. Sure, the vertebrae don't take a hit because the suspensions aren't brittle, but it moves a lot in the stomach. I nitpick, because that doesn't prevent him from swallowing the irregularities of the road properly and being comfortable most of the time, despite a 19 inch climb.

Not having an engine and gearbox in the front is a nice advantage, the turning radius is excellent. The AIways U5 is therefore very manoeuvrable in town or during maneuvers, despite its 4.68 m long. No matter where you are, it shows a certain ease on all types of journeys. Its versatility allows it to be considered on a daily basis, just like in the countryside or even when going on vacation. On the other hand, we regret forgetting the "one-pedal" driving system which would once again enhance serenity. The regenerative brake that is too unpredictable and sometimes too weak prevents you from really driving in anticipation.

In terms of figures, with its 63 kWh battery, it promises a range of 400/410 km thanks to a consumption of 16.8 kWh / 100 in the WLTP cycle. In real life, we will run more around 20 to 25 kWh / 100, which varies between 250 and 300 km of autonomy. However, in purely urban use and with all the right conditions together, it is capable of exceeding 400 km. In alternating current (up to 6.6 kW) it will take 10 hours to recharge from 0 to 100% and in direct current (up to 90 kW) it will take 35 minutes to go from 20 to 80%.

Some arguments to trigger the purchase

It is with very aggressive prices that Aiways will try to find a place with us. Only two finishes are available, Standard and Premium, priced at € 39,300 or € 42,400. With its electric motor, it is obviously eligible for the ecological bonus of € 7,000 (or € 5,000 for professionals); but also to the conversion bonus. Enough to obtain a vehicle, the dimensions of a Peugeot 5008, but with top-of-the-range equipment and 204 horsepower, for around € 30,000. As standard, the SUV, for example, comes with hands-free opening, 12.3-inch touchscreen, 360 ° camera and power seats. The Premium finish adds among other things 19-inch rims, leather and heated seats or the sunroof.

To try to seduce you, but above all to reassure you, the Chinese manufacturer is going all out. The Aiways U5 is guaranteed for 5 years or 150,000 km. The battery and its motor are even guaranteed for 8 years, or 10 years for corrosion. No mandatory maintenance is recommended before 100,000 km or 5 years of use. But if something goes wrong, 21 Feu Vert centers across France have been specially trained to welcome customers and 50 more should arrive in 2022. The brand has also partnered with Gomecano.com for home mechanics (7 regions covered) and 9 bodywork centers (Albax or LeCoq).

Rather positive results for the test of the AIways U5

Past the fear of novelty, this new Aiways U5 turns out to be a great everyday car. For those who are not looking for a sharp temperament, the Chinese SUV is comfortable and is a good traveling companion. As you have seen, a few early mistakes still need to be improved quickly, but they do not affect its good driving qualities. To take the plunge, meet until the end of April at 27 boulevard Jules Ferry in Paris in the pop-up showroom or directly at your home by contacting the 16 Geniux covering 26 agglomerations in France on the Aiways website.

Photo credit: Thomas D. (Fast Auto)

Technical sheet in brief:

Power: 150 kW (204 hp)
Torque: 310 Nm
Length: 4680 mm
Height: 1700 mm
Width: 1865 mm
Chest: 432 L to 1555 L
Weight: 1720 to 1770 kg
Battery capacity: 63 kWh
WLTP range: 400 to 410 km
WLTP consumption: 16.8 kWh / 100 km
0 to 100 km / h: 7.8 seconds
V max: 150 km / h

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