Present at the rental company Hertz in Corsica for several weeks, the Aiways U5 marks the debut of the Chinese manufacturer on European soil. What is it worth in reality? Is it as successful and efficient as the other models on the market? This is what we went to discover on the Isle of Beauty.
Almost non-existent a few months ago, Chinese manufacturers are gradually investing in the European car market. While MG was the first to draw with its MG ZS compact electric SUV, Aiways followed suit with a model with a much more premium positioning. Presented for the first time in Europe in September 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the large U5 SUV is making its debut in France in Corsica, where some 500 units have been purchased by Hertz for rental applications. It was precisely through the lessor that we had the chance to try it first.
A large template
Based on a unique design marked by a full grille found on other models on the market, the AIways U5 is not a compact SUV. Taller than a Peugeot 5008 (4.64m) and shorter than a Tesla Model Y (4.77m), the AIways U5 is by no means a compact SUV. With 4.68 m in length, it greatly outclasses the Kia Niro (4.37 m) and the electric Hyundai Kona (4.16 m). The result is a particularly generous habitability. With 2.8 m of wheelbase, the Chinese SUV is a real living room and offers excellent volume at the front but also at the rear where the older ones will have a good margin for the knees.
In the trunk, the volume reaches 432 liters with a double bottom to store cables. Our test model offered two, carefully stored in covers: the first in a domestic socket and the second in type 2.
The rear seat can be fully or partially folded down for a volume of up to 1,500 liters. And if that’s not enough, the iways U5 has a small space under the hood to accommodate a cable.
Inside, the finish is very flattering in the standard version of our test model. We find a light colored upholstery and a particularly neat finish. Up front, the seats are electrically adjustable for an optimal driving position. For the rest the configuration is rather minimalist. Apart from the controls on the steering wheel, all of the functions are configured on a large touch screen in the center of the dashboard. Very active and rather intuitive to use, it even provides access to the vehicle’s user manual. Despite this resolutely high-tech atmosphere, it is not possible to configure your charge via the on-board computer.
Strange thing: the navigation is not natively integrated in the car. If you want to benefit from it, you will need to connect your smartphone. In our test model, only Apple Car Play was present. Regarding Android Auto, the manufacturer assured us that the functionality would be present on the 2021 model year.
In terms of instrumentation, the presentation is original. It consists of three digital screens. In the center, the first allows you to follow the main indicators of the car: speed, level of energy consumption and of course the battery charge level, expressed as a percentage and in screen mileage. The two smaller screens on either side complete this information. The one on the left makes it possible to monitor consumption and the daily counter, while the one on the right displays the elements of the radio.
One of the first things that strikes you for the first few kilometers is the dominant position on the road. High perched, the large SUV offers a particularly clear view. Despite its size, it turns out to be rather easy to handle, the presence of the reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and 360-degree “SkyView” vision greatly facilitating the maneuvering phases.
In addition to gear selection, which can be adjusted via a dial, the U5 has three driving modes: Eco, normal and sport, which influence performance and fuel consumption. These are selected directly via a button on the right side of the steering wheel. In terms of regeneration, the system also offers three levels. However, it is less practical since the selection of modes goes through the various menus on the central screen.
Sufficient on most trips, the Eco mode is the one we used the most, the sport mode being more reserved for acceleration phases. With 140 kW of power and a 0 to 100 km / h speed in 9 seconds, the U5 does not have to be ashamed of its performance. On the small mountain roads, we stuck to the bottom of thermals more than once. The overruns become a simple formality. However, be careful not to push this Aiways too far into its limits. High perched, the large SUV shows a certain inertia if you take the bends a little hard.
Big brother is watching you!
Speed limiter, lane departure warning, reading traffic signs, blind spot detector … in terms of safety, the Aiways SUV has nothing to envy to the equipment of the latest European models. There is even a small camera that scrutinizes our every move and does not fail to warn us in case of behavior deemed “inappropriate”. “Please watch the road” we are told when we look away or “maybe it’s time to take a break? »If we have the misfortune to yawn.
The only downside: the lack of adaptive regulator and lane keeping device. Yet announced on the technical sheet and user manual, these two devices could not be activated on our test model. Too bad for a model whose battery is designed to swallow kilometers. Contacted by Automobile-Propre, the AIways Europe team explained that the two features were not yet present. Like Android Auto, they will be integrated on models from the 2021 vintage.
Correct autonomy and controlled consumption
Considering its size, the AIways U5 is obviously not the most frugal of electric cars. The results are far from catastrophic, however. On a course of some 210 kilometers, mostly on the mountain roads between Bastia and Ajaccio and with an air conditioning system switched on at 22 degrees, we consumed about two thirds of the battery.
Rather correct given the size of the machine, our average consumption was 19 kWh / 100 km. Enough to estimate a real range of around 300 kilometers under the conditions of our test. In the city and with a light foot on the accelerator, the 400 kilometers should be achievable.
A first satisfactory recharge test
While the integration of the electric car in an island environment sounds obvious, Corsica unfortunately remains one of the areas with the least charging infrastructure. When handing over the keys, the boss of the Filippi group, which represents Hertz in Corsica, quickly reassured us. In the absence of fast terminals, the lessor offers its users to recharge for free at one of its four sites in Corsica. Distributed between Ajaccio, Figari, Bastia and Calvi airports, all are equipped with 150 kW fast chargers. There is therefore more than enough to cover the 90 kW accepted by the Aiways model. The solution remains temporary, however, as Hertz is in the process of organizing the deployment of around 100 high-speed terminals across the island.
It was therefore in Ajaccio that we carried out our charging test on a terminal from the Chinese manufacturer X-Charge. When starting the charge, we had 26% energy left and the terminal delivers 70 kW and indicates 1h17 of charging time. 52 minutes and a refresh later, we recover our mount with a 90% charge, the terminal indicating that we have delivered a total of 43 kWh. In the end, the experience remains conclusive even if we were unable to observe the 90 kW peak announced by the manufacturer. Perhaps because the battery was not sufficiently discharged at the start.
A well-placed price
In France, the Aiways U5 should begin its marketing in the coming weeks for deliveries probably expected for 2021. The prices for France have not been announced but we know those in Germany where the Chinese SUV is proving particularly well square.
In the “standard” finish of our test model, the U5 is offered from € 38,000 excluding bonus on the German market. Benefiting in particular from the panoramic roof and the induction smartphone charger, the “Premium” version climbs to € 41,000. In France, prices should be slightly higher given the higher VAT than our German neighbors (20% vs 16%).
With regard to the competition, this Aiways U5 is ultimately well placed. Cheaper than the electric e-Niro / Kona duo, selling over € 40,000 in 64 kWh version, the Chinese premium SUV also promises to be more affordable than the Tesla Model Y, whose entry ticket should start at € 50,000.
Much more convincing than the MG ZS EV, this Aiway U5 ultimately has little to envy the other models sold in Europe. However, it remains for the manufacturer to demonstrate the reliability of its model over time, but also to develop a distribution network which is essential for the brand’s development. On this point, the manufacturer undoubtedly has a card to play with the dealerships working with brands in the process of withdrawing from the European market like Mitsubishi.