The German auto industry has always remained unmatched – but it is becoming increasingly difficult with electric vehicles. After Tesla and Nio, Aiways is now showing that Audi or Daimler will have to fight hard with their expensive sports SUV in the future.
That can probably be seen as a provocation: on a press photo of the Aiways company, the U5 electric SUV has an Ingolstadt license plate. Just like many Audi e-trons that cruise around Bavaria. The bitter realization for the Germans: The Aiways is not as fast and active as the Audi, and some assistance systems are still missing. But the SUV costs only half as much and is a fully-fledged electric family carrier.
Body and interior
The 4.68 meter long Aiways U5 looks similar to the Nio ES8: protruding body, narrow headlights and of course no grille, but a closed front with the Aiways logo. The only negative thing you notice while driving is the poor rear view through the small rear window.
A big plus is the space available for the electric SUV. The trunk offers only average capacity with 432 liters. But the passengers are really sitting in the business class. In the rear you have a lot of head and knee room, the U5 should be perfect as a taxi. In the front, the space is also ample, although the somewhat uneven steering wheel height adjustment is annoying. Unusual: The Aiways has no glove compartment – instead two fastening buttons, to which you can then attach various boxes or other accessories, such as an iPad holder.
The dashboard is somewhat reminiscent of the Nio ES8, but the Aiways designers have installed a horizontal instead of a vertical display. There are also three displays for the instruments. The center console is bulky and somewhat impractical – the cup holders are small and the storage space under the console is lavish, but difficult to reach. Here, Tesla is positioned differently with its airy, very reduced cockpit.
Speaking of Tesla: As with the Tesla Model 3, you also have to look for the button for the hazard warning lights in the headlining on the Aiways. The dashboard is nice and clean. Another good thing: the workmanship. It leaves a decent impression in the top model with full leather interior.
In the Euro NCAP crash test, however, the Aiways scored only three stars – not a disaster, but anything but outstanding. “NCAP judged the U5 to be structurally safe. Aiways has already resolved other problems that were addressed by the tests. For example, Aiways has updated the software that controls the deployment of the airbags. They now offer even better protection for occupants in the event of a severe side collision,” says the manufacturer.
Operation & Infotainment
As “techy” and modern the Aiways looks, it is not yet technically up to date: The automated driving functions are not all available yet, instead of modern USB C connections, the sockets still have the old USB standard and also a heads-up display is missing. Adaptive Cruise Control, automatic parking assistant, emergency braking system and “Rear Traffic Alert” – monitoring traffic when reversing with emergency braking function – should be available at the market launch.
The infotainment system can only be assessed to a limited extent, since it is apparently not yet completely adapted for the German market. But the menu navigation with individual tiles is convincing. Most vehicle functions are controlled on the display. The smartphone can be connected via cable or Bluetooth – either via apps such as Carplay or simply via Mirror Link, then the smartphone content is simply mirrored on the screen.
The car does not have a start button, you just apply the brakes and set the gear knob to D. You can start, quietly and meekly. The Aiways has a 140 kW / 190 hp electric motor – making it rather weak compared to the powerful electric SUV from Tesla , Audi or Jaguar. Nevertheless, the engine develops a maximum torque of 315 Newton meters and is particularly strong when overtaking.
However, the acceleration from a standing start is disappointing: The car starts moving slowly – even in Sport mode – and takes around 9 seconds to accelerate to 100 km/h. The Aiways has front-wheel drive, an all-wheel drive variant will be available next year.
According to the manufacturer, consumption is between 16 and 17 kilowatt hours per 100 km – that would be hardly more than the much smaller Hyundai Kona SUV. A longer practical test will have to show how the Aiways performs in everyday life; a range of 400 kilometers is currently promised. That would be another setback for Audi and Co.: The e-tron barely manages the 400 kilometers – and that with a significantly larger battery.
The Aiways has an artificially generated engine sound that sounds a little more powerful in Sport mode. The Jaguar i-Pace with its turbine sound may sound snappier, but it doesn’t bother in the Aiways. The rolling noise of the tires is moderate.
Despite the lackluster performance for an electric car, the Chinese SUV has one major advantage: at just over 1.7 tons, it is comparatively light. An Audi e-tron, for example, carries more than two tons with it. Thanks to the lightweight construction and a relatively small battery (the lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 63 kilowatt hours, the battery cells come from the Chinese battery supplier CATL), the Chinese show that an electric SUV does not always have to be heavy.
The Corona outbreak in China affected the production of the Aiways, so the market launch of the car in Europe is postponed to August. In addition to Germany: Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland are the first countries in which Aiways will be launched. The Chinese do not have a dealer network, but rely on direct sales. To this end, Aiways is cooperating with the electronics retail chain Euronics. Specially trained Euronics employees will present the vehicles and offer test drives at 30 locations. The maintenance work will be carried out by the ATU workshop chain; however, the maintenance interval is said to be 100,000 kilometers. So you will often not have to go to service.
The price and equipment list has not yet been disclosed, but the prices should range between 35,000 and a maximum of 40,000 euros. The latter then still without all-wheel drive, but otherwise with full equipment including leather, navigation and all available assistance systems. An Aiways costs half as much as an Audi e-tron. And at the parent brand VW, a competitive model for this segment is still on the to-do list – first of all, the compact VW ID.3 has to be launched.
Because of the single-phase charger, it can only charge at 6.6 kW at home, which means around ten hours of charging time. According to Aiways, DC fast charging with CCS plugs allows up to 90 kW. Then the charging time would be less than an hour. But the competition from Audi, Tesla and Porsche now has significantly better charging performance.
From Landwind to Borgward – many Chinese brands have tried to launch in Germany and failed. However, a lot will change with e-mobility, because in this area German manufacturers are no longer cutting-edge. The Aiways U5 is a cozy electric cruiser with plenty of space and good equipment, which only costs half as much as the currently available competitors from Audi or Mercedes . Even the upcoming Tesla Model Y will cost significantly more than the Aiways.