Aiways’ sharply-styled electric SUV shows plenty of promise
4.0 out of 5
With its sharp design and chic interior, the U6 is poised to bring a splash of style to the market. But it also offers plenty of space and reasonable performance at a comparatively keen price.
What’s in a brand name? In the case of Aiways, it’s fairly simple: ‘ài’ means love in Chinese, while ‘ways’ comes from the English for paths. When they’re combined, you end up with the monicker of this modestly sized Chinese start-up, which was founded in 2017.
- Aiways U5 electric SUV to launch in UK next year
Aiways has had at least one false start in Europe already – although Covid-19 didn’t help its cause – but now it’s trying again with the U5 and this model, the U6.
While the U5 is a conventionally shaped SUV, the U6 is a bit more rakish, with a sharp front end, a flat windscreen and a sloping rear. The whole thing is garnished with all kinds of aero elements, which gives it some fussy surfacing in certain areas, but they clearly work; the drag coefficient is 0.248Cd, which is respectable for a 4.8-metre-long SUV.
On board, the cabin feels airy and the rear is spacious, with plenty of room for long legs. Only the headroom is slightly restricted, due to the sloping roof of the swoopier U6’s body. Boot capacity is a useful 472 litres, or up to 1,260 litres with the rear seats folded down.
Gone are the days when Chinese brands’ cabins were consistently inconsistent, and the U6’s interior has a confident design with a well judged choice of materials.There are some interesting visual elements, too – the drive selector in the shape of the throttle of a powerboat, for example.
In front of the driver is a cleverly integrated 8.2-inch instrument display with the most important readouts (speedometer, range, battery level, gear selection), and in the middle of the dash sits a 14.6-inch touchscreen. Navigation isn’t included, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are, and while the basic interface and its graphics are fine, the menus are convoluted and small icons make the system difficult to use overall.
Power comes from a 215bhp electric motor, while battery capacity is 63kWh (60kWh net), which is enough for a claimed range of 252 miles, but its 90kW maximum DC charging rate isn’t exactly spectacular, even if charging times are fine. The plug socket is located in the front-left wing.
The motor’s punch is enough for the U6 to accelerate briskly; Aiways claims a 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds, and that feels achievable. The top speed is a more modest 99mph, but as with many EVs, that’s a trade-off that feels perfectly acceptable.
The electric system works smoothly, with a choice of five driving modes and the possibility to pick from three levels of brake-energy recuperation – although you’ll have to delve into the fiddly menus to do so. And even in the most aggressive setting, the U6 won’t bring itself to a standstill on regen alone, so there’s no single-pedal capability.
At 1.8 tonnes, though, the U6 weighs relatively little for an electric car of this size, so it drives smoothly and effortlessly. Our test car’s 20-inch wheels took expansion joints with a bit of a rumble, though, and the steering could do with more feedback. We would also recommend fine-tuning the brakes; they feel a bit spongy and the progression is difficult to master.
Aiways is targeting UK sales by 2024. There’s no word yet on the finer details of specs or prices, but in Europe, the Prime edition driven here – with dual-zone climate control, electric leather seats (heated up front), a panoramic roof, a 360-degree camera and much more – starts at around 46,000 Euros (£40,000). That looks a keen price for such a well equipped car of this size.
|Model:||Aiways U6 Prime|
|Powertrain:||60kWh battery (usable), 1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive|
|Charging:||90kW (10-80% in 34 min)|
|On sale:||Early 2024 (est.)|
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