2023 Aiways U5 review: price, specs and release date
This electric family SUV is set to make its debut next year, and with an expected £40,000 price tag, the Aiways U5 could be troubling the class best. We find out what it's like in the UK...
On sale 2023 (est) | Price from £40,000 (est)
What value do you put on a badge or a brand? It’s a question you might ask yourself after a drive in the Aiways U5, an electric family SUV that is made in China by a car maker that only came into existence five years ago.
Its standout features are its space, tech and likely price (although it’s hard to be definitive as it’s not likely to be on sale in the UK for at least 12 months). So, while in other areas it's capable if rarely remarkable, it still holds appeal. After all, 10 years ago very few people had heard of Tesla.
And while it still has to pass the test of time, consider this: while it's assembled in China, the Aiways U5 was developed by some of the best names in the European automotive network, from Bosch’s input to its chassis to CATL putting together the battery and Lear supplying parts and materials.
These names may be as unfamiliar as Aiways, but a quick Google will reveal they are associated with many of the world’s biggest car makers. That’s no guarantee of success, of course, but it does give kudos to the proposition.
What’s it like to drive?
Our Aiways U5 test drive took place around the outskirts of London, offering an opportunity to run on everything from A-roads to potholed back streets.
As in all electric vehicles, acceleration is instant and brisk. Progress is quiet, too, with road and wind noise damped and the buzz of the electric motor only audible if you really listen for it. The brakes felt well modulated too, and the regenerative system – which turns braking power back into energy for the battery – was reasonably regulated to help you slow down smoothly.
In order to get the most from the relatively modest 63kWh (useable) battery’s range, top speed is limited to 99mph. That's not an issue in the UK, but could be a point of contention for Autobahn-loving Germans.
Despite its size, the U5 is not especially heavy compared with other electric SUVs and as a result it is rated as having an official 249 miles of range on the European test cycle, which is on a par with many rivals. Charging via a 50kW DC rapid-charger (it can take up to 90kW) takes it from empty to 80% in little more than 40 minutes.
While it’s fair to say that the Aiways U5 won’t trouble any of the established opposition dynamically, it’s on a par with the MG ZS EV. That means that if you push on it leans and wallows a bit in the corners and isn’t quite as good at controlling its movements as you might like after hitting bumps and lumps in the road.
However, the upside is that in less challenging circumstances it is set up for comfort, such that it sails over smaller road imperfections. That’s a tell-tale that its suspension set-up is largely unchanged for Europe from China, where the condition of roads is not dissimilar to the UK’s. In a family SUV, you might well decide that's a compromise worth making.
Likewise, the steering is a fraction light, albeit still precise enough. Out in normal driving it does take a little getting used to, and there’s no doubt that the likes of the Niro EV and Enyaq deliver a far more rounded, confidence-inspiring driving experience, but the set-up is just the right side of being decent enough.
What’s it like inside?
It’s notable that the first thing you notice about the Aiways U5 when you get in is just how much space there is. That’s partly because it actually is more spacious than most rivals, by around 10%, but also because of some nice touches that open up the interior.
For instance, there’s no glovebox, opening up the dash and giving the front passenger a considerable amount of knee room. The owner’s manuals are online and accessible through the infotainment screen, which itself is sensibly sized so as not to dominate the view. And, if you must have somewhere to put stuff, you can buy a laptop bag-sized case that neatly clips into place in the recess.
It’s in the back where the benefits really shine, though. Legroom is limousine-like and, aided by the fact that the floor is completely flat, with no intruding centre tunnel, the rear has space for three adults to fit comfortably. If you have smaller people in mind, you'll welcome the two Isofix child-seat points on the outer seats, and ample room to carry whatever they might decide to bring.
Boot space is also generous at 496 litres (1619 litres with the seats down), while the rear seats are relatively simple to fold flat, broadening the range of uses for the space.
The materials inside range from soft-touch leathers to hard plastics. Yes, there are more of the latter than in some rivals, but the overall impression was positive, and after a few years of family life, you might be grateful for their durability.
The U5’s tech wizardry revolves around the central infotainment screen. The car can receive over-the-air updates in the same way a Tesla can, meaning everything from performance to information modifications can be sent direct to the car.
Notably there’s no sat-nav. Aiways reasons that your phone has better capabilities, so it would be wrong to charge you £2000 for one. Instead, it offers a subscription to an app – called Pump – that features live traffic and charging point updates, and easy-to-use mirroring facilities between the car and your phone.
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