To see it actually appear on European roads, we’ll have to wait until summer, but a limited number of international journalists got the opportunity to test some pre-production models of the new Chinese Aiways U6 on Portuguese roads. Newmobility.news took the challenge, and the U6 didn’t disappoint. Again, the Chinese prove they can give a bang for one’s buck.
The U6 is the carmaker’s second model to come to Europe after the U5 SUV, the first Chinese EV sold on the Old Continent at €39 750 in Belgium. This one, a lightweight battery-electric wide-body crossover coupé, should be a more sporty concept Aiways calls a ‘coupé-SUV’ and is aimed at a younger public. The base version should also retail for under €40 000, but prices are not fixed yet.
Not an obvious move
Last March, the Shanghai manufacturer started a European tour with the U6ion concept car, the forerunner of today’s production U6, in Antwerp (Belgium) at the Cardoen car multi-brand supermarket chain, a daughter of French Aramisauto.
Cardoen was among the first to welcome the new Chinese start-up in Europe. Not an obvious move as the car supermarket specializing in young second-hand and parallel imported cars mainly focuses on private customers. And those often don’t have the budget to purchase an electric vehicle yet. But the price setting under 40K charmed the management.
Neither fish nor flesh
The Chinese start-up says it wanted to revive the idea of what was once very popular in Europe, a two-door coupé with sporty lines, by merging it with today’s most popular body style, an SUV. The result is neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring, with a four-door, somewhat more stretchy SUV. Love it or hate it, it looks almost trendy young, especially in flashy yellow.
With 4 805 mm in length, the U6 is 125 mm longer than the U5 and 59 mm less in height (1 641 mm). But the play of lines, known in the designers’ parlance as the ‘hyperspace jumping waistline’, creates a sporty appearance when viewed from the side, says Aiways. The tail with the subtle integrated spoiler adds to that impression.
Lots of interior space
With a wheelbase of 2,80 m like its U5 sibling, the U6 also offers a lot of interior space, with ample legroom in the rear. With 472 liters of minimum luggage space, it has more room than the U5’s 432 liters. But the SUV is expandable to 1 555 liters when folding back the rear bench, while the U6 settles with 1 260 liters.
Inside, you get the same Spartan look that Tesla made popular for EVs, with as few buttons as possible. Apart from the buttons on the steering wheel, there are barely any. Everything is controlled via a landscape-oriented touchscreen above the center console.
In front of the driver, a small letterbox-shaped strip highlights the essential driver’s data. Even the air vents are discretely hidden, as the whole interior breathes simplicity. The trim colors proposed by the manufacturer, like in this yellow version, might not be to everyone’s taste. But the comfort of the perforated leather sports seats, we can assure you, won’t dislike.
Oversized airplane throttle handle
The oversized gear handle is most striking on the center console, mimicking an airplane’s throttle handle that lets you choose between driving, reverse, and parking modes. Unfortunately, even if you want to switch between available driving modes like ECO, NORMAL, SPORT, or one-pedal drive, you’ll have to do that via the center touchscreen.
And that’s not always as obvious as it sounds while driving. Diving into all sub-menus to find what you need – even lowering the rear windows via this screen – takes some serious studying.
Diving into sub-menus
The U6 comes packed with all driver’s aid systems you can dream of, but when all these warnings beep when you cross a white line get really annoying, it’s a challenge to silence them by diving into the sub-menus. It is not recommended while driving yourself. So take a passenger to do that for you?
Just kidding, the Aiways engineers say they are well aware this is still a point of improvement and assured they would make the interface more intuitive by letting you save settings into a profile that can be applied with a one-touch button.
You will be looking in vain for the Aiways proprietary navigation system, as there is none. Aiways engineers say it takes substantial resources to develop its own GPS navigation system.
At the same time, research with EV drivers shows that many prefer to use their smartphones with apps like Waze or TomTom, to name a few, for navigation through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Airways fully supports both, contrary to some other carmakers that won’t in the future, to be able to sell their customers their own services.
Another thing that probably will come high on the agenda for improvement before the final production car is delivered, is the settings of the chassis. These were intentionally set hard to give the vehicle a youthful and sporty feel. But on the undulating asphalt of some interior Portuguese roads, the U6 danced like on real ocean waves, making it a bumpy ride.
Further, the U6, which is relatively lightweight for an SUV-like EV with its 1 790 kg, lives up to its sporty promise without being a racer. The handling on curvy roads is good; power is available in sufficient quantities with 160 kW (214 hp) and 315 Nm max torque. Enough to get you from 0 to 100 km/hour in 6,9 seconds.
Reasonable power consumption
It is not a figure to be blown off your feet for an EV, but it helps keep the average power consumption under a reasonable 15,9 to 16,6 kWh/100 km. A nice feature saving power is the new heat exchanger that not only cools the engine but also makes optimum use of its waste heat to warm up the car’s interior.
The Aiways U6 SUV–Coupé will be launched with the 63 kWh battery familiar from the Aiways U5 SUV, which has 24 CATL modules and gives an estimated range between a minimum of 225 km and a maximum of 470 km.
Figures are yet to be confirmed in the WLTP cycle. Charging can be done at up to 90 kW at a DC fast charging station or up to 11 kilowatts at a three-phase AC wallbox.
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