New Chinese electric vehicle brand Aiways has confirmed plans to expand into right-hand-drive markets from next year – and Australia could be one of them.

Founded in 2017 by long-time Chinese automotive executives Fu Qiang and Gu Feng – and backed by a Chinese investment firm – Aiways operates in Europe and China, and currently sells only one model: the U5 mid-size SUV.

The company will expand into its first right-hand-drive (RHD) markets from the second half of 2023 – led, among others, by the UK – and Australia could be on the cards to follow in the coming years.

“We are planning to expand to RHD markets from mid/end of next year beginning also with the UK,” an Aiways spokesperson told Drive this week.

“The exact timing for each further market is yet to be developed. Clearly, Australia would be on the list of markets to be considered.”

Aiways currently sells just one model in Europe, the U5 mid-size SUV – though a coupe-styled U6 sibling is due to launch in China within months, and the company has shown a concept for a larger U7 SUV (bottom of story).

Despite measuring 4.7 metres long, the flagship Aiways U5 ‘Prime’ costs €8000 ($AU12,000) less than an entry-level Tesla Model 3, before government rebates – suggesting a price as low as about $55,000 plus on-road costs, or $58,000 drive-away in Australia.

A range-topping Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD – an $82,990 plus on-road costs vehicle in Australia – costs over 50 per cent more than a top-of-the-range Aiways U5, at €64,570 ($AU98,000), to the U5’s €41,978 ($AU64,000).

The entry-level Aiways U5 ‘Xcite’ is cheaper still, at €35,993 ($AU55,000) before incentives – on par with the MG ZS EVNissan Leaf and Europe’s cheapest EVs, with a theoretical Australian price closer to about $52,000 drive-away.

While the Aiways U5 costs more than flagship EVs from Tesla and Kia, it’s not as potent or quick, with a 150kW/310Nm electric motor on the front axle, and no all-wheel-drive option.

A 63kWh battery pack under the floor enables up to 410km of WLTP claimed driving range, 80km less than the Tesla – though at 1720kg it’s light for a 4.7m-long electric SUV, and can cover the 0-100km/h run in 7.5 seconds.

A 90kW DC fast charger will boost the battery from 20 to 80 per cent in a claimed 35 minutes, while an 11kW AC home wallbox is said to be able to complete a zero to 100 per cent overnight charge in 7.5 hours.

The U5’s 4680mm length matches the Kia EV6, however the Aiways is 15mm narrower, 100mm shorter in wheelbase and a not-significant 150mm taller – translating to 496 litres of boot space, to the Kia’s 490L.

Available features in Europe include 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, dual-zone auto climate control, a leather-appointed interior, heated power front seats, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, and a hands-free power tailgate.

Infotainment is covered by a 12.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), and a three-panel digital instrument cluster, while there’s an associated phone app for finding the car and remotely controlling the boot, locks and windows.

While a suite of safety features (and six airbags) are on offer in Europe, the Aiways U5 scored only three stars out of five in Euro NCAP crash testing in 2019 – the same criteria the Model 3 earned five stars against the same year.

The independent safety body – which aligns its testing with Australia’s ANCAP – deducted “all points” in the pole side impact test, after the “side curtain airbag had not deployed as designed” and it “had not protected the head from the intruding structure.”

Aiways subsequently revised the timing of the airbag deployment to solve the issue – though the car has not been tested since. Euro NCAP also deducted points for poor the autonomous emergency braking system’s poor detection of pedestrians.

Other safety systems available include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, a speed limiter, safe exit warning, automatic parking and a 360-degree camera.

Stay tuned to Drive for all the latest updates on the Aiways brand – including the U5 and upcoming U6 and U7 (above) and its plans for the Australian market.

Extracted in full form: Chinese electric-car start-up Aiways eyes Australian launch – Drive