The HiPhi Y Is Restrained Insanity
Issuing time:2023-07-16 17:13
What is it?
The Chinese EV market is full of companies that are pushing boundaries, but nobody tramples tradition quite like HiPhi. Their first two models, the six-seater X SUV and the Z sedan, had a combination of sci-fi design, never before seen features, and eye watering price tag that made them stand out from the crowd.
But while cars like that will get you plenty of attention, they’re too expensive, and if we’re being honest, too polarizing to result in huge sales. Which is how we end up with the HiPhi Y, the brand’s new entry-level model. But the question remains, can this company create a more mainstream SUV, while still keeping that spark of insanity that made them so compelling?
An alien among us
It seems the design brief for the Y was, “give us a HiPhi, but tone it down a bit.” The HiPhi-ness is still there, it’s all just dialed back a notch or two. You can think of the X and the Z as alien ambassadors who embrace their differences with humanity. The Y, on the other hand, is more like an alien that's at least trying to blend in with humanity.
By bending towards the more mainstream end of the design spectrum, HiPhi will no doubt be able to appeal to a larger audience. Not only that, it allows them to cut quite a bit of costs. Take the LEDs, for example. The HiPhi X and Z use an outrageous number of LEDs, including LED matrices on the front and rear, and in the case of the Z, even on the side. The Y is much more reserved, with LED panels only appearing on the front end.
The same applies to the doors. Like their first two models, the Y has no exterior door handles, instead you open the electronic doors via buttons on the door panel and C-pillar. The Y has multiple ultra-sonic sensors embedded in black plastic trim in the door to make sure it doesn't open up into any people, dogs, or other obstacles.
As is the case with every HiPhi, the highlight is always the second-row doors. In this case, the car takes after the X by having incredible two-part doors. There are also ultrasonic sensors on the top to make sure it doesn't open up into the roof of your garage, and it’s smart enough to only open the bottom half when it’s raining.
Leather and screens (lots of screens)
The HiPhi Y has a very different ethos than its most direct and obvious competitor, the NIO ES6. Whereas that car's interior is very minimalist, the Y is flashier and higher tech. This is reflected in the details, such as the brightly colored trim pieces and piano black plastic, as well as the number screens. The HiPhi Y has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster screen, a ridiculously large 22.9-inch HUD, a 17-inch 3K OLED center screen with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8155 processor, a 15-inch passenger screen with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8250 processor, and a 9.2-inch digital rearview mirror.
The 15-inch passenger screen, despite being smaller than the 19-inch unit in the HiPhi X, is more than large enough to comfortably lean the seat back and watch a movie. Unlike the passenger screen in some other vehicles, this one is purely for entertainment purposes, and can’t be used to control other functions, like the seats or navigation.
The more important aspects, like the UI and UX design are also very well done. Both the main menu and secondary menu are customizable, similar to the widget page on an iPhone. There is also a convenient “return” or “back” function, accomplished by simply swiping from left to right on the left edge of the screen. These are simple things, but they speak to how much attention to detail is hiding beneath the exaggerated styling and features of HiPhi vehicles.
It seems like HiPhi is taking a page out of the Li Auto book, because they've also got an optional 6L refrigerator/heater built into the console storage area. It’s capable of maintaining temperatures from -6 to 50 degrees Celsius (21-122 degrees F). It also has an available sound system that can rival or even beat the one in the Li Auto L9. While most trim levels come with a 14-speaker Meridian sound system, higher spec versions of the HiPhi Y get a 2820w 23-speaker Meridian system with 7.1.4 surround sound. Of course, that's 23 speakers only if you don't include the two small speakers built into the headrests of the driver's seat.
Never one to waste an opportunity for a questionably useful feature, HiPhi have also made some of the black plastic areas on the digital instrument cluster and passenger screen into a magnetized surface. They imagine owners will treat it much like their fridge, placing photos of loved ones or magnets. Of somewhat less questionable value is the HiPhi Port, a socket placed in the roof lining between the head of the driver and front passenger. The small black bump also includes a 60w type-C charging port, and can mount different arms, allowing you to hang a tablet for instant rear entertainment, or even power a device like a projector. Is this just a way to compensate for not having rear screens? Yes, but it’s better than nothing (Note: The HiPhi Port was not installed on all the preproduction test cars available during this launch event. Please see our video review to see the HiPhi Port in action).
Much like the HiPhi X, the Y has a second row that is a marvelously easy to get in and out of thanks to that hinged upper roof panel. There are downsides, however, like the fact that headroom for the middle seat is severely compromised in order to package those doors. Unlike the ES6, the HiPhi Y has no rear controls for the air conditioning, nor for any other functions.
The HiPhi Y has 692 liters of space behind the second row, and that doesn't include the 47 liters here below the floor. If you lay down the second row that expands to 1848 liters. Those rear cargo numbers mean it has more space than a NIO ES6, and that’s before you consider the sizeable 85-liter frunk. The Y also claims a better drag coefficient than the ES6, just 0.24 compared to the 0.26 of the NIO.
Wish it were sportier
The Y is available with two different battery packs. The first is 76.6-kWh blade battery sourced from BYD, while the latter is a much more sizeable 115-kWh. When equipped with the smaller battery pack, a rear motor car has a claimed CLTC range of 560 km, a number that grows to 810 km when a buyer checks the box for the larger pack. The dual motor performance version only comes with a 115-kWh pack, and it gets a claimed 765 kilometers of range.
The HiPhi Y is available in single rear motor trim, making 247 kW and 410 Nm of torque, or dual motor performance trim, which makes a much healthier 371 kW and 620 Nm of torque. The latter powertrain will urge you to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds. That time makes it noticeably slower than the ES6, at least on paper. In the real world, however, the Y feels more than fast enough. Even the rear motor version, which has a 0 to 100 km/h time of 6.8 or 6.9 seconds, depending on which battery pack you choose, will definitely be enough for your daily commute.
As with the infotainment UI, there are certain areas of the HiPhi Y’s driving experience which make me feel as though they’ve put a lot of thought into designing the car. One of my favorite features, and one that was also on the HiPhi Z, is the fact that the shift paddles here on the back of the steering wheel allow you to switch between the different regen settings. This isn’t available on other EVs, but if you pull both of them at the same time, you now switch to being able select from your different driving modes.
The HiPhi Y is equipped with 5.4 degrees of rear steer, resulting in a noticeably smaller turning radius than one would expect for a car this large. It also adds to stability when turning at high speeds, such a lane changes on the highway.
HiPhi has a driver assistance system dubbed HiPhi Pilot, but it was not activated on our preproduction test vehicle. Part of the system is an optional lidar unit mounted on the windshield.
So, what about that 22.9-inch heads-up display? Truth be told, it’s not quite as useful as I had hoped. Yes, it’s massive, but it doesn’t feel like all that space is being used very efficiently. The result is something that looks empty. The HUD on Li Auto models is smaller, but makes much better use of it’s space.
The HiPhi Y has a double wishbone front suspension and five-link rear, but lacks the air suspension of the more expensive X and Z. I consider the HiPhi Z to be the best handling and most engaging Chinese electric vehicle I’ve ever driven. That’s a high standard, and one that the HiPhi Y, with its cheaper price and SUV body style was never going to achieve. With that said, the Y doesn’t disappoint. The steering, while incredibly light, is also quite direct, and the suspension’s constant damping control system means the ride is very comfortable. I perhaps expected it to be a bit sportier after my experience with the HiPhi Z, but it’s still very good at being a large, luxurious electric SUV.
As a big fan of the outrageousness of the X and Z, I have to admit I was a little bit worried when I heard that HiPhi was going to try and make a more mainstream, a more normal SUV. As it turned out, I needn't have been concerned. This thing might be a little bit more down to earth compared to the X and Z, but it's not Earth as we know it.
Article classification: Electric Vehicles