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BYD Sealion 6 2024 review

BYD’s first non-battery electric vehicle is aimed at the very heart of the Australian car market, the mid-sized SUV segment dominated by the Toyota RAV4.

The latter comes in either petrol or hybrid, but the Sealion 6 “Super Hybrid” goes one step further by being a plug-in hybrid EV, or PHEV, just like the pioneering Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was a dozen years ago.

It’s a prudent move commercially by BYD, of course, but given the generally yawning chasm between good EVs and the mediocre-at-best internal combustion engine (ICE) options out of China right now, how does the EV-first/petrol-powered Sealion 6 stack up?

Here’s our first taster.

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Priced from $48,990 (all prices are before on-road costs), the Sealion 6 has two similar yet different rivals in its crosshairs – the Nissan X-Trail ‘self-charging’ EV-first e-Power that kicks off from $49,990, as well as the Outlander PHEV from $57,290.

The BYD comes in two grades – base Dynamic and luxury Premium for a $3000, ahem, premium – and follows China’s tried and tested formula of even fitting the base version with enough features to make consumers take note.

That means lots of standard safety kit, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), bi-directional cross-traffic alert/braking, lane support systems, blind-spot detection and a 360-degree camera.

The Sealion 6 is priced from $48,990. The Sealion 6 is priced from $48,990.

But it’s all the gadgets that might get you going.

Every Sealion 6 also boasts a panoramic sunroof, electrically operated tailgate, heated/folding exterior mirrors, powered/heated/vented front seats, a 15.6-inch rotating touchscreen, Infinity premium audio, two wireless phone chargers, rear privacy glass and 19-inch alloys.

Furthermore, with an electric motor under the bonnet, vehicle-to-load (V2L) functionality is possible, allowing electrical appliances to be plugged in.

Not bad for the money!

  • Every Sealion 6 comes with a 360-degree camera. Every Sealion 6 comes with a 360-degree camera.
  • Dashboard pictured. Dashboard pictured.
  • Inside, you will find two wireless phone chargers. Inside, you will find two wireless phone chargers.
  • 15.6-inch rotating touchscreen pictured. 15.6-inch rotating touchscreen pictured.
  • Standard features include Infinity premium audio. Standard features include Infinity premium audio.
  • Every Sealion 6 also boasts a panoramic sunroof. Every Sealion 6 also boasts a panoramic sunroof.
  • Vehicle-to-load (V2L) functionality is possible. Vehicle-to-load (V2L) functionality is possible.
  • Headlights pictured. Headlights pictured.
  • 19-inch alloys wheels pictured. 19-inch alloys wheels pictured.
  • Heated/folding exterior mirrors pictured. Heated/folding exterior mirrors pictured.

The Premium from $52,990 also scores a head-up display, a more powerful petrol engine thanks to a turbocharger and the addition of an electric motor on the rear axle for all-wheel drive (AWD). More on that later.

Note that no spare wheel is provided, just a tyre-repair kit. Not good enough, BYD.

Other established alternatives include the MG HS PHEV from China that started at $49,690 but is now $43,690 drive-away, the Honda CR-V e:HEV RS from $59,900 drive-away and the Mazda CX-60 PHEV from $73,600 BOC.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?

This is sizeable for a medium SUV.

Compared with both the X-Trail and the latter’s related Outlander cousin – which are two of the larger options in this class - the BYD has a circa-60mm-longer wheelbase at 2765mm, it's longer at 4775mm, while width grows by 28mm to 1890mm – but it's not quite as high as the other two at 1670mm.

Compared to the striking Seal, the Sealion 6 is based on an older design, and is in fact a recent facelift of a pleasant if generic-looking model available in China since 2020 – the Song Plus.

  • The Sealion 6 is 1890mm wide. The Sealion 6 is 1890mm wide.
  • This is sizeable for a medium SUV. This is sizeable for a medium SUV.

That facelift, by the way, brought what appears to be a shamelessly Porsche Macan-like nose and very BMW SUV-esque rear end, leaving us in no doubt about BYD’s aspirations here.

Mark that as another strike against originality from China.

Oh well. At least there’s a bit more freshness inside. And it’s spacious too.

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

The Sealion 6 might be a bit longer and wider than a Mitsubishi Outlander, but for now it is a five-seater only proposition.

As a result, there’s plenty of space for five people and their luggage, with legroom in all positions being more than sufficient – even for longer-legged occupants. 

The interior is a bit more restrained than the substantially smaller Atto 3 EV’s, but is no less modern, as it’s dominated by a pair of big electronic displays.

The one in front of the driver is easy to read and configure, while the aforementioned 15.6-inch central touchscreen rotates electrically from landscape to portrait modes depending on taste. Clearly this is BYD’s cabin party trick.

  • Interior pictured. Interior pictured.
  • Front seats pictured. Front seats pictured.
  • Rear seats pictured. Rear seats pictured.

As with the Atto 3, build quality is up to scratch, and in line with the brand’s premium aspirations thanks to a nice-enough ambience; the control layout feels largely intuitive despite most of the climate and audio controls being accessed within menus set in the middle display; there’s lots of storage; the driving position would be just about right for most folk and vision out is AOK.

We never had a chance to spend more than about 20 minutes at a time behind the wheel, so we cannot vouch for their support over longer distances.

The Sealion 6’s rear seat presentation strikes many of the right chords too, with thoughtful touches like a reclinable split/fold backrest, face-level ventilation, cupholders located in the centre armrest, simple USB port access, convenient overhead grab handles and lots of storage. Coupled with all that sunshine flooding in through the sunroof, on first acquaintance, it’s very easy to appreciate.

The long and flat boot floor is easy to access. The long and flat boot floor is easy to access.

Further back, the BYD brings 574 litres of cargo capacity, so falls short of the CR-V’s 589L and is pipped to the post by the X-Trail’s 575L, but better than the Outlander’s 494L.

The long and flat boot floor is easy to access. Just remember, though, that if you get a puncture, you’ll be disappointed to only find a tyre-repair kit, rather than a full-sized spare wheel.

Again. Not good enough, BYD.

Still, all in all, the Sealion 6's cabin is an appealing and convincingly high-quality experience.

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

Two powertrain options await.

The base Dynamic is powered by a 78kW/135Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and is mated to a 145kW/300Nm permanent magnet synchronous motor, mounted up front and charged by an 18.3kWh ‘Blade’ battery.

This is dubbed DMi (Dual-Mode intelligence) in BYD-speak. Drive is sent to the front wheels via an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT).

As per most PHEVs, there are EV-only, combined and petrol-recharging choices.

  • 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine pictured. 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine pictured.
  • 18.3kWh ‘Blade’ battery pictured. 18.3kWh ‘Blade’ battery pictured.

With maximum power and torque being 160kW and 300Nm respectively for a power-to-weight ratio of 82.5kW/tonne, BYD says the 1940kg Dynamic is capable of 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Premium grade adds a 96kW/220Nm 1.5L turbo alternative, a slightly stronger 150kW/300Nm motor up front and a 120kW/250Nm motor out back for AWD, for 238kW of maximum power and 550Nm of maximum torque. This slashes 0-100 to 5.9s, despite a 160kg weight penalty at 2100kg.

Note that three driving modes are offered – Eco, Normal, Sport and Mud, the AWD adds Snow/Sand settings, while, as per most PHEVs, there are EV-only, combined and petrol-only drive settings.

Adhering to the medium SUV playbook, the Sealion is a monocoque body, with MacPherson-style struts up front and a multi-link rear end.

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?

BYD says that the Dynamic FWD averages just 1.1 litres per 100km, which equates to 24 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions. The Premium AWD ups these figures to 1.4L/100km and 32g/km respectively.

From its 60L fuel tank, the company reckons up to 1100km between refills is possible, using 95 RON premium unleaded petrol. EV range is up to 92km in Dynamic FWD and 81km in Premium AWD. These figures are the less-stringent NEDC and not the WLTP standard most other makers quote nowadays, so will likely drop considerably.

Digital instrument pictured. Digital instrument pictured.

The 18.3kWh lithium-iron-phosphate 'Blade' battery’s energy consumption, meanwhile is 16.9kWh/100km for Dynamic FWD and 17.9kWh/h/100km for Premium AWD.

Using a 7kW AC Type 2 charge port, the Sealion 6 can be charged in under three hours, or around 9.5hr using a normal wall socket at home. Finding an 18kW CCS 2 DC charger, going from 20 to 80 per cent full requires 30 minutes, or an hour to 100 per cent.

Of course, the ICE can also charge the battery on the go.

Charge port pictured. Charge port pictured.

Driving – What's it like to drive?

After the Atto 3 – arguably the first Chinese-branded vehicle sold in Australia with decent driving and comfort dynamics – expectations were high that the Sealion 6 would follow suit.

Sadly, the definitive verdict must wait, because we didn’t get much of a chance to assess the Sealion 6’s capabilities during our supervised and speed-controlled first-drive experience, despite being at Victoria's Lang Lang proving ground that helped make so many Holdens great. Simply put, we weren’t given a long-enough leash to let loose and find out.

That said, our initial observations and conclusions are telling.

The Sealion 6 stayed composed in high-speed turns. The Sealion 6 stayed composed in high-speed turns.

Firstly, the Sealion 6 Premium’s acceleration is more than sufficient for the type of family SUV duties that it is supposed to provide. The powertrain’s calibration as it shuffles from EV-only mode to turbo-petrol-powered performance seems smooth enough, to the point where it isn’t even that obvious. Pleasant if not electrifying.

Whether the slower Dynamic version with its naturally aspirated engine and single-motor-only assistance has enough muscle to pull nearly two tonnes of SUV... we'll have to wait and see. 

Still, we were also impressed with the Premium's ride comfort around Lang Lang, as the suspension felt like it was doing a good-enough job isolating us from the environment outside.

The Premium's acceleration is more than sufficient. The Premium's acceleration is more than sufficient.

Some corners were taken at high speed, and the SUV remained controlled and composed despite tending to lean a bit through faster turns.

However, we cannot say for certain whether arguably a Chinese-branded vehicle’s biggest bugbears – the complete lack of Australian road tuning and infuriatingly overly-sensitive electronic traction, lane-keep and forward collision warning interferences that result – haven’t been exorcised. Put that in the TBC basket.

Never mind. The BYD’s general refinement and ease left us with feelings of positivity and hope, suggesting that – in those areas at least – there’s been progress.

The Premium's ride comfort is impressive. The Premium's ride comfort is impressive.

That all said, every Sealion 6 example we tried suffered from needlessly dull and remote steering feel. Not a deal-breaker for most of the demographic, granted, but a bit more feedback would be more-aligned with Aussie motorists’ tastes.

Oh well. At least the BYD’s packaging, space, refinement and handling didn’t have us reaching for excuses to cut the drive short – something we’ve all-too-often experienced in many Chinese-branded SUVs.

So, a half-day in, around a proving ground, we’re quietly confident that the Sealion 6 won’t fall into a vague and overly-sensitive heap when we push it hard on Australian public roads.

The Atto 3’s genes seem to have prevailed. And for that, we’re grateful.

All Sealion 6 models had dull, remote steering feel. All Sealion 6 models had dull, remote steering feel.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

At the time of publication, there is no ANCAP crash-test rating for the Sealion 6.

The SUV comes with a brace of airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain front and rear and far-side driver’s side), AEB, front and rear cross-traffic alert/braking, 'Forward Collision Warning', 'Rear Collision Warning', 'Lane Departure Warning/Prevention', blind-spot detection, traffic-sign recognition, door-opening warning, trailer stability control, auto high beam, a 360-degree monitor, adaptive cruise control, front/rear parking sensors and child/pet presence detection inside the car.

The Sealion 6 is yet to be tested by ANCAP. The Sealion 6 is yet to be tested by ANCAP.

No information regarding the operational parameters of the AEB and lane-support systems was available at the time of writing. And, again, keep in mind also that there is no spare wheel – just a tyre-inflation kit.

Other safety items include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist.

Finally, ISOFIX child-seat latches are fitted to outboard rear seat positions, while three top tethers for straps are included across the rear seat.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

BYD has a reputation as an international and progressive vehicle maker providing likeable and competent EVs in the shape of the Atto 3 and Seal.

Whilst the Sealion 6 is aiming for a far-broader community, it seems to adhere to at least some of those principles. 

Of course, we won’t find out for sure until we drive it on our familiar road test circuit, but until then, we reckon you can do much worse than keep the BYD in mind when searching for an electrified mid-sized SUV.


Based on new car retail price


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