What is it?
BYD has big plans for its e6 electric car. Last year the Chinese firm claimed that the car would be launched in the US in December. However, that date has come and gone, with the car looking no closer to being launched. The e6 is China’s first purpose-built electric car and we’ve driven a pre-production model. In the metal, the car is imposing and similar in size to a Land Rover Freelander.
What's it like?
Standing tall, it has the look of a crossover that has had its plastic cladding stripped. Panel fit is poor, even by Chinese standards, but should be sorted out before production.
The interior of our test model was the same utilitarian design as used in the fleet of e6 taxis being put through their paces in the southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, where BYD is based. BYD has displayed a version overseas with a more contemporary look, including steering wheel-mounted controls and sat-nav.
Our version’s cabin, though, looked more turn of the century, with hard, shiny plastics dominating the black and tan dashboard. A CD player, air conditioning and push-button start are the only concessions to technology, other than the fancy digital instruments, complete with the all-important remaining range estimate.
The leather seats are comfortable enough, but a high seating position in the rear, caused by the battery pack, would make long-distance travel uncomfortable; the new eco version is meant to improve this. Boot space is also heavily curtailed.
BYD currently limits testing to its premises, which prevents a full test of its claimed range of 186 miles.
Although the car tips the scales at 2295kg, the steering is light. Speed humps and control lines were the only real test for the suspension, which appears to give a soft ride. Acceleration, though, proved sluggish, with a need to really floor the pedal.
Should I buy one?
Along with hybrids, the e6 is likely to spearhead BYD’s push into global markets. With a claimed range of around twice that of the Nissan Leaf, it appears tempting. But although the technology appears to be there, the overall finish needs considerable improvement before it is up to the task.