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BYD Sealion 6 plug-in hybrid 2024 review

Dylan Campbell

Based on an early drive, the plug-in hybrid BYD Sealion 6 is good enough to merit consideration against Toyota’s best-selling RAV4 Hybrid

Good points

  • Makes a strong first impression
  • Very sharply priced
  • Plenty of standard equipment
  • Impressively quiet engine
  • Well-appointed, roomy interior
  • Decent acceleration and EV range

Needs work

  • Jury out on efficiency until a full test
  • Slightly boaty handling
  • Steering is almost too light
  • No wireless Apple Carplay yet
  • Warranty capped at 150,000km
  • Should you just get an EV?

Mention the Chinese car industry and you might first think electric vehicles, and you’d be right – China is the world’s leader in EV technology and manufacturing. The Land of the Dragon is so good at making electric cars, and getting their prices down, that the rest of the world is freaking out a bit.

In a straight fight, longer term, Western car-makers might not be able to compete. But there’s another element to the story that’s not really been told – and that’s China’s hybrids.

BYD Sealion 2024 driving 8

Build Your Dreams, or BYD, is one of the largest auto-makers in China. Privately owned, it’s been likened to China’s Toyota. In Australia, BYD is sold by importer EVDirect, and its range is currently all EV, comprising the small Dolphin hatch, the Seal sedan and Atto 3 small SUV.

Very soon, however, BYD will sell its first hybrid in Australia, a mid-size, five-seat SUV called the Sealion 6. (Naming its SUVs after aquatic mammals is also surely a brave strategy on BYD’s part as there aren’t too many left. BYD Walrus doesn’t have quite the right ring to it.)

The Sealion 6 – called the Seal U overseas, but the Sealion 6 here – joins the plug-in hybrid SUV ranks in Australia. That’s still a reasonably niche market at present, certainly not hoovering up sales quite like conventional hybrids.

BYD Sealion 2024 rear

That might change with the Sealion 6. It’s sharply priced: $48,990 in Dynamic guise and $52,990 in Premium trim, both before on-road costs, placing this PHEV in firm Toyota RAV4 territory – and with a full fringe benefits tax (FBT) waiver for novated leases, too.

BYD has managed to land the Sealion 6 at a lower price point than even a base model Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which starts at $57,290 before on-road costs, or the sporty Cupra Formentor VZe PHEV ($69,990 driveaway, at least in NSW).

In fact, the Sealion 6 is priced more like Mitsubishi’s considerably smaller and more spartan Eclipse Cross PHEV (from $47,490). It’s within cooee of the country’s cheapest plug-in hybrid: the MG HS PHEV, which is $43,690 driveaway – also sourced from China but with a lower level of finish.

Product planners at the Japanese and German car companies are quite obviously on notice.

BYD Sealion 2024 steering wheel

At 4775mm long, 1890mm wide and 1670mm high – with a 2765mm wheelbase – the Sealion 6 is quite a bit bigger than a Toyota RAV4 (which is 160mm shorter, 25mm narrower and 20mm taller, with a 75mm shorter wheelbase).

It’s even bigger than the newer generation mid-size SUVs like the Honda CR-V (but still a fair bit smaller than something like a Toyota Kluger).

BYD will sell two versions of the Sealion 6 in Australia with almost the same standard equipment, but with two distinctly different powertrains. An entry-level Dynamic is front-wheel-drive and powered by a naturally aspirated inline-four producing 78kW/135Nm, mated to a single 145kW/300Nm front electric motor. Combined outputs are 160kW/300Nm.

BYD Sealion 2024 driving 6

The top-spec Premium comes with a turbocharged, 96kW/220Nm 1.5-litre inline-four and an additional 120kW/250Nm rear-mounted electric motor, making for all-wheel-drive and combined outputs of 238kW/550Nm.

Both vehicles are fitted with BYD’s lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery – one of the best batteries available in the automotive world, so good even other manufacturers are buying into it, such as Toyota and potentially Mercedes-Benz. BYD calls it the Blade. In the Sealion 6, the battery has a gross capacity of 18.3kWh.

In the base model, that grants 92km of electric-only range and 81km in the top-spec variant. AC recharging is possible up to 7kW and takes 2.7 hours, while you can plug the Sealion 6 into a DC fast-charger although you’ll only get 18kW. Still, that’s enough to recharge the battery back to around 80 percent in something like 30 minutes.

BYD Sealion 2024 group 2

BYD makes the excellent point that being a plug-in hybrid with a smaller battery, you can effectively fully recharge the vehicle overnight (9.4 hours, says BYD) using a standard, home 240-volt outlet. Meaning unlike an EV, no additional home wallbox is really required.

In the metal, the Sealion 6 spurns the boxy, rugged styling that’s seemingly in vogue and goes for a smoother, curvier, more flowing look that’s almost, dare we say, pretty.

Jump inside and it’s quite nice with smart styling (unlike the hideous interior of the Atto 3) and premium-feeling materials. With the aquatic-themed, flowing lines and plenty of contrasting stitching, there’s a hand-made sort of vibe, if not quite in the same way as a Rolls-Royce.

BYD Sealion 2024 front interior

Interior storage is also impressive with a huge centre console and generous door bins.

Both variants come with quite a lot of standard equipment, highlights of which include a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise with decent ADAS (we tested it), synthetic leather seats and steering wheel (the quality of which feels pretty good), electrically adjustable driver and passenger seat, and heated and ventilated front seats.

There’s a tonne of technology on offer. The central, 15.6-inch touchscreen is nice and large, and swivels from portrait to landscape as it does in other BYDs. Really, it’s a cute thing the salespeople use to sell cars in showrooms, and something you might show your friends, and rarely use again.

BYD Sealion 2024 charger

While Apple CarPlay currently requires a cable, Android Auto is wireless. Connectivity is also offered with over-the-air updates, while both variants get built-in sat-nav, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 360-degree parking camera.

Both variants also get a front dual wireless phone charger – very Tesla. In one of its few items of additional equipment, the Premium gets heads-up display.

The front seats are comfortable, while in the back there’s plenty of space – a feeling helped by the enormous panoramic sunroof and the flat floor with no transmission tunnel.

BYD Sealion 2024 front seat

There’s a large, 474-litre boot with standard electric opening and closing tailgate, although useability is limited with a non-sliding second row, no boot-situated levers to fold down the rear bench, no ski-port and just a 60/40 rear split.

The back seats fold flat but there’s a large lip. Even though the battery lies flat under the Sealion 6’s floor – often the battery is mounted directly under the boot floor – there is no spare wheel.

Chasing Cars tested the new Sealion 6 in a controlled environment at the ex-Holden proving ground at Lang Lang, in Victoria. And first impressions were very good.

BYD Sealion 2024 boot

The Sealion 6 is impressively quiet at low speeds, motoring around using its electric motor only, in EV mode, like any other electric car. The electric motor offers sufficient performance but of course, the internal combustion engine is also always there.

BYD encouraged us to complete a zero to 100km/h full-bore acceleration test in the turbocharged, twin-motor Premium, and for someone stepping from a 10-year-old SUV, they would certainly find it fairly pokey.

The steering is very light, almost excessively so, and the suspension is notably soft. While the Sealion 6 rides well, it’s in the kind of way where the springs are just super soft, rather than due to any sort of sophisticated combination of spring and damper.

BYD Sealion 2024 driving 5

The handling is reasonable, although there’s not the same driver appeal nor depth of dynamics you’d find in even a Toyota RAV4. The BYD, even despite its independent rear suspension, is merely competent in the corners, the soft suspension lending its handling an aquatic quality to somewhat match the name.

One of the most impressive aspects of this vehicle, however, is how quiet the engine is. It’s so quiet, you can’t be sure you’re not in EV mode.

But witnessing, from the outside, a Sealion 6 sprinting from zero to 100km/h confirms that BYD has worked some sort of noise-suppression magic on this SUV. The engine itself really is very impressively quiet, inside and out.

BYD Sealion 2024 side 2

We can’t yet comment on the electric-only range, or the economy once the battery is depleted. BYD boasts the Sealion 6 has a range of around 1100km from its 60-litre fuel tank, and gives official ADR81/02 economy figures of 1.1L/100km for the Dynamic and 1.4L/100km for the Premium.

We’ll conduct extensive tests when we get a test car into Chasing Cars HQ in the coming months. It would be fascinating to test the hybrid capability of the Sealion 6 with an empty battery – some other PHEVs we’ve tested may as well be internal combustion powered only, once the battery is flat.

BYD Sealion 2024 driving 2

They’re certainly not as fantastically economical as closed parallel hybrids such as Toyota’s systems and now, Hyundai’s. In the Sealion 6’s case, one small thing working against any savings in running costs is it must run on 95RON premium unleaded, at a minimum.

BYD is expected to offer a six-year, 150,000km warranty on the Sealion 6. Most other manufacturers offer five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranties, including Toyota.

The electric Sealion 6 scored five stars in Euro NCAP crash-testing, so it’s reasonable to expect the same from the plug-in hybrid version.

BYD Sealion 2024 driving 7

Most interesting to many Australian buyers will be that the Sealion 6 – with its considerable plug-in electric range – can be had for similar money to the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, even before factoring in any fringe benefits tax savings for leasing customers.

Although one car is from a proven brand and the other is still rich with unknowns – such as after-sales service, reliability, build quality, resale value – the BYD doesn’t make a case for itself solely on price. Against something like the Toyota, and based on our brief yet impressive first drive, it’s deserving of consideration in its own right.

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