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BYD e6 First Drive Review


With 520km of claimed range, this MPV makes a powerful promise. What’s the catch?

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Aside from some good company, the one thing needed for a chill road trip is a vehicle that lets you focus on taking in the sights, which in my books is an MPV. The MPV here is BYD’s new electric e6. The route is from Chennai to Mahabalipuram, a short route that provides the right variety to test it out. An early start from Chennai meant that the chaos of city traffic was only simmering as we made our way towards the East Coast Road. Not much later, with the Indian Ocean lapping on one side, a pristine 4-lane highway unfurling in front of us, and the city’s bustle dimming behind us, we had everything needed to see what the BYD stands for. 

But, there’s a catch, as the e6 can be bought only by taxi companies or corporates and governments for fleet use–you and I can’t buy one as a personal vehicle. BYD fleet or taxi lineup is completely different from the personal car lineup, so the e6 won't be offered to you and me in the future either. So, why are we driving the e6? Simple, because when BYD chooses to bring passenger vehicles for private car buyers we will know exactly what to expect. 

Innova or Ertiga competitor?

In terms of design, the e6 is a handsome and mature-looking vehicle with a European vibe to it. You do see glimpses of the Innova in its headlamps, bit of the Hyundai Kona in its grille, which is the only element that lets on that it is an EV. The  large bumper design has a sunken-in hexagonal shape that draws your attention to the absence of a traditional grille. Being an MPV it has a swept-back look which is built by the headlamps, the blacked-out A-pillars that neatly transform into the roofline.  

Viewed from the side you notice the roof floats discretely as it connects to the tailgate, and the simple 10 spoke 17” alloy wheels finished in a matte silver finish don't shout for attention either. But BYD’s designers have added a bit of glitz to the e6 with the kink in the window line as it races past the C-pillar. The chrome piping expands here to accommodate a plate that reads “SPACE;” we’ll inspect that promise later on. 

The e6’s size and attitude combine different aspects of these two popular MPVs. The length and width of the BYD is just a bit smaller than the Innova so it has presence and solidity. But it also feels more compact and manageable as the overall height is much lower, giving it a more accessible feel like the Ertiga.

Dimensions: (in mm) 

 

e6

Innova Crysta

Ertiga

Length

4695

4735

4395

Width

1810

1830

1735

Height

1670

1795

1690

Wheelbase

2800

2750

2740

Space Machine?

Firstly, it feels very much like an MPV should, with large glass areas giving it a very airy feel and a great view of the scenery around you and the road up ahead. Large quarter glasses at the base of the A-pillars make driving in traffic a bit easier too. On paper, the e6’s height is lower than the Ertiga, but it is clear that you sit higher than the sedans, hatches, and sub-4m SUVs. Although, unsurprisingly the e6 isn't as tall feeling as the Innova.

Getting into the second row is uncomplicated as the floor isn’t high enough to demand a side step and the long doors make it easier still. The backseat is wide enough to seat three in reasonable comfort. However, what wows you here is the knee room as the wheelbase is even longer than the Innova’s. The amount of knee room on offer is very generous which means six-footers won’t feel cramped, and there’s plenty of headroom too. The only downside is that the low-set seats reduce the under-thigh support, which hampers comfort on longer journeys. Now, if you were waiting to hear about the third row, don’t. There isn’t one, because the e6 is not a three-row seven-seat MPV. Instead of the third row, you get 580 litres of boot space which is plenty for any airport trip. Strangely the second row doesn't slide or fold, which would have made carrying longer packages easier. 

Electric torque greater than ICE torque?

With 94PS and 180Nm, the expectation was that the BYD would be pedestrian to drive. I am happy to say I was wrong. The torque from the AC permanent magnet synchronous motor was capable of getting the MPV moving promptly and with zest. Even driving around the city, performance was delivered unhesitatingly, be it to keep flow with the traffic or to make your way through it. We even tested the e6’s gradability by coming to a halt on a steep incline–this being an FWD you would want good drive and traction for those weekend trips to the hill station. Here, the electronics metered the power, so you couldn’t zip off the line again, but it let the e6 be driven up the slope at a steady and sure pace. 

Even on open roads with four occupants and luggage on board, the e6 got up to cruising speed of 100kmph with composure and confidence. Keep in mind, given its intended purpose, there are no drive modes other than the standard ECO mode. As a result, changing the pace, like with a Sport mode, just isn't possible. Getting to the 130kmph electronically limited top speed was no problem either, and more importantly, cruising at 120kmph shouldn’t worry the BYD. 

Electrically unchallenged!

Normally, the higher energy consumption at highway speeds would play on your mind fairly quickly; That, however, isn't the case here because BYD claims a WLTC (City-based) range of 520km. Staggeringly, in our experience, the e6 looked set to deliver on the promise as it knocked off the first 50km while consuming only 10% of charge from the large 71.7kWh battery pack! With range anxiety firmly out of the window, we indulged in some spirited driving - hard cornering for the camera, speed, load, and gradability tests. This resulted in energy consumed per 100km spike from 15.8kWh to 21kWh. At the end of our day, we had covered 113km with 37% charge consumed, and an estimated range of 336km remaining; which is in line with BYD’s WLTC (City + Highway) claimed range of 415km. Impressive. 

Aside from the large battery and the clever battery management system, the e6 uses specially developed features like brake energy recuperation from speeds as low as 2kmph. It also has two levels of brake regen, H or L, which translates into Standard or Larger. Go figure. What matters is that in the L mode the more aggressive regen lets you drive the e6 with just one pedal for kilometres on end, once you get the hang of it.

Finding DC fast chargers in every parking lot is a distant dream, but the e6 is ready to top up from 30 - 80% in 35 minutes from a 60kW unit. A full charge would take about 1.5 hours, claims BYD. A 40kW AC fast charger could do the same in about 2 hours, while the AC 6.6kW charger would take 12 hours. 

Goes with grace?

The obvious electric cliches apply: it is quiet and smooth. Also, at city speeds, there is a sense that the ride isn't quite as plush as you would have expected, but when you factor in the near-1900kg kerb weight, it starts to make sense. Especially so when you head out onto the highway and realise that past 80-90kmph the e6 tends to bob slightly over undulations even on the smoothest of tarmac. On bumpy state highways, this will feel more pronounced, forcing you to shed speed for the sake of your passengers’ comfort. 

Testing the 215/55 R17 tyres and disc brake setup could be our flimsy excuse for indulging in cornering shenanigans. However, it showed that the Chao Yang tyres provided good performance when pushed hard and even when they ran out of grip their behaviour was safe and predictable. Using Macpherson struts up front and a multilink setup at the rear, the e6 is a fairly mature-mannered vehicle even when treated rudely. It turned well into corners as the front tyres gripped the tarmac well, although body roll was pronounced as the rear tried to follow the line. Of course, overzealousness resulted in obvious understeer but the electronic aids like ESP, VDC, and TC cut in to clean up the lines. 

Loaded to the gills?

Surely, at Rs 29.6 lakh (ex-showroom) the e6 must seem a great fit for you as a family PV right now? But, what if I told you that it doesn’t get powered folding mirrors, a sunroof, powered or ventilated seats? There are no sunblinds for the rear occupants or even an armrest. The infotainment system doesn’t get a wireless charger, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. As a commercial vehicle, you would easily overlook these misses, but not as a private vehicle.

But what it has, is good. The 4-speaker sound system is rich and loud. The infotainment screen is sharp to look at and responsive to use. It has a unique rotatable function that lets you use it in portrait mode, which feels quite natural. Its safety equipment list is long, including the basics such as four airbags, ABS, ISOFIX mounts, rear parking sensors. It also adds electronic aids like TC, ESP, VDC, and a TPMS. Some thoughtful additions like an adjustable headrest for the middle passenger in the second row and seatbelt warning for all five passengers are commendable. 

The e6 is currently on sale in 8 cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and Kochi.  It comes with a battery warranty of 5 lakh kilometres or 8 years, a motor warranty of 1.5 lakh kilometres or 8 years, and an overall vehicle warranty of 1.25 lakh kilometres or 3 years. While it is available in only one trim, with the 7kW charger it is priced at Rs 29.60 lakh, without which the price drops to Rs 29.15 lakh. 

What now?

Simply, we wait. While BYD is clear that the e6 will not be sold as a private vehicle, it has shown what BYD vehicles are about. The e6 comes across as a solid if middle-of-the-road vehicle. But, it excels on one crucial front: the e6’s promise of turning claimed range into real-world range is a complete game-changer. So, if BYD were to make a passenger car for you and me, which was well equipped and finished a bit better, and with the Blade architecture that underpins the e6, we would have something to look forward to.

BYD E6 Video Review

BYD E6
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