Updated BYD e6: First Drive Of Chinese Electric Crossover Page 2

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Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012

Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012

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Four right-hand turns around a loop of less than 2 miles gave us no meaningful opportunity to test the BYD e6 handling, but accelerating hard out of a corner at 20 mph was enough to make the front tires both squeal and lose traction.

Interior quality lacking

The biggest drawback of the e6 from a passenger's point of view is the workmanship of the interior. While it looks good from a distance, myriad details show that BYD isn't close to approaching the global quality standards of a Toyota, Volkswagen, or General Motors.

A wiring bundle covered in bright orange plastic cladding protruded from under the driver's seat into the left-rear passenger's footwell, simply lying on the carpet--the kind of detail that wouldn't make it past the first review in any vehicle program from a major global maker.

Wrinkles in the headliner where it tucked behind door moldings, unfinished surfaces plainly visible next to neatly covered ones, and many other little flaws conveyed a general sloppiness in the small details.

Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012

Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012

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It gave the BYD e6 the interior appearance of a car whose designers closely imitated a modern car from a major automaker without really understanding the hard work that goes into making interiors close to perfect.

We noted that windshield, door, and roof pillars all carried airbag logos--suggesting that the BYD e6 has at least eight airbags (counting two in the dash).

BYD reps said the e6 comes with a 3.3-kW built-in charger--which seems insufficient for a 60-kWh pack--and also a 10-kW charger that uses the Chinese DC fast-charging standard, which is incompatible with both the Japanese CHAdeMO and the North American/ European SAE Combo standards.

BYD now says the e6 will arrive on the U.S. market in 2013, with first sales to fleets. We'll believe it when we see it, as we think BYD has some more development work to do before the electric crossover will be widely acceptable to U.S. buyers.

Our test drive came during a ride-and-drive event held at the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium, which wrapped up today in Los Angeles. The next EVS will be in Barcelona in November 2013.

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