BYD Sea Lion: Tesla Model Y electric SUV rival in line for Australia


Australia’s newest electric car brand, BYD, has been spotted testing a new mid-size SUV designed to compete with the Tesla Model Y and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Alex Misoyannis


Chinese electric-car company BYD is working on a larger mid-size SUV rival to the Tesla Model Y for launch in its domestic market later this year – and Australia after 2023.

Known as the Sea Lion in China, in line with BYD’s other nautical names including Dolphin and Seal (though they could be called Atto 5 and Atto 6 in Australia to avoid ridicule), the new SUV is rumoured to be revealed in China within the coming weeks.

Spy photos of prototypes published by Chinese social media (via Greg Kable) show the Sea Lion will draw inspiration from the lower-riding Seal sedan, with similar arrow-shaped lower front bumper inserts, sculpted doors, and what’s likely to be a full-width tail-light bar.

Chinese media outlets claim the Sea Lion measures 4770mm long, 1910mm wide and 1623mm tall – 20mm longer, but 10mm narrower and 3mm lower than a Tesla Model Y, its chief rival.


Underpinning the car is likely to be the same ‘e-platform 3.0’ chassis as BYD’s latest Dolphin and Seal electric cars, which in the latter offers up to 650km of claimed driving range, and dual motors with up to 390kW.

Launch timing for the new BYD ‘Sea Lion’ is yet to be confirmed, however rumours in China suggest it will be revealed in the next two months – pointing to a Chinese market launch is the months that follow.

An Australian launch looks likely, as one of the five new models being planned for sale locally – joining the soon-to-arrive Atto 3 small SUV, Dolphin city car, Seal mid-size sedan and, most likely, an electric ute.


“I can’t talk too much about the Sea Lion as yet, but what I can tell you is that we’ve got a total of five vehicles currently in the final stages of being ready for the Australian market,” local BYD distributor EVDirect CEO Luke Todd told Drive this week.

“That includes the two that I’ve mentioned, the Dolphin and the Seal – [with Atto 3] that’s obviously the three. You could assume the Sea Lion is one of those, and then there’s some further models beyond that.”

The Sea Lion could wear the ‘Atto 5’ or ‘Atto 6’ badge in Australia – slotting above the Atto 3 small to mid-size SUV, and the new Seal, which may be called Atto 4 locally.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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