Skywell BE11 first drive

The introduction of a new car brand is always exciting and the Skywell BE11 could be off to a good start. It's not particularly groundbreaking in terms of design or technology but it's one of only a few large electric SUVs currently on the market. If it's priced keenly, it could appeal to company car drivers.


Skywell is making its UK debut with the BE11 - a large electric SUV that will enter the segment alongside established models such as the Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq.

In China it's known as the Skyworth EV6. The car launched overseas in 202 and it's being introduced to the UK by Innovation Automotive, the importer behind DFSK and Seres. The Skywell BE11 is a spacious vehicle and one of only a handful of electric options in its segment.

It has a smart, understated design and looks very much like a conventional SUV. There's not much flair inside or out, so this is a model for those that want to fly under the radar.

We've driven an early example of the car, ahead of its arrival in the UK this September. Innovation Automotive is yet to confirm pricing for the car but to succeed it will need to undercut models like the Tesla Model Y, Skoda Enyaq and VW ID4.

Comfort and practicality

With a length of 4.7m and a width of 1.9m, the Skywell BE11 sits among the larger mainstream SUVs. It has a spacious interior, with particularly generous rear seat space.

The seats are comfortable and supportive, although limited electric adjustment is provided so drivers may struggle to find the perfect driving position. There's also no lumbar support. Seat heating and ventilation is provided, however, improving comfort.

Visibility is good, thanks to the car's large windows and raised ride height. Skywell BE11 interior close up The cabin has a contemporary design and with an upmarket look and feel.

Clearly inspired by European models, there's a nice blend of materials inside and the quality of the touchpoints is high. We'd say the interior quality is on par with last-generation Kia, Hyundai and Nissan models. There's a large central armrest with built in storage, along with two cupholders up front.

The dual level design means a larger storage area lurks beneath. At the rear, the boot space is ample with good access provided via a large electrically operated tailgate. Beneath the boot floor is a storage area suitable for storing the charging cables.

Safety and technology

The BE11's interior is dominated by a large central touchscreen display that is mounted in a 'floating' fashion at the top of the dashboard.

It's a fairly rudimentary system, when compared with those used by rivals. Using an android base, the interface is similar to what you'd get from a tablet with an app-based layout. Functionality and customisation is fairly limited and finding some of the settings and features is not as straightforward as we'd like.

It does include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, according to the spec sheet. Skywell BE11 screen There's limited physical switchgear, with a small panel of buttons retained for some climate control functions only.

The rest of the car's features are controlled via the screen. A separate instrument cluster display sits in the conventional location, again offering limited customisation. It is however, a clear and easy-to-read layout.

There's a suite of driver assistance systems, including front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring.

Driveability and range

Skywell offers the BE11 with one electric powertrain and two battery options. The motor powers the front wheels and develops 204PS and 320Nm. Performance is ample for a family SUV, with 0-62mph taking 9.6 seconds.

Our test model was equipped with the larger 86kWh battery, which promises a range of 306 miles. The smaller (72kWh) unit has a 248-mile range. Based on our testing, we were achieving 3.2mi/kWh from the BE11 - enough for a realistic range of 250 - 275 miles.

The battery supports rapid charging at up to 80kW and AC charging at 11kW, so recharges will take a bit longer than in rivals. As a front-wheel-drive vehicle, the car doesn't deliver a particularly engaging drive. Acceleration is modest, yet it can overwhelm the front tyres up to about 40mph.

At higher speeds the BE11 feels less eager. There's a springy feel to the steering, which has a high level of assistance. This is great for manoeuvrability but detracts from the driving experience a little.

Switching to the 'Sport' setting - via the touchscreen - makes the steering a bit heavier for those that find it too twitchy. You can also configure the brake pedal feel, separately, with Comfort and Sport options. The latter gives a more aggressive pedal, with more immediate braking force.

Regenerative braking is adjustable on a sliding scale from 0% to 100%. There's no steering wheel paddles or quick access way to switch it on or off, however. We settled for a mid-point, which was not particularly intrusive and allowed the pace of deceleration to be mainly controlled via the brake pedal.

There's a degree of whine from the motor, which is audible in the cabin. But refinement is otherwise adequate. At motorway speeds we also noticed a bit of tyre and wind noise, akin to a lower-price-point model.

Company car tax and running costs

We don't have any running cost data for the BE11 yet, but its credibility as a company car will rely very heavily on its price point.

There are very few electric rivals in this space, which means demand could be high - especially in the job need segment. But, if the car is too expensive then drivers will likely opt for alternative models from premium brands. As an electric model, it will attract a 2% benefit-in-kind tax charge.

Innovation Automotive, the official importer of Skywell vehicles to the UK, is providing a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty.