BYD Seal review
Third model from Chinese giant BYD, is a saloon-style rival to the ever-popular Tesla Model 3. Does it have what it takes?
In case you hadn’t noticed, Chinese car makers are coming for the European EV market all guns blazing. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen serious contenders in several segments – many from manufacturers we’d never previously heard of.
BYD is one such brand, and it means business. Already a huge player in its home territory, two models are now on sale in the UK: the Atto 3 SUV and Dolphin supermini. Continuing that new-found aquatic theme is the third car to reach our shores: the Tesla Model 3-rivalling BYD Seal saloon.
Much of what we like about the Atto 3 and Dolphin has been transferred to the Seal – including the strong kit list, serious safety features and class-matching practicality. Added to this, the saloon brings more range and faster charging than its siblings.
There are two models to choose from at launch: the single-motor Seal Design and the dual-motor Seal Excellence-AWD. Both get the same 82.5kWh battery but it’s the former that’s more efficient – claimed range stands at 354 miles, with 150kW charging good for a 30-80% rapid charge in 26 minutes.
It’s the entry-model (a more modest, smaller-battery car will join the range later) that we think represents the sweet spot. With 308bhp it’s certainly not slow – 0-62mph takes 5.9 seconds, while top speed is limited to 112mph. An estimated starting price of around £44,000 means there’s a good chance it’ll significantly undercut the £50,990 Model 3 Long Range, too.
It’s got the match of the Tesla when it comes to interior tech. A 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster is flanked by a huge 15.6-inch infotainment display that can rotate 90 degrees at the touch of a button. It feels as if it’s got some serious processing power; it responds quickly to your inputs, and can operate via voice commands if you prefer.
General quality, fit and finish feels like a cut above anything we’ve seen from BYD before. While this is largely due to its higher price point, the Seal’s cabin is more than a match for the equivalent Tesla or Hyundai Ioniq 6; the Seal’s fabrics and plastics all feel durable, giving the interior a more sophisticated feel than you’ll find in an Atto 3.
On the road, the BYD Seal is calm, quiet and composed. Matched to that long range, we can see the saloon being a company car favourite in time. Of course, this very much hinges on its maker getting its price – and therefore its Benefit-in-Kind liability – right.
Away from the motorway it’s easy to pick up the pace with a direct and predictable steering setup and well-judged brakes. Being rear-wheel-drive, you do get the welcome sensation you’re being pushed out of corners rather than being pulled, even if the traction control does reign things in slightly if you’re too trigger happy with the accelerator pedal.
Ride comfort is largely very good, though we’d stick with the standard setup if possible. The adaptive dampers on the AWD version didn’t seem reactive enough to us – meaning the single-motor model felt smoother more of the time. Of course, if you want the added punch of the range flagship, you’ll not get the choice.
Elsewhere, the Seal’s score sheet gains another star mark for practicality. Saloon models like the aforementioned Ioniq 6 suffer when it comes to cabin space, largely due to their sloping rooflines – designed as such to boost efficiency in the pursuit of maximum range. But the Seal, despite its slippery shape, boasts decent head and legroom in the rear – even for six-foot-tall adults.
Further to that, there’s a 400-litre boot, though the saloon-style opening isn’t as useful as the hatch you’ll find in a Polestar 2. The BYD does get a useful extra 53 litres in the nose, though, which is perfect for keeping the charging cables.
BYD Seal verdict
The BYD Seal is an electric saloon car that looks to have all the right ingredients to take on the all-conquering Tesla Model 3 – indeed, if the Chinese maker can get the price right, it could even beat the industry stalwart at its own game. Strong range, decent practicality, an agreeable drive and plenty of kit set the BYD Seal up very nicely indeed.