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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
@ytimesmotoring
1:17 AM 6th April 2024
cars

BYD Seal – UK Launch Review

 
Chinese manufacturer BYD has signalled intent by launching three cars in the UK in quick succession.

What is it?
For those not familiar with Chinese company BYD, a little background. They are the third most valuable car company in the world and have been around for three decades. Of more significance, they are also the number one producer of electric cars globally. In addition, they also build buses, trucks, and monorails. And there’s more… they also provide Tesla, Toyota, and other manufacturers with batteries.

The Seal is the third car to be launched in the UK, joining the Atto 3 and Dolphin models. Built on BYD’s advanced e-Platform, it has a battery capacity of 82.5kWh, what impresses most is the company’s Blade battery technology which is said to be much stronger and lighter than other manufacturers’ offerings.

Model choice
Just two models of Seal are available, with the rear-wheel drive Design model costing from £45,695. An extra £3,000 buys the more powerful all-wheel drive Excellence version. Put down a little over £7,000 on a four-year PCP deal and expect to pay from £599 per month (APR 6.9%). For the business user, Contract Hire rates seem to be around £540 per month, plus VAT.

Performance
Is it worth spending the extra money on the Excellence model? Well, if you like to get a move on, then definitely. The Design has a single motor sending power to the rear wheels only and can accelerate from rest to 62mph in 5.9 seconds – no sluggard then. However, with an electric motor on each axle, the top model slashes that sprint time to a barely credible 3.8 seconds. Supercar performance.

The better traction of the Excellence model would be reason enough for me to spend the extra, as power is no good if not easily deployed.

Range
Up to 354 miles is quoted for the Design model, and around 30 miles less for the Excellence. In the real world, it will be more a case of how carefully each is driven, as use the immense performance to the full, and the battery will deplete far more quickly.

Charging up to 150kW should be possible on a rapid charger, with a suggested top up time of around half an hour (30 to 80%). Enough time for a comfort break and a cup of coffee. Expect to wait overnight if a full charge is required from a home 7kW wallbox. This is the cheapest way to fuel any electric car, especially as some energy companies now have specific rates which take advantage of cheaper overnight electricity.

Driving
Our launch event was based in Harrogate and once again I devised the test route. As a result, I was able to push the Seal harder perhaps than most, as the familiar Dales roads I had picked were a good test of the car’s dynamics.

Although we covered ground at a fair old lick, the Seal Excellence rarely felt quite as quick as the on-paper figures would suggest. It was certainly no sluggard, especially in Sport mode, which noticeably firmed up the suspension and tightened the throttle.

A low centre of gravity undoubtedly aided cornering prowess and there were a few winces from my driving companion as I barrelled into yet another fast corner. Body roll, almost absent which I know can upset the equilibrium if you have no steering wheel to hold onto. Oh, and the steering is quite pleasantly weighted, making the Seal easy to place on narrow country lanes.

I would have liked more regeneration, not just because it tops up the battery, but more because one pedal driving is one of the true joys of electric car motoring.

On the inside
The Seal’s svelte looks hide a comfortable and spacious interior. It came as no surprise to find the front seats were accommodating and easily adjustable for that perfect driving position. However, as my driving companion wished to film our drive, I found myself relegated to the back seat for an hour or so.

Headroom and legroom are plentiful, and the flat floor means that anyone drawing the short straw of the middle seat, should not be too disenfranchised either. I was quite happy. The boot will hold around 400 litres of luggage and the RWD Design model also boasts extra capacity in the front compartment. Ideal for storing the charging cables and a few bits and pieces.

Trim materials are good quality with some soft touch materials on the areas that you most come into contact with. Better than the obvious American rival for sure!

An enormous 15.6-inch touchscreen dominates the dash, and its party piece is the ability to rotate it through ninety degrees. When in vertical mode, it makes following the navigation much easier. In front of the steering wheel is a smaller screen which displays the speed and other vital information.

Smartphone wireless charging for two phones is included and of course Apple Car Play is fitted. Tunes will come bursting through the thoroughly decent 8-speaker audio system.

Equipment
The Seal is undoubtedly a premium car and as such comes brimming with kit. LED lighting, rain sensing wipers, an electric boot, keyless entry and starting function are amongst the highlights. The Excellence model ups the ante with a useful head-up display and adaptive dampers.

There is also a raft of safety kit fitted to both models, one that is too exhaustive to list in its entirety. Highlights I suppose include Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection and an advanced Electronic Stability Program.

The rivals
The two most obvious are the Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Ioniq 6. The latter starts at £46,260, whilst the Tesla sneaks in at just under £40,000 for an entry level Model 3.

I will make no bones about the fact I loved my week with the Ioniq 6, but not everyone warms to its rather avantgarde looks. The pull of the Supercharger network still works in Tesla’s favour, though with public charging improving thanks to the likes of Gridserve and Ionity, this is less of an issue. The quality of the Tesla’s interior still lags behind the Chinese and Koreans, in my humble opinion.

The BYD Seal might just be the one to pick then, with less divisive looks, the best driving manners of all three and a classy interior.

Verdict
BYD are expanding rapidly and will have around 100 dealerships by the end of 2024. They are destined to become a serious force in the electric car market in the UK and if their first three offerings are anything to go by, strong sales will follow.