The Seal is an electric saloon – offering all-wheel drive, 530 PS of power, 0-62 mph in 3.8 seconds, a range of 323 miles – from BYD, the world’s largest seller of EVs and PHEVs.
Many car buyers in the UK won’t have heard of BYD (which stands for ‘Build Your Dreams’), but the Chinese company is the world’s largest seller of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), collectively known as new energy vehicles (NEVs) in China. BYD, which was only founded in 1995, has its main background in the manufacturing of batteries, but is now on an EV sales offensive in Europe, with the Seal saloon being the latest offering to join the BYD Atto 3 electric SUV and the BYD Dolphin electric hatchback, which are already on sale in the UK. We’ve already driven the BYD Seal on the UK launch and we were impressed, but what’s it like to live with the car for a longer period of time?
The BYD Seal is an electric five-seater saloon that’s available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It features an 82.5 kWh cobalt-free LFP Blade battery, which BYD claims is safer and offers a longer life than competitors’ batteries. There’s a 313 PS electric motor in the rear-wheel drive ‘Design’ model, and a 530 PS power output in the all-wheel drive ‘Excellence’ model.
From the front, the SEAL has the looks of sporty machinery such as a Porsche Taycan, making the most of the lack of an engine under the bonnet to create a low front end. Feedback from observers about the exterior styling of the Seal was positive overall – although there doesn’t appear to be much house style similarity with the BYD Dolphin and Atto 3 models.
The Seal’s interior feels well designed with high quality materials, and good rear legroom. However this is a saloon, so rather than having a larger and more practical hatchback, there’s a boot, offering 400 litres of space. There’s also a compartment under the boot floor which offers ample space for two sets of charging cables, and even an additional ‘frunk’ under the bonnet offering 53 litres of space.
The Seal UK launch event took place in the Lake District in the wake of Storm Debi. Our week of living with the Seal also included the Lake District, as well as longer journeys, this time during snow, ice and Storm Isha. So the Seal has had two challenging tests in terms of terrain and weather, and it has coped capably with both.
Our test car was an all-wheel drive model, which was helpful in the face of winter. The road conditions also showed the benefit of having a drive mode button for snow and ice easily accessible on the centre console next to the gear selector. The main drive modes of Eco, Normal and Sport can be changed using a small rotary dial, but with standard road tyres, there were grip challenges using these modes in the ice and snow. Pressing the drive mode button for slippery conditions resulted in a big improvement in terms of traction.
For the elements of our test that didn’t involve snow, ice, torrential rain and 60 mph winds, the Seal once again proved itself to be a very comfortable car to drive, with good ride quality, along with the high levels of refinement and insulation from road noise that you’d expect from an EV. This makes long distance travel on motorways – something that we weren’t able to test on the launch event – very relaxing.
With 530 PS of power and 670 Nm of torque, driving on motorways – and all other roads – is also effortless, with lots of performance when you need to overtake (the AWD model has a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 3.8 seconds). And the Seal’s handling is also rewarding, helped by being a saloon, which compared to most new cars (ie. SUVs) means that it sits low down, close to the road, assisted by BYD’s Blade battery, which is thinner than the batteries from many other manufacturers. Most people should be able to get a good driving position, and the driving experience is helped by the Seal’s steering being sharp and responsive.
The Seal has a short, stubby gear selector on the centre console, which works well, but there’s no setting on the selector, or via any steering wheel-mounted paddles, to adjust the level of brake regeneration – this has to be done through the touchscreen.
And while we’re on the subject, the Seal has a large touchscreen, which has a party trick: at the touch of a button it can rotate from landscape to portrait, although we’re not too sure about the benefit of doing this. There are a few physical buttons located around the gear selector, such as the very useful button for the drive mode for icy roads, but the vast majority of car controls are accessed via the touchscreen. This is the case for most new cars, and the secret to doing this in a user-friendly way is the design of the interface between the driver and the touchscreen – with well organised menus and good shortcut buttons.
On the Seal launch event there wasn’t enough time to properly live with the infotainment system, but having now had the chance to do this for a week, our conclusion is that there are a lot of controls in the touchscreen, and navigating your way through them, especially when driving, can be a bit overwhelming. Switching off the lane departure warning system and the speed limit beeps are two examples that require a lot of button-finding and pressing (once you’ve spotted the ‘vehicle’ button to access such controls, which is hidden from view behind the steering wheel rim).
The Seal doesn’t have separate controls for heating and ventilation – these are at the bottom of the touchscreen. This approach works when the standard touchscreen features are being used, but if you use Apple CarPlay, which takes over the full screen, you lose all ability to change climate settings (and eg. control the heated seats and steering wheel). It’s not just the Seal that has this issue, it’s something that many car infotainment designers seem to have overlooked. BYD and other manufacturers may say that using voice control is the way around this, but our experience of trying this has led to mixed results.
One thing that drove us slightly crazy was the indicator stalk being on the right-hand side of the steering column, rather than on the more conventional left-hand side – however this is due to be changed for customer cars. However thankfully, unlike the new Tesla Model 3, at least the Seal has a stalk for the indicators, along with an instrument display in front of the driver – and an excellent head-up display.
And if you’re looking for the USB sockets on the Seal’s dashboard, they are completely hidden away under the floating centre console.
It wasn’t possible to test the Seal’s real-world range on the launch event, which is why we live with EVs for a longer period. After a week of mixed driving in weather that was mostly comprised of rain, wind, ice and snow, the Seal was delivering an average real-world range of 270 miles – although it displayed a predicted range of the official 323 miles every time it was fully charged.
The rear-wheel drive BYD Seal Design model has an official electric range of 354 miles.
The Seal has a heat pump, which aims to minimise any loss of range in cold weather. It also has a vehicle to load function, meaning that the car can be used to power electrical equipment.
The Seal can rapid charge at up to 150 kW DC, when a 30% to 80% charge should take 26 minutes, or it can AC charge at up to 11 kW using a three-phase power supply (typically found at a workplace in the UK).
The BYD Seal Design RWD model costs £45,695 and the Excellence AWD model costs £48,695. Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof and standard exterior colours are Ice Blue, Atlantis Grey, Polar White and Space Black, with two optional colours of Shadow Green and Indigo Grey.
BYD is adopting a dealership model to sell its cars in the UK.
Prices and specifications correct at time of review
We were impressed with the BYD Seal on its UK launch event, and living with the car for a week has reinforced this initial impression. The Seal is good to drive, with comfortable ride quality, rewarding handling, impressive performance, and, helpfully during our week in rain, snow and ice, good grip from its all-wheel drive chassis. The official range of 323 miles is useful, and the Seal’s maximum rapid charge rate of 150 kW means that time at refuelling stops should be kept to a minimum. We think that the Seal looks good on the outside, the interior is well designed with materials that give the impression of being high quality, and the Seal has a relatively competitive price compared to some rivals.
However trying to navigate through the large amount of information on the central touchscreen can be a bit overwhelming, and not having separate climate controls means that you can’t change any heating and ventilation settings when using Apple CarPlay. The Seal is also a saloon with a boot, which makes it less practical for many people compared to having a hatchback.
The BYD Seal is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.