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BYD Seal First Drive Review

The BYD Seal saloon is available with all-wheel drive along with 530 PS of power, a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 3.8 seconds, an electric range of up to 323 miles, and it offers an excellent driving experience.

  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
  • BYD Seal
Green Car Guide Rating: 9/10

Key stats

  • Model/Engine size:   BYD Seal Excellence AWD
  • Fuel:   Electric
  • Electric driving range (WLTP): 323 miles
  • Maximum rapid charging rate:   150 kW

Summary

  • Excellent driving experience
  • All-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive
  • Driving range up to 323 miles for the AWD model
  • Boot rather than a hatchback

Background

Most drivers in the UK probably haven’t heard of BYD, never mind its Seal saloon, but the Chinese company has been making batteries since it was founded in 1995, and it has now grown to employ 600,000 people globally. Half of the iPads in the world are made by BYD, and the company is now bringing an increasing range of electric cars to Europe. The BYD Seal is a five-seater saloon that’s available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and it joins the BYD Atto 3 and the BYD Dolphin EVs which are already on sale in the UK.

BYD SealBYD Seal

Design & Engineering

The BYD Seal is a 4800mm-long D-segment five-door saloon with a boot (not a hatchback). It sits on an 82.5 kWh cobalt-free LFP Blade battery, which is thinner than many other batteries, and therefore allows a lower seating position. The battery is also integrated into the car’s structure (BYD calls this ‘cell to body’, or CTB), eliminating the need for a separate floor, making the car more rigid, and stronger in crash tests. And BYD claims that the battery is safer and offers a longer life.

The Seal is available with rear-wheel drive (‘Design’) and 230 kW (313 PS) of power, or all-wheel drive (‘Excellence’) and 390 kW (530 PS).

The interior has a premium feel, from the perspective of both design and materials. There’s decent rear legroom, but note that the Seal has a boot (with a capacity of 400-litres), not a hatchback (and there’s a 53-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet).

BYD SealBYD Seal

BYD Seal AWD Driving Experience

The Seal launch event took place at M-Sport in Cumbria, where Malcolm Wilson’s rally car preparation business has built a test track (on tarmac, not a forest stage). As if a rally test track wasn’t enough of a challenge for a new car launch, the event also took place in the wake of Storm Debi. So the Seal was tested on a twisty track, which was very wet, as well as on the roads of the Lake District – which were even wetter.

Having driven a few cars from Chinese manufacturers with tyres that didn’t offer huge amounts of grip, our first question was “what tyres does it have?” The answer was Continental Sport Contact 7 tyres, which was reassuring.

So out onto the track we ventured, and it soon became clear that the Seal offered lots of performance (the AWD model has a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 3.8 seconds, and even the rear-wheel drive model has a respectable time of 5.9 seconds). But it’s not just straight-line performance that you need on a wet track; grip, handling and steering responses are also important requirements. After a number of laps of the track, we’re pleased to report that the Seal steers well, it has very competent handling, and there’s lots of grip. Aside from the all-wheel drive chassis, and the Continental tyres which appeared to perform well, BYD will say that iTAC, its intelligent torque adaption control system, is a key item of technology that helps with the Seal’s impressive grip and stability on the track.

One thing that was notable was that the car’s safety systems didn’t intervene in an unpleasant way, so progress on the track was smooth and enjoyable – and the same applied to driving on the road route.

Of course another factor in a car’s handling is how close it sits to the ground, and the Seal sits very low down (which is rare in an EV), thanks to its saloon body and the thin battery. Most people should be able to get a good driving position thanks to the range of adjustment of the steering column and the driver’s seat.

The track test also allowed the opportunity to demonstrate the Seal’s launch control, which delivers maximum acceleration from standstill, although this probably isn’t likely to be used very much in real-world driving.

After the track test it was time to try the Seal on real roads in the Lake District. Real roads in the wake of Storm Debi meant flooded roads. Again, the Seal demonstrated enjoyable handling and good levels of grip on a route covered with large volumes of standing water, as well as offering very comfortable ride quality on Cumbria’s roads, which can best be described as ‘undulating’. The AWD model has variable dampers, but both the AWD and RWD models have comfortable ride quality.

The Seal has Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow drive modes, with Sport predictably delivering the best responses for providing effortless progress up wet mountain roads, and you even have a physical gear selector, although it’s a small, stubby affair.

A large central touchscreen is a predictable feature, and a party trick shared with the BYD Atto 3 is the ability to rotate the screen from landscape format to portrait, either via a button or voice control, although we’re not too sure of the benefit of doing this. Apple CarPlay can be linked to the screen and as you might expect, there are a lot of sub-menus for all sorts of car controls buried in the touchscreen.

BYD SealBYD Seal

BYD Seal Electric Range and Charging

The BYD Seal Excellence AWD has an official electric range of 323 miles, and the rear-wheel drive Design model has a range of 354 miles. It wasn’t possible to test the real-world range on the launch event, although the remaining range after a two-hour drive through wet and windy countryside would suggest that a 300-mile+ real-world range is feasible.

The Seal has slippery aerodynamics (0.219 cd) and a heat pump, which should help 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).

How to charge an electric car

BYD SealBYD Seal

Price And Model Range

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

BYD SealBYD Seal

Conclusion

Many people may have preconceptions about cars from Chinese companies that are new to the UK, for example in terms of the expected levels of quality. The BYD Seal should dispel such myths. It’s excellent to drive, the interior has a premium feel, and it features BYD’s Blade battery, which promises a 300-mile+ range along with high levels of safety. And then there’s the Seal’s competitive price. So manufacturers of other electric saloons should take BYD and its Seal seriously, especially because BYD was only founded in 1995, and the Seal is only the brand’s third EV to go on sale in the UK, so more progress can be expected from the company. One thing to be aware of is that the Seal has a boot, not a hatchback; there are of course other EVs with boots, but British motorists generally prefer hatchbacks. The BYD Seal is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.

Car facts and figures BYD Seal First Drive Review

  • Test electric driving range: N/A miles
  • Consumption (WLTP): 15.8 kWh/100 km
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0 g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED):   £0
  • Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2023/24): 2%
  • Price:   £48,695
  • Insurance group:   TBC
  • Power:   390 kW
  • Torque:   670 Nm
  • Max speed:   111 mph
  • 0-62 mph:   3.8 seconds
  • Weight:   2,185 kg
  • Towing capacity: TBC
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor