BYD Seal

byd seal review 2023 001 cornering front
Does BYD’s most European-feeling model yet have the sophistication to rattle the big players?

You can argue that any and all of the freshly launched models from Build Your Dreams (BYD) is the most important in establishing the brand in Europe, but the Seal is a direct rival to the Tesla Model 3 and, in EV terms, that is Guy Fawkes levels of ambition. Mind you, let’s remind ourselves that BYD is new to us, but it’s not to many. This is a huge company employing some 600,000 people across six continents, and which – amongst the solar panels, cars, trains, buses and more – provides the batteries for roughly one in five mobile phones around the globe. Plus, it can manufacture everything in-house from the cobalt free, lithium-iron phosphate LFP ‘Blade’ battery to the touchscreens, semiconductors, seat upholstery and more. BYD is not the work experience kid, here.The Seal may be the most important model so far, then, and it also looks to be the best. From styling that gives this 4.8-metre long saloon unmissable hints of Porsche Taycan with a dash of Genesis GV60, to an interior that looks and feels smart, tactile and cosseting in a way that the more sparse-feeling Model 3 falls short of (albeit a way off the classiness of the BMW i4’s cabin), the Seal has the aura of a car that’s been designed from the off to be a European big-hitter.Set to arrive in the UK from autumn this year, the Seal sits on the company’s e-Platform 3.0 and will have the option of a 308bhp single motor rear-wheel drive model, or a 523bhp all-wheel drive variant. Both are complete with an 82kWh battery that’s good for WLTP range of 354 and 323 miles respectively. Prices aren’t confirmed, but the Seal will be priced keenly against core rivals, so expect it to cost from around £41,000 for the single-motor model and £47,000 for the dual-motor. We had a brief drive on track in the Chinese market versions of both variants, which are likely to arrive in Europe with minimal changes. This is fine by us as it doesn’t feel like there are many tweaks needed, to be honest. Naturally, you can scorch about doing comical sub-4.0sec launches all day long in the dual-motor model if you wish to, but the more important thing is that the throttle response is also easy to modulate, the refinement hard to fault and there’s even some satisfaction in the handling if you make the effort to look for it. The steering weights up quite noticeably in Sport mode and gives you enough confidence that you can enjoy the savage way the Seal dispatches rapid direction changes, keeping its body neatly tied down as you do. There’s an effortlessness to it that’s both impressive and a touch disappointing if you were hoping for any characterful scrappiness or chassis nuance. Certainly, the BMW i4 or Polestar 2 are more fun, but the Seal still feels sophisticated and capable. The single-motor version is a touch lighter and more playful, which isn’t all that surprising given the blunt, drag-race attitude that tends to dominate most potent, all-wheel drive EVs.Ride comfort is hard to comment on given the test track conditions, but the Seal has impressive torsional rigidity, so we’re tentatively optimistic. The AWD model also rides on active dampers, but we’ll have to wait until we’ve had more time with the car to pass judgement on whether the lighter, passively sprung RWD or heavier, AWD car will deal better with British roads.Our biggest quibble is that the brake response feels inconsistent as the regen’ gave way to friction brakes in heavier stopping, so there could definitely be better pedal feel and modulation here.The Seal has the tech you expect, too, courtesy of a 15.6-inch touchscreen, plus a full suite of adaptive driver systems including lane-change assist, vehicle-to-load charging and a standard-fit, efficiency-boosting heat-pump. As for practicality, the cabin is light and comfortable with a full-length glass roof and ample occupant space, and while the saloon boot opening is a bit limiting next to hatchback rivals like the Kia EV6, the 402-litre space will be fine for most small families or business users. There’s deep cable storage beneath the boot floor and a 53-litre frunk in the nose of the car. Mind you, charging could be quicker. At 150kW, the BYD is on a par with most VW Group rivals, but the 200kW-plus charging systems in Kia, Hyundai and Tesla put it to shame, and the Tesla Supercharger network remains a key reason why you might send your money West rather than East. Sure, the BYD Seal may have a comedy name and ‘Build Your Dreams’ written across its rump, both of which have something of a teeth-sucking cringiness to British sensibilities that make it easy to dismiss this car. But if you put those sensibilities and any political concerns aside for a moment, and view the Seal dispassionately as simply another contender in the electric executive class?Well, it’s more than just competent – it’s got everything it needs to blow the establishment sky high. 
Source: Autocar

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