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In-depth reviews

BYD Seal review - long range and impressive cabin

“BYD’s Tesla Model 3 rival shows how quickly the brand is improving, with a long range and impressive cabin”

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Sleek looks
  • Good to drive
  • Strong range

Cons

  • No hatchback
  • Some cabin gimmicks
  • Mixed ride quality

Verdict - Is the BYD Seal a good car?

The third pillar of BYD’s range in Europe is very impressive. The base car is a little bit more expensive than a Tesla Model 3, but it’ll travel further on a single charge. It has the performance, styling and interior quality necessary to stay competitive in this area of the market, while the powerful infotainment system – with its novel rotating touchscreen – makes it a convincing rival for the most hi-tech cars in this class. The Atto 3 and Dolphin are both competitive offerings, but the Seal could be BYD’s best car yet.

BYD Seal models, specs and alternatives

So committed are manufacturers to SUVs both big and small that it’s almost a surprise when a brand debuts a conventional saloon or hatchback – which is exactly what Chinese firm BYD has done with its new Seal.

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Joining the Atto 3 and Dolphin on sale in the UK, you might describe the Seal as BYD’s take on cars like the Hyundai Ioniq 6 or Tesla Model 3, or perhaps even the Porsche Taycan – a sleek and relatively low-slung saloon that prioritises range, performance and style over huge luggage space or a commanding driving position.

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Low drag is the aim of the game, helping to contribute to a healthy range from the Seal’s 83kWh battery pack. The rear-wheel drive entry-level Seal Design will travel 354 miles according to official tests, while the dual-motor Seal Excellence-AWD cuts this to 323 miles in favour of superior straight-line performance – a distance we reckon is realistic after testing it in wintry conditions at the Lake District. We’re pretty sure most people will be satisfied enough with the Design’s 308bhp electric motor which is good for 0-62mph in just under six seconds – for even more speed, the 523bhp Excellence-AWD slashes it to a ballistic 3.8 seconds.

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Charging is similarly fast, courtesy of 150kW charging capabilities, enough to lift the Seal’s battery level from 30% to 80% in 26 minutes, while a heat pump helps preserve range even when the weather is cold by warming the cabin with less energy. A Comfort model will join the range later, with lower power and a shorter range, but this hasn’t yet been confirmed for the UK.

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The Design model serving as the current entry point packs plenty of equipment already. Full specs aren’t due until early 2024, but BYD has confirmed the slightly gimmicky rotating infotainment screen – measuring 15.6 inches here – will feature, alongside a 10.25-inch driver display, 12-speaker audio system, heated and cooled front seats, and “vehicle to load” capability – meaning you can power external devices using the car’s battery pack and a suitably chunky power lead. Six exterior colours and two interior trims will be offered.

The starting price of around £45,000 for the Seal Design means it’s a few grand more expensive than the single-motor, rear-wheel drive Tesla Model 3, but the BYD will go around 50 miles more per charge. The Seal Excellence-AWD costs £3k more (roughly £48,000) but you get an extra motor and a good chunk more power for the money – there’s really not a lot else out there with a similar mix of qualities.

Trim levels

Power options

  • Design
  • Excellence-AWD
  • 308bhp single motor
  • 523bhp dual motor

BYD Seal alternatives

Range, charging & running costs

“Range is more than competitive with rivals at this price point”

Range is certainly one of the Seal’s strengths. All Seals use an 83kWh battery pack, which while not the biggest you’ll see on the market, is a touch larger than the long-range pack in a Hyundai Ioniq 6 and significantly greater than the roughly 60kWh pack of a basic Tesla Model 3.

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Combined with a smooth and slippery body shape to reduce aerodynamic drag, the result is a range of 354 miles, nearly 50 miles more than an entry-level Model 3, and still better than the 338 miles of the longest-range Ioniq 6. Opt for the dual-motor Seal Excellence-AWD, and range drops slightly to 323 miles, but the real-world range of either model should cover the needs of most drivers. A standard heat pump will help to maximise that range even in colder weather too – it’s a way of heating the cabin that uses less energy.

During our test drive in a wintry Lake District, we found BYD’s predictions appear to be fairly accurate, with our trip computer showing a range of more than 200 miles with 65% charge remaining – despite the poor conditions. On this evidence, the Seal should be able to compete with the Tesla Model 3 for efficiency.

Charging speed isn’t market-leading, but 150kW of charging capability should get the job done: BYD claims a 30-80% charge takes 26 minutes, if you can find a suitably fast public charger. Further to this, all models get an 11kW on-board AC charger so if you’ve got access to three-phase electricity, we’d estimate a full charge would be possible in seven or eight hours; a more common 7kW wallbox will take close to 12 hours to charge from empty.

Model 

Battery size

Range

BYD Seal Design

83kWh

354 miles

BYD Seal Excellence-AWD

83kWh

323 miles

Electric motor, drive & performance

“Even the entry-level Seal is quick, and it rides and handles well too”

BYD currently offers two powertrain options for the Seal – it really boils down to whether you want one motor, which already provides plentiful performance, or two, which help to deliver rampant acceleration. The single-motor variant sees a 308bhp electric motor powering the rear wheels, while the dual-motor model, in Excellence-AWD trim, adds a front motor of slightly lower output, for a combined 523bhp.

0-62mph and top speed

As you might imagine with outputs like that, neither Seal is short of performance. BYD quotes a 0-62mph time for the single-motor variant that’s just a fraction behind a single-motor Tesla Model 3 – while the dual-motor car uses its extra power and all-wheel drive traction to great effect, with claimed acceleration figures roughly splitting Tesla’s Long Range and Performance Model 3 variants.

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After spending time in the rear-wheel drive model, we’d be surprised if you’d wish for anything more. It’ll swish to motorway speeds in no time, and it’s actually quite capable on country roads too, with a mix of good performance, keen steering responses, and a ride that isn’t too troubled by poor surfaces. Its steering is heavier than other BYD models we’ve driven so far, and you sit lower down, so it certainly feels like the most sporting car it has produced thus far.

The Excellence-AWD is certainly quicker but not necessarily better, thanks to a different suspension setup that results in a “pattering” feel over some surfaces, and steering that doesn’t feel quite as natural as the cheaper car, though if straight-line speed is your goal, you can probably put up with both of those complaints. We’d avoid Sport mode in either car, which makes the steering feel oddly over-assisted. Refinement though is more than competitive, with low levels of road and wind noise – and of course, the motor is nearly silent.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

BYD Seal Design

308bhp

5.9s

112mph

BYD Seal Excellence-AWD

523bhp

3.8s

112mph

Interior & comfort

“BYD continues to improve its quality, while tech is impressive if a little gimmicky”

The quality of Chinese cars might have been a joke as little as a decade ago, but the Seal is one of those models that makes you appreciate how quickly Chinese cars have developed. Even by BYD’s recent standards, it’s another step in the right direction, with widespread use of tactile materials, soft-touch surfaces, and of course, a notable focus on infotainment.

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Every Seal is quite lavish in its specification too, with kit including a long panoramic roof, quilted leather upholstery and a 12-speaker sound system from reputed manufacturer Dynaudio. The glass roof helps bathe the interior in light even in the British winter, double-glazed side windows help keep noise out of the cabin and the quality of materials feels good as you sit in the car and glide your fingers over its surfaces.

Infotainment and navigation

Step inside and the Seal’s dashboard has a clean, upmarket design, and is dominated by BYD’s now-expected 15.6-inch infotainment display – with the party trick/gimmick (you decide) of rotating between a landscape and a portrait layout. This and a 10.25-inch digital driver’s display look to be standard on all cars, but we’ll have access to the full trim structure and included kit from early 2024.Image removed.

That said, having spent enough time in the car on both the European and UK launches, we can say with some confidence that the speed at which the infotainment responds to finger prods and voice commands via “Hey BYD” is impressive. It’s not without its faults, however; that rotating screen doesn’t have any tangible benefit, and if you’re using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, then the heating controls disappear off the screen. That means you’ll have to navigate back to the home menu each time you want to change the temperature or fan speed – an issue we hope can be sorted with a software update in future.

Practicality & boot space

“Lack of a hatchback may limit practicality, but cabin and boot space are good”

The Seal isn’t short of space. The clever battery placement means BYD has been able to get away with a lower, racier roofline without squeezing headroom for six-footers in the back, and a relatively long wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) has been beneficial for legroom too. The Seal feels like a far larger car than the Tesla Model 3, and it even puts the Hyundai Ioniq 6 in the shade if you want to carry adults in the back. It’s not perfect, though – stretch out in the rear and you’ll find the low-mounted front seats mean there isn’t much space for your feet to go under them.

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The quiet and spacious cabin is a point in the Seal’s favour, which added to the car’s big battery and long range means you’ll rarely have to think hard about doing longer distances. If you do embark on a cross-country jaunt, those fast charging speeds should stand you in good stead.

Size comparison

Model 

Length

Width

Height

BYD Seal

4,800mm

1,875mm

1,460mm

Tesla Model 3

4,694mm

1,849mm

1,443mm

Hyundai Ioniq 6

4,855mm

1,880mm

1,495mm

Polestar 2

4,606mm

1,859mm

1,473mm

Boot space

The Seal is a traditional saloon rather than a large hatchback, which will ultimately compromise its practicality for some owners – but then its closest rivals, the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and Tesla Model 3, both use this format too. It goes without saying that any lack of boot access doesn’t appear to have harmed the Tesla’s sales figures. The Seal’s boot opening is similarly small to the Tesla, so the BMW i4’s hatchback wins here for UK buyers more used to a larger opening.

If the BYD’s 400 litres of boot space isn’t enough, there’s some underfloor storage, a ‘frunk’ under the bonnet for an extra 53 litres (more than enough space for stashing the car’s charging cables), and interior storage is generous too – the wireless charging pad, for instance, is big enough for a pair of phones to sit side by side.

Boot space comparison

Model 

Boot space

BYD Seal

400 litres

Tesla Model 3

425 litres (including frunk)

Hyundai Ioniq 6

401 litres

Polestar 2

405 litres

Reliability & safety

“BYD reliability is a relative unknown, but the Seal should be a safe car”

The Seal is brand new, and BYD’s presence in the UK isn’t much older, so we’ve not yet got a solid handle on either the Seal’s dependability or BYD’s reputation for sales, service and quality. As such we can’t yet vouch for the Seal’s reliability, beyond BYD being a well-established brand in its home market, one with millions of vehicles under its belt – plus the usual caveats that mechanically, electric cars are quite simple and relatively low-maintenance compared to their combustion counterparts.

Build quality also seems good, which is a positive sign, while BYD’s standard six-year warranty, and eight years of cover for the battery and motor, should allay any worries for the first few owners at least.

Safety

Safety is now less of an unknown, thanks to a five-star score from independent body Euro NCAP. This matches the BYD Atto 3 and Dolphins’s five-star ratings in recent Euro NCAP crash tests. The Seal received scores of 89% and 87% for adult and child occupant protection, along with an impressive 82% for vulnerable road users.

The latter was boosted by a system designed to warn occupants against opening a door when a cyclist is detected approaching the car from the rear.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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