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In-depth reviews

BYD Seal U review – lots of kit, but vague to drive

“The BYD Seal U offers lots of tech and a nice cabin, but is let down by a mediocre driving experience”

Carbuyer Rating

3.9 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Price
£33,205 - £39,905

Pros

  • Lots of equipment
  • High-quality interior
  • Impressive electric range

Cons

  • Driving feel is vague
  • Not particularly comfortable
  • Petrol engine is loud at low speeds

Verdict – is the BYD Seal U a good car?

While a plug-in hybrid SUV may seem like a welcome addition to BYD’s lineup, the Seal U is far from perfect. The driving experience is vague, dissatisfying and not especially comfortable, so keen drivers ought to look elsewhere. However, it’s not all bad; it’s priced well considering its size, with a generous amount of kit and high material and build quality on the inside. If you’re nervous about buying from such a new brand to the UK, BYD also offers a very competitive warranty.

BYD Seal U models, specs and alternatives

The BYD Seal U is something of a departure for the Chinese car brand, being its first car launched in the UK without a fully-electric powertrain, following the BYD Atto 3, BYD Seal and BYD Dolphin EVs.

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Instead, the BYD Seal U is a plug-in hybrid petrol model, which – despite the similar name – is an SUV unrelated to the Seal saloon. The brand’s decision to introduce a car with a hybrid system likely comes in response to slower-than-expected demand for EVs, with petrol and hybrids still taking up the majority of the market share in the UK.

There are two versions of the BYD Seal U available from launch, with another mid-range Comfort model to arrive later. Contrary to what its name might suggest, the Boost specification gets a system output of 215bhp from a four-cylinder engine and single electric motor, while the range-topping Design model gets 319bhp courtesy of an extra electric motor. 

Each version gets a different battery size, too. Boost models come with an 18kWh battery which BYD says is capable of 50 miles to a charge, but a Comfort version is set to arrive later with a 78-mile range on electricity alone from a larger 27kWh battery, which is an impressive figure for a PHEV. The Design model gets the shortest range of the bunch, using the smaller of the two batteries and with an extra electric motor to power.

Trim levels

Power options

  • Boost
  • Comfort
  • Design
  • 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with single electric motor (215bhp)
  • 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with dual electric motors (319bhp)

MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions

“The BYD Seal U offers an impressive range for a PHEV, and should prove cheap to run”

Unlike the Chinese brand’s other UK models, the BYD Seal U is a plug-in hybrid, so it uses a combustion engine paired with one or two motors. PHEVs can be a great middle-ground for buyers that want lower running costs thanks to the ability to travel short distances on electric power, while also having the benefits of petrol power when you want to travel further afield.

The BYD Seal U will boast up to an impressive 78-mile range in Comfort trim thanks to a large 27kWh battery, when it arrives in Summer 2024. From launch, just the entry-level Boost and top-spec Design models will be available, both of which feature a smaller 18kWh battery that still provides a usable amount of range. Entry-level cars will be able to manage up to 50 miles of electric driving, while this drops to 43 miles in Design guise as a trade-off for the extra motor and performance this model comes with. 

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While the fact of the Seal U’s all-electric range equates to high mpg figures on paper, it’s worth noting that you must keep the battery regularly topped up if you’re to have any chance of coming close to this level of fuel efficiency, so bear this in mind. With 11kW AC charging speeds, the BYD Seal U models with the 18kWh battery will take around 35 minutes to charge from 30-60%, according to BYD. Full details on the Comfort model’s economy and charging figures are yet to be revealed.
 

Model 

Fuel economy

CO2 emissions

BYD Seal U Boost

314mpg

N/A

BYD Seal U Comfort

N/A

N/A

BYD Seal U Design

235mpg

N/A

How much will the BYD Seal U cost in tax?

Despite CO2 emissions data being thin on the ground for the BYD Seal U, we can expect these figures to be low, therefore putting it in a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax band for company-car buyers. The BYD Seal U also qualifies for the annual VED (Road Tax) for alternative fuel vehicles thanks to its status as a plug-in hybrid, though this just equates to a discount of £10 per year compared to conventional petrol or diesel cars.

What will the BYD Seal U cost to insure?

BYD is yet to release insurance groupings for the BYD Seal U, but for context, rivals such as the Kia Sportage PHEV or Toyota RAV4 sit in groups 24 or 28 out of 50, respectively.

Engines, drive & performance

“The BYD Seal U’s plug-in hybrid system is smooth, but it’s compromised on both driving feel and comfort”

The BYD Seal U engine lineup is fairly simple, but consists solely of plug-in hybrid systems based around a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit with either one front-mounted electric motor or two motors driving all four wheels.

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For the most part, the BYD Seal U is refined and quiet when running on electricity, but the petrol engine can be noisy if it needs to kick in at lower speeds around town. On the motorway, engine noise is much less noticeable, but that’s unfortunately because there’s a lot of road and wind noise generated by the large door mirrors and 19-inch wheels.

Although the BYD Seal U does come with a few different drive modes, we were hard-pressed to notice much of a difference from cycling through them. Sport mode makes the throttle a little more responsive, and you have to adjust the weighting of the steering via on-screen menus separately, while the suspension cannot be adjusted.

As a result, the Seal U feels more comfort-focused than anything, which is fine for an SUV in this market, but it feels easily upset over different surfaces and fails to inspire confidence in its driver as a result. There’s a disconnected feeling which is easy to live with on the motorway, but take it to a B-road and it feels unbalanced and produces a lot of body roll.

Plug-in hybrid models

The BYD Seal U’s plug-in hybrid system is quite complex, but in a nutshell, either the engine or electric motor can directly send power to the wheels, but the petrol engine acts as a generator to top up the battery most of the time. We think the Seal U feels very much like an EV to drive, and the transition between petrol and electric power is incredibly smooth.

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There are two options from launch – one of which uses just one electric motor in addition to the 1.5-litre engine, and another which uses two motors for added performance and traction. Despite what its high power figure might have you expect, the higher-spec Design model with the dual motors didn’t feel particularly fast during our drive. In fact, when we briefly tested the front-wheel drive single-motor variety we didn’t find it felt much different in terms of performance, despite BYD’s on-paper figures.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

BYD Seal U Boost

215bhp

8.9 seconds

106mph

BYD Seal U Design

319bhp

5.9 seconds

112mph

Interior & comfort

“The BYD Seal U’s cabin is a high point, with good material and build quality plus lots of kit as standard”

Despite the fact the BYD Seal U may fall behind in other areas, its strong tech offering and interior are particular plus points. We were genuinely impressed by the cabin’s build and material quality. Our model’s interior felt attractive with vegan faux leather on the seats and a panoramic roof.

Is the BYD Seal U’s infotainment and sat-nav system easy to use?

BYD’s large 15.6-inch rotating infotainment screen from the brand’s other models makes an appearance on the Seal U, and it works well. The screen is clear, and we found the myriad of cameras on the car useful in helping us to manoeuvre – the image was crisp when shown through the touchscreen and made it very user-friendly.

There aren’t really any trim levels for the BYD Seal U – the Boost, Comfort and Design models denote which power and battery option you go for, with equipment coming as part of the package, and pretty much identical on each

Key features

Boost

  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • Rotatable 15.6-inch BYD signature screen
  • 12.3-inch digital driver’s display
  • Electric tailgate
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Infinity sound system
  • Wireless smartphone charging
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility
  • 360-degree parking camera
  • Collision warning
  • Autonomous emergency braking system
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Rear collision warning
  • Lane change assist
  • Blind spot detection

Comfort

(Boost plus…)

  • TBC

Design

(Boost plus…)

  • Head-up display
 

Boot space, practicality & dimensions 

“The Seal U is practical enough for a small family and while interior space is good, it’s not class-leading”

The BYD Seal U is pretty spacious on the inside thanks to its long wheelbase and flat floor. Legroom is generous in the rear so it should be roomy enough for adults and children to travel in as passengers. 

Size comparison

Model 

Length

Width

Height

BYD Seal U

4,775mm

1,890mm

1,670mm

Toyota RAV4

4,620mm

1,855mm

1,690mm

Honda CR-V

4,706mm

1,866mm

1,684mm

Nissan Qashqai

4,425mm

1,835mm

1,625mm

Does the BYD Seal U have a big boot?

The BYD Seal U’s boot isn’t class-leading but should suit most small families as there’s enough space for a stroller and some bags. That’s behind many large rivals, though, while even smaller SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai boast more boot space.

Boot space comparison

Model 

Boot space

BYD Seal U

425 litres

Toyota RAV4 

500 litres

Honda CR-V

579 litres

Nissan Qashqai

504 litres

Reliability & safety

“The BYD Seal U’s reliability is a grey area, but a competitive warranty and top-notch safety is reassuring”

BYD doesn’t feature on our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey as it’s a relatively new brand in the UK. There’s little reliability data to go on, but BYD does make up for this with an enticing warranty. 

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BYD offers a warranty for up to six years or 93,750 miles, whichever comes first. That’s a very competitive warranty compared with the industry-standard three years, but not as impressive as Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty or even Toyota’s warranty that can last for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles so long as you have it serviced every year by a Toyota dealership.

How safe is the BYD Seal U?

The BYD Seal U has already been crash-tested by Euro NCAP and received the full five-star rating in 2023. It excels in every category, and its safety assistance tech is comprehensive. We could tell that the brand had tweaked some of these features – which include autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and more – to be easier to turn off and less intrusive than their applications in the other BYD models we’ve tested, too.

Should you buy a BYD Seal U?

The BYD Seal U is a welcome addition to the brand’s so-far all-electric lineup, but it’s not perfect. We think it should prove popular on account of its strong tech offering and well-built, high-quality cabin as well as its spacious rear seats.

The problem is that the Seal U is let down by the driving experience it offers. It feels disconnected and unsettled, with vague steering, and it doesn’t even boast a notably comfortable ride in spite of these compromises. We think that’s a shame given that the all-electric BYD Seal saloon is one of the best cars in its class to drive.

What is the best BYD Seal U for low running costs?

From launch, the BYD Seal U Boost model is the version to go for if you want lower running costs, because its electric range of up to 50 miles means you can go further without using any petrol at all, and it costs less to buy, too. However, the BYD Seal U Comfort is due to arrive later in 2024 with the promise of a maximum range figure of up to 78 miles, so it’s worth waiting if your priority is its electric range.

BYD Seal U alternatives

The BYD Seal U arrives in a market awash with SUVs of many shapes and sizes, and there are even many plug-in hybrid and hybrid SUVs to choose from for low running costs. The BYD U’s pricing means that while it’s larger than some of these models, it’s also in a similar price bracket, and costs less than other well-established names of the same size.

How we tested the BYD Seal U

We drove the BYD Seal U in both single-motor Boost and dual-motor Design guises in May 2024.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 DM-i Boost 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £33,205

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 DM-i Comfort 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £35,205

Fastest

  • Name
    1.5 DM-i Boost 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £33,205

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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