The BYD Seal is an enjoyable-to-drive, long range saloon that offers comfort and performance – plus a little more exclusivity than your average Tesla.
- Comfortable cruiser with plenty of range
- Flashy infotainment
- Not short on power
- Bulk of controls done via touchscreen
- Underwhelming brake regen
The Seal is the third EV from Chinese manufacturer BYD, alongside the Atto 3 SUV and more compact Dolphin crossover. Although it might be another new name to many, BYD has a long history of manufacturing and, most notably, the company knows a thing or two about battery production. That’s why the BYD looks very tempting, particularly in this premium, all-wheel-drive Excellence edition. It has lots of power, plenty of poise and a healthy range of up to 323 miles.
It’s being pitched against the likes of the Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Ioniq 6, Polestar 2 and BMW i4, all of which are good for different reasons. You can get a cheaper two-wheel drive Design edition, which shaves three grand off the Excellence model’s £48k price. If you feel reassured by lots of range and don’t need extra oomph or tech toys, it’s a great starting point.
I’ve had a week behind the wheel of the Excellence. It’s a spicy thing that looks the part, thanks to solid design lines that aren’t exactly unique, but do give the car a bit of personality. Adding to the appeal is a wonderfully comfortable interior, which makes the BYD Seal a serious contender alongside those rivals mentioned above.
Now that BYD seems to have settled (for the time being) on an aquatic theme for its cars, there’s no surprise to find something fishy in the lines of the Seal. The front end has some clever styling, with the headlights and daytime running lights looking especially impressive. Neat little contrasting trim nuances help break up the long sides behind the front wings. The rear of the car isn’t quite so interesting, but I still think it’s all pretty good to look at. The dark coloured alloys look quite tasty too.
Unlock the BYD Seal and the sturdy door handles pop out with a satisfying clunk, then retract again as you get on your way. My example featured super comfortable seats and, with plenty of room front and back, the BYD Seal is an easy car in which to clock up the miles. The sculpted headrests in the front are a definite bonus, and the whole feeling created is one of semi-premium cosiness. The view out is pretty good too, with plenty of glass providing a good degree of visibility. A panoramic glass roof raises the interior mood further.
Out back, the bootlid reveals a long-ish flat space under the back window, which is good enough for your shopping or a couple of suitcases and associated bits and bobs. However, it’s not huge. I might send you in the direction of the BYD Atto if you’ve got more things to cart around than most. Overall though, the general feel of the BYD Seal is one of roominess, enhanced by the comfort levels both in the front and the back even if those comfy seat coverings do feel slightly more synthetic than perhaps they should do.
Quite a lot of EVs don’t offer much in the way of an engaging drive, exacerbated by a ‘press and go’ powertrain. However, the BYD Seal is great fun when you’re behind the wheel. It offers a low-slung, grippy experience that’s on a similar level to the excellent MG4 in terms of engagement and entertainment.
The Excellence model has the added attraction of all-wheel-drive, which makes it feel even more self-assured on the road. Electric seat adjustment makes it easy to get nicely positioned, and the view out the front is very good. The bonnet drops away, allowing a comprehensive view of the road ahead.
It’s not bad out of the rear windscreen either, though I still found the reversing camera useful. Standard-style door mirrors take good care of your view down the sides, and the Excellence’s head-up display also worked to great effect. I found it handy for keeping tabs on speed, as 0-60mph arrives in just 3.8 seconds in the AWD car.
Powering up and selecting drive is all done from the centre console, with a funky little shifter that lets you select from the usual Eco, Normal or Sport options. There’s Snow too should you need it one day. To be honest, I found the Normal drive mode to be perfect every time I drove the car, with enough performance on tap removing the need to slip it into Sport. Of course, there is a lot of power lurking if you feel the need to use it, or just want to show off at the lights.
Despite feeling great through tight corners and no trouble to handle at the top end of the legal speed limit, the BYD Seal feels quite spongy when you’re pootling around town. No bad thing on our roads mind and, overall, I think the setup of the BYD Seal is well suited to British road surfaces. Again, it feels about right – much like the aforementioned MG4. There’s some regen to be had too, though it’s pretty understated in either setting and never really enough to put anything really noticeable back on that large battery.
If you stump up the extra cash for the BYD Seal Excellence there’s not a whole lot more tech that comes with it, save for the head up display, which looks and works well enough. Therefore, either model variant comes with a decent level of standard kit. The main party piece is the sizeable 15.6in central display, which can be rotated from landscape orientation to portrait and back again.
Press the icon at the bottom of the screen and it moves quietly and graciously from one angle to the other – a neat trick. I got good mileage from the wireless charging zones, especially on longer runs. It’s a real bonus not to have cables getting in the way of your drinks and other in-car stuff like snacks and sunglasses. The audio system seems fairly generic and isn’t bad or good, just average and suitable for average-type listeners.
Thankfully, grumbles about the tech are relatively minor and limited to the usual irritations like speed limit bongs and suchlike. The indicators didn’t always seem to tick either, while occasionally I got the feeling that there may be a few other bugs lurking within the software. The sat-nav looks good and is easy to use, but it’s not as smart as sticking with Google Maps to my mind.
Some controls are operated manually with buttons by the drive mode shifter but, be warned, the bulk of it has to be done via the huge touchscreen. That includes the majority of the climate controls along with heated seat and steering wheel options. It’ll prove tedious to some folks for sure.
BYD Seal verdict
The BYD Seal is a very impressive third offering from the company, with highlights including comfort, performance and range. While there’s plenty of competition from brands with a bigger profile, this car has lots going for it and stands out from those rivals. Driven carefully, it’ll also get you to a distant destination with ease and, most probably, all the way back again.
The big battery could prove expensive to run over time if you’re using roadside chargers, so a home charger is the logical solution. An overnight 20% to full charge took me around 11 hours. Aside from that, this is a very decent car with lots to like and not too much to grumble about. In fact, most of the criticisms are the same as those found in other EVs, so it’s certainly up there with the best of them.
An enjoyable-to-drive long-range saloon that offers comfort and performance plus a little more exclusivity compared to your average Tesla.
Comfortable cruiser with plenty of range
Not short on power
Bulk of controls done via touchscreen
Underwhelming brake regen
BYD Seal technical specifications
|Permanent magnet synchronous motor