New Seal from BYD

BYD Seal, 2023, front
BYD Seal, 2023, front
BYD Seal, 2023, front
BYD Seal, 2023, side
BYD Seal, 2023, rear
BYD Seal, 2023, interior
BYD Seal, 2023, display screen
BYD Seal, 2023, charging
BYD Seal, 2023, boot

YOU may not know what the initials stand for. In fact, you could be forgiven for never having heard of the car brand BYD before.

But it could prove to be one of the most significant players in the electric car sector.

BYD - Build Your Dreams - is a Chinese marque established 28 years ago and now claims to be the world's leading maker of new energy vehicles. It is the only manufacturer to make all the core parts for its electric cars including batteries, electric motors and semi-conductors.

With more than 600,000 workers, 90,000 of them engineers, it clocked up 1.86 million sales in the first eight months of this year.

It has just introduced its third model, the flagship Seal, which follows the Atto 3 SUV in March and the Dolphin, a hatchback, in September.

The Seal, designed by ex Audi star Wolfgang Egger, is set to do battle with the Tesla Model 3, BMW i4 and Polestar 2.

With sleek looks and a distinctly European look the four door saloon boasts a range long enough to dispel the common anxiety that tends to limit EVs' appeal. There are two model variants available, the more powerful of which has a range of 323 miles, while the lower version can cover 350 miles.

It has an 11kw 3-phase on-board charger for AC charging as standard and can be fast charged with a maximum150kW. With this amount of power, the battery can be replenished from 30 per cent to 80 per cent in 26 minutes.

Prices start at £45,695 for the Design single motor rear wheel drive and the Excellence twin motor all wheel drive costs £48,695.

Both are quick saloons, the 525bhp Excellence being indecently so with a 0-62mph time of under four seconds, while the Design takes a couple of seconds longer.

Unlike Tesla or newcomer Genesis, BYD has adopted the traditional approach to sales by using a dealership network.

At the moment, there are 10 sites throughout UK and it's anticipated there will be 15 by the end of the year and 60 before the middle of next year.

The exterior's essence of styling and prestige with swooping roofline flowing lines and is continued inside the cabin where fit and finish compare well with Audi and BMW. Materials are high grade with plenty of suede, soft touch plastics and leather.

A huge 15-inch rotating touchscreen is home for most of the daily functions. It takes a bit of getting accustomed to but works well enough. The seats are superbly shaped and very comfortable and adjust electrically.

Legroom is about average for those in the front, but particularly generous in the rear. The rear boot holds 400 litres of luggage and there's space for a further 53 litres in a front compartment.

Some potential buyers will be disappointed that the rakish bodystyle hasn't got the added practicality of a hatchback, even though its shape suggests it could have an opening tailgate. However, on its home market in China most buyers favour traditional notchback sedans.

We first drove the rear drive 310bhp Seal on rain-soaked Cumbrian roads which challenged both adhesion and comfort. Despite the atrocious weather conditions, the Seal hung gallantly on through the bends and rode better than most family sports saloons.

Particularly impressive were the well damped ride and vertical control of the suspension set up. Most potential buyers will be more than happy with the level of power from the single motor, rear drive model.

Step into the Excellence and the extra urge is easily noticeable. Pick-up is instantaneous - as with most EVs - and the flow of power continuous. The automatic gearbox is fluent and certainly good enough but a manual would be hugely satisfying for keen drivers. Top speed of both versions is limited at 112mph.

There's little noise other than from the road as the tyres bite into the Tarmac. Wind intrusion is slight thanks partly to the extra clean shape of Seal which boasts a cd factor of just 0.219.

BYD execs make the point that their Blade battery is extra safe and fire resistant and unusual in forming part of the structure of the car's body, aiding rigidity and making the most of interior space. All BYDs get a six year warranty and the batteries are safeguarded for eight years.

It may well be BYD's dream to beat Tesla at its own game. It's a dream that may turn into a reality.

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