The BYD Seal hits the ground running and offers real competition to the big gun EV brands on the market.
BYD has come a long way, and it is clear to see from the cars it offers. The Seal is the Chinese firm’s latest creation to make it onto our shores. It comes hotly after the extremely successful Atto 3 SUV and the adorable Dolphin hatchback.
Now, we get a sports saloon that might not prove the biggest seller of the trio, but which adds more glamour and versatility to the BYD range. I got the keys to the Performance dual-motor monster for a few days, and I really, really adore it.
While “Seal” might evoke images of aquatic charm, this sedan is anything but cute. It’s a paradigm of sleek and stylish executive prowess, injecting much-needed allure into BYD’s lineup. It’s a silhouette that echoes the whispers of the Tesla Model 3 but with a distinctive flair that’s uniquely Seal.
As you lay eyes on the Seal, its four-door coupe shape is pinched at the front, crafting a sharp and striking face. BYD ingeniously incorporated an ‘X-shaped’ front end; highlighted by searing-shaped headlights and daytime running lights, forming an aesthetic ‘X’ when viewed head-on. A trait that distinguishes itself amidst the sea of conventional EVs.
Venturing to the sides, a characteristic shoulder line takes centre stage, starting from the front and gracefully connecting to dot-matrix taillights that span the entire width of the car. Along the way, this line accentuates the wide rear arches, culminating in a sculpted body that’s as much a work of art as it is car.
Even the doors of the Seal are a testament to design ingenuity. Far from being simple flat pieces of stamped metal, they boast an accent line just below the door handles, working in harmony with the crease on the lower part. The result? A car that looks like it’s in perpetual motion, even when parked.
Steping into the sanctum of the BYD Seal, its interior is a tale of two halves – a saga of technological sophistication interwoven with tactile opulence. The quality exudes strength, a harmonious blend of leather, suede, and ambient lighting setting an ambience that’s premium. The crystal-effect gear selector emerges as a standout feature, adding a touch of elegance to the Seal’s cockpit.
The absence of paddle shifters means brake regen settings are tucked away in the touchscreen. The touchscreen itself, while gosh darn huge and a technological marvel, takes some acclimatisation to get used to. Rotating it through 90 degrees is a neat trick, catering to diverse preferences, but its 15.6-inch size demands a bit more attention than desired when on the move.
The auto lights too are a little finicky – as they flicker on through tunnels or dense foliage, the touchscreen’s dimming feature does become a little annoying after a while.
Instead of one, you get two wireless charging trays for multiple devices. However, any slight shift of the phones due to acceleration or cornering triggers a ‘charging active’ alert that, unfortunately again, dims the touchscreen.
For you Android boys and girls, Android Auto comes wireless as standard. Apple fans would have to stick to a cabled connection for now; not really an issue though, as the USB faces a convenient cubby space for storing your phone or other valuables.
In terms of spatial dynamics, the Seal plays its cards well. The back seat offers generous room for fully grown occupants, despite a slightly elevated floor. A glass sunroof enhances the overall ambience, and the boot space, with 400 litres in the back and an additional 53 in its frunk, ensures practicality aligns with indulgence.
The boot lid also opens low, which can greatly help the ingress of cargo.
the speed of silence.
To keep everything in check, the Seal boasts battery technology that not only lowers its centre of gravity but also achieves a ’50:50 golden axle load ratio.’ In layman’s terms, perfect weight distribution; a crucial factor given the AWD variant’s weighty figure of 2185kg.
Handling becomes an art form for the Seal, gracefully manoeuvring with light, reactive steering and predictable responses. Even without the assistance of a rear-wheel steer, it maintains a focus on comfort and safety. The engineering team emphasises safety as ‘the ultimate luxury’ in an EV, a philosophy that proves handy, especially when navigating torrential rain during my test drive.
The Seal’s surefootedness in wet conditions is commendable, showcasing a traction control system that keeps the power delivery clean and controlled. However, it refrains from delivering great thrills; it navigates corners capably but lacks the fervour that might enthral enthusiasts.
For the pragmatic car buyers it targets, this is perfectly acceptable. Enthusiasts seeking pure unadulterated adrenaline might need to explore alternate avenues.
But, that doesn’t mean the Seal’s party trick – its acceleration – is less than capable. Engage in an acceleration pull, and be prepared for a symphony of profanities from passengers as the Seal propels itself to naughty speeds. The performance, especially in the AWD variant, is undeniably punchy, and easily confirms the century sprint timing lettering pasted on the back of the car.
What it might lack in head-snapping acceleration, it compensates with a controlled and refined burst of speed. This is a welcomed characteristic, sparing occupants from the neck-snapping jolt that some rivals deliver.
The RWD variant, as tested in the Seal’s launch event, proves no slouch either, offering a spirited performance that might make it the preferred choice for those prioritising battery range. Its passive suspension mirrors the comfort of the AWD’s active setup, ensuring a smooth and refined ride.
In terms of refinement, the Seal exudes a library-esque atmosphere, with the only disruption being a low-speed tinkle. At speeds below a certain threshold, the Seal announces its presence with a growing, almost eerie warble or BYD’s distinctive tune. It isn’t the choice for a silent getaway, but at least it warns pedestrians you are wafting past.
As far as active safety on the road is concerned, the BYD Seal introduces a comprehensive suite of it. One might expect these systems to be seamless, but the Seal’s systems do get in the way of driving once in a while. Even after seemingly disabling lane-keep assist, an ’emergency’ lane-keep assist persists, making the disengagement process more cumbersome.
Regulations dictate that these safety features remain active by default upon each ignition start, a practice that can be irksome for those who prefer a more hands-on approach. It’s not an issue in isolation; rather, it adds to a handful of irritants that more seasoned rivals seem to have avoided.
Despite these minor qualms, some electronic helpers, when implemented well, prove invaluable. Features like parking sensors, reverse cameras and blind-spot monitoring have become essentials, and the Seal’s inclusion of these elements is a commendable step towards enhanced safety.
Charging is also a breeze, with the Seal being able to rapidly charge at up to 150kW with a suitable DC charger. Consumption is decent for what you typically get in a dual-motor EV; about 24kWh/100km, which equates to 4.1km/kWh.
a true head turner.
In the grand tapestry of EV saloons, the BYD Seal emerges as a solid contender. While it might not boast the charismatic charm to instantly win hearts, it certainly is able to turn heads everywhere you drive.
The Tesla Model 3 has asserted its dominance in the market since it was launched, flanked by well-priced alternatives such as the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and Polestar 2. The BMW i4 staunchly defends the realm of driving thrills. In this competitive arena, the stakes are high for the Seal. To carve a niche and truly stand out, competitive pricing can become the Seal’s ace.
Some cars you buy with your heart, and some cars you buy with your head. Owning the BYD Seal means you get to fulfil both, a calculated choice driven by practicality and performance.
BYD Seal Performance
Engine: Squirrel Cage Induction Asynchronous Motor & Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Power: 390 kW (523 bhp)
Torque: 670 Nm
Gearbox: Single-Speed (A)
0-100km/h: 3.8 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 180 km/h
Battery Capacity: 82.6 kWh
Drive Range: 520 km (claimed)
Energy Consumption: 5.5 km/kWh (claimed)
Price: S$257,888 with COE (accurate at the time of this article)
Contact: BYD Singapore
Photo Credits: Sean Loo (@auto.driven)