Byd seal

15 min read

Chinese challenger goes for the Tesla Model 3 with an ambitious new saloon

PHOTOGRAPHY JACK HARRISON

MODEL TESTEDDESIGN

Price £45,695 Power 308bhp Torque 265lb ft 0-60mph 5.8sec 30-70mph 4.7sec Economy 3.4mpkWh Max DC charging speed 135kW 70-0mph 51.4m

I t’s full steam ahead for BYD’s European expansion. You might expect it to start by dipping a toe in the water with a single model, but less than a year after the launch of the Atto 3 crossover, it is now introducing its third car to the UK market.

BYD is not just throwing new models at the European market – it has also committed to local production with a factory in Hungary. It is the first Chinese manufacturer to do so since MG closed the Longbridge plant.

The Hungarian factory is still a few years away, but here today is the Seal. Mock the cutesy name all you like, but this is a very serious car.

The Atto 3 and the Dolphin are aimed at slightly lower segments, being a front-wheel-drive crossover and a hatchback. Neither really does anything to worry the class leaders, but the Dolphin just about makes sense on price.

The Seal, however, ups BYD’s game with rear-wheel drive, a big battery, a handsome, aerodynamic body and big power.

At first glance, the Seal looks like a credible Tesla Model 3 rival, so we have put a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive version through the full road test to see how serious that threat is.

DESIGN AND ENGINEERING AAAAC

BYD’s design studio has been led since 2016 by German design veteran Wolfgang Egger (formerly of Audi and Alfa Romeo), giving the modern BYD range a cohesive, if somewhat bland, design language.

The smooth and aerodynamic (BYD claims a drag coefficient of 0.22) saloon body takes more than a few cues from the Model 3, but the slightly more elaborate details mean it just about manages to be its own thing. For those details, the Seal leans into its marine name more than previous BYDs. Look closely and you’ll spot some ‘gills’ behind the front wheels and at the end of the sill, as well as some ‘scales’ on the C-pillar.

BYD’s dedicated EV architecture, the e-Platform 3.0, also underpins the Atto 3 and Dolphin, but for the Seal the main drive motor moves to the rear. At the centre is what BYD calls the Blade Battery. Unlike almost every other EV maker, BYD designs and produces its own batteries. Rather than the more common nickel-manganese-cobalt chemistry, it uses lithium iron phosphate (LFP), which contains fewer rare earth materials,

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