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Nascent Chinese electric car brand expands UK offering with stylish, range-conscious new Tesla Model 3 rival

In its mission to overcome the might of the established brands in Europe, Chinese battery giant BYD is bolstering its presence here with arguably its most important EV to date: the BYD Seal.

While the BYD Atto 3 is designed to take on the likes of the Volkswagen ID 3, this electric saloon is ambitiously intended to rival the Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Ioniq 6 and BMW i4.

At 150kW, the Seal's rapid-charging capability is on a par with most VW Group rivals. It can't match the 200kW-plus charging systems in Hyundais and Teslas, however.

BYD is a huge company, employing some 600,000 people across six continents to produce not only cars but also batteries, solar panels, trains and buses. Roughly one in five mobile phones around the world has a BYD battery. And it manufactures almost everything in-house, including its cobalt-free, lithium-iron-phosphate Blade EV battery.

Blending hints of Porsche Taycan and Genesis GV60, the Seal is by far the best looking of the Euro-focused BYDs so far, to these eyes at least. The design leans into the maritime theme more than the BYD Dolphin hatchback, with a couple of fin and gill details, which are subtle enough.

The Seal sits on the same e-Platform 3.0 as the Atto 3 and Dolphin. However, it gets a bigger 82.5kWh battery pack and the single-motor version is rear-wheel drive, rather than front-wheel drive. It has 308bhp and should get 354 miles on a charge, while the dual-motor, four-wheel-drive version gets a very serious 523bhp. It should still be good for 323 miles, according to the WLTP test.

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A more affordable Comfort model with a smaller 61kWh will also join the Seal line-up in 2024.

byd seal review 2023 09 dash

As we’ve come to expect from BYD, the interior is more visually appealing than the minimalist and more austere Model 3.

On first inspection, the quality stacks up too, with plenty of soft-touch faux leather and a neat suede effect on the doors and dashboard. It feels more traditionally upmarket than the Tesla, although it doesn't quite have the classiness of the i4.

The rotating 15.6in touchscreen takes centre stage. While that may be a gimmick, the infotainment system is relatively responsive and easy to use – but as in the Atto 3, it’s not without its frustrations. There are far too many sub-menus, making it too hard to find certain functions. The heated seats, for example, are buried deep in the climate-control sub-menu and adjusting them on the move is awkward.

The centre screen is joined by a large digital driving display that features sharper graphics and greater scope for customisation than in the Atto 3 and Dolphin.

There are plenty of cubbyholes and storage pockets throughout the cabin. The sloping roofline means head room in the back is sufficient rather than abundant. Six-footers will find it harder to get comfortable and the middle seat is suitable only for kids.

byd seal review 2023 20 motor

BYD calls the Seal a “high-performance sports saloon”, and the raw performance certainly never leaves you wanting. The 523bhp version doesn’t accelerate with the whip-crack attitude of the Model 3 Performance or i4 M50, but sub-4.0sec jaunts to 60mph are still comical in an otherwise sensible saloon. The 308bhp version has more than enough poke, too, and its power delivery is more progressive, so it would be our choice.

byd seal review 2023 23 panning rear

Unlike the more expensive i4, the Seal comes only on passive suspension. Since the four-wheel-drive model is 130kg heavier, it gains an upgrade to frequency-selective dampers – a technology that’s becoming increasingly common. They’re passive dampers, but they’re supposedly firmer when cornering and softer when absorbing bumps.

Interesting though all that may be, it would mean little if the Seal couldn’t cope on our roads. But it can. It’s quiet and supple. It just about avoids the mid-speed pitching motion that dogs most of its Korean rivals (there’s a hint of it, but you have to go looking) and it’s impressively flat and quiet over coarse road surfaces. It equals the i4 – one of the few bigger EVs (aside from the premium-priced Porsche Taycan) that ride with true composure on practically any surface. The 2WD version, being that bit lighter, is marginally the better of the two for suppleness.

You can overlay all this with accurate and communicative steering, which we were able to investigate on a streaming wet handling track. There are adjustments to steering and brake feel built into both versions of the Seal, but those both work best in Normal mode. Sport for the brakes gives slightly too much attack; Sport for the steering adds an unwanted feeling of friction.

Happily, many of the warning bongs built into early models have been quelled and the ‘human’ voice that previously warned you about exceeding the speed limit has been muted. But you still have to kill the lane-departure stuff, several levels of it, every time you drive. I suppose this will soon become automatic, like putting on your seatbelt.

byd seal review 2023 01 tracing front

The RWD Seal will cost from £45,695 when it goes on sale later this year, making it £5000 more than the entry-level Model 3 RWD. Despite a 36-mile range advantage for the BYD, that makes for some challenging mathematics.

The dual-motor AWD Seal looks comparatively good value. At £48,695, it’s not much more expensive than the single-motor car and undercuts the dual-motor version of the Tesla. Then again, the Model 3 Long Range hits back with an impressive 390-mile range that the Seal can’t match.

Both versions of the Seal can rapid charge at up to 150kW, with a 10-80% charge taking 37 minutes, according to BYD.

Quoted energy efficiency stands at 3.7mpkWh for the single-motor and 3.4mpkWh for the dual-motor. We will verify those numbers when we get a Seal in for a full road test, but even on paper, they do look down on rivals', making the Seal a potentially more expensive and less simple prospect to run.


Could the Seal be the model that shifts Brits' buying intentions towards the east? Persuading Tesla and BMW owners to switch will be a tough hurdle to overcome. 

It has a very good chance, however, because it drives like a creditable car from a top-class European brand, in terms of braking, steering, ride quality and handling balance.

UK driving impressions by Steve Cropley

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips
Title: Staff Writer

Sam has been part of the Autocar team since 2021 and is often tasked with writing new car stories and more recently conducting first drive reviews.

Most of his time is spent leading sister-title Move Electric, which covers the entire spectrum of electric vehicles, from cars to boats – and even trucks. He is an expert in electric cars, new car news, microbility and classic cars. 

Sam graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2021 with a BA in Journalism. In his final year he produced an in-depth feature on the automotive industry’s transition to electric cars and interviewed a number of leading experts to assess our readiness for the impending ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.