16 May 2024

The new BYD Seal might just be the best car to come out of China yet (pity about the names)

| James Coleman
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The Performance model gets 19-inch wheels, up on the 18-inch wheels on the Dynamic and Premium models. Photo: James Coleman.

Two years ago, if you told a colleague you’d bought a BYD, you’d get a “Wat, mate?”At this point, you wouldn’t press it because sooner or later, the conversation would come back to the fact that BYD stands for ‘Build Your Dreams’, and you would be jeered out of the postcode.

But it’s no laughing matter now because BYD is top of the charts. Well, almost.

In fact, between January and March this year, BYD models occupied third and fourth place on the list of best-selling EVs in Australia, just behind the Tesla Model Y and Model 3.

The local distributor, EVDirect, isn’t done yet. It wants to make history and make BYD Australia’s best-selling car brand – full-stop – by the end of the decade. And yes, that means beating Toyota, which has held the title since 2003.

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Up to now, the Atto 3 SUV has been leading the charge, but EVDirect expects the latest offering to take over. And it’s easy to see why.

The new Seal looks absolutely stunning. It is very Porsche-like, with its low front and teardrop side profile. This is not surprising, really, given it’s the work of BYD global design director Wolfgang Egger, who has also penned wares for Alfa Romeo (think 8C), Audi and Lamborghini.

It gets even better inside.

The Atto 3 SUV might have given us guitar strings in the door pockets and the Dolphin hatchback door handles inspired by the fins of a – you’ll never guess – dolphin, but the Seal quits playing around and instead takes a leaf straight out of the Aston Martin book.

There are light-blue quilted leather seats and matching suede across the door cards and dash, a crystalline gear lever, and a big glass roof overhead (which provides endless entertainment for kids in the back seats). It’s among the best interiors I’ve ever sat in.

However, you are left with a boot about the size of a lunchbox. I discovered you can wedge a pram in there, but not much else.

Almost every EV I’ve driven up to this point has been a crossover or SUV, so it’s refreshing to be back behind the wheel of something closer to the ground and less tossed around by centrifugal forces, even if the seating position also feels weirdly high.

car in rural car park

The BYD Seal is expected to become the brand’s best-seller, even above the Atto 3. Photo: James Coleman.

The Seal is still heavy and probably has limits somewhere within the realms of Mach 1, but a blast along the Cotter Road proves it enormously capable, almost unnaturally nimble, and freakily quick.

It has a regenerative braking system with ‘Standard’ and ‘High’ settings. It can be hard to feel it working in Standard and it’s far from a one-pedal experience in High, but I liked this – the result felt natural.

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I also had the steering set to ‘Sport’ most of the time, which gives it more weight than ‘Comfort’.

But there are a few niggles.

The speed limit sign and lane-keep assistance systems don’t bash you over the head like those in a Hyundai, but the beeps are still annoying. And the enormous 10.25-inch touchscreen works well enough, but some functions should be easier to find.

I also don’t know why, but the air conditioning never seemed to be working — 22 degrees still felt Arctic when it was 12 outside.

We also have to address the elephant in the room, by which I mean the name: Seal. This car is legitimately named after the smelliest animal on earth.

But you’re inclined to overlook all this when you get to the price – that, and the thud the door’s make that’s satisfying enough to have the Germans worried.

Looking a bit evil in black. Photo: James Coleman.

Most buyers will choose the mid-spec $58,798 Premium model, which takes the bigger battery from the Performance and combines it with the single electric motor from the $49,888 Dynamic to give it the most range of the three – 570 km.

My Performance, with its two electric motors and all-wheel drive, offers a range of 520 km and a very addictive 0-100 km/h time of 3.8 seconds for $68,748 (plus CTP costs in the ACT).

This means the base Seal beats the base Tesla Model 3 by $12,012 and the top-spec Seal is only $1K more than equivalent Tesla. I know which one I’d rather have, even if I have to explain what it is all the time.

2024 BYD Seal Performance AWD

  • $68,748
  • Two electric motors, 82.6 kWh battery, 390 kW / 670 Nm
  • All-wheel drive (AWD)
  • 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds
  • 520 km estimated range
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

This car was provided for testing by BYD Canberra, Belconnen. Region has no commercial arrangement with BYD Canberra.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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