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.

READ ALSO Fyshwick’s dedicated EV workshop is officially the envy of Australia

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.

READ ALSO It’s time to say goodbye to one of the last family wagons, with a 2000 km roadtrip

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.

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Andrew Heald3:08 pm 13 May 24

I trust this guy (Sam Evans, electric viking) more than the crackpots you are referring to. He’s an Aussie authority on Ev’s and responds directly to these claims (which, shock horror, are a complete manipulation of the truth). If you want some unbiased info on Ev’s, go to his channel. Here’s his story on it from a year ago.
https://youtu.be/B9Zu8NMOz2A?si=ZFFWhmB0nKzXiM98

Thanks for posting, Andrew. It’s a long’ish video (he repeats often), so people can cut to the 13 min mark for the key point.

He’s an EV evangelist

Craig Applegate12:10 pm 13 May 24

If Australia chooses to participate in a possible future Taiwan war, then petrol & diesel, which is now all imported, will be unavailable for civilian use & that includes for supermarket deliveries & farmers.

Craig Applegate7:28 am 13 May 24

We own a base model Seal & it is great. However, Its low aerodynamic makes it unsuitable for dirt roads. Australia should keep out of any possible future Taiwan war.

Craig Applegate8:20 am 13 May 24

Sorry, aerodynamic shape makes

Heywood Smith9:20 am 13 May 24

They weren’t designed for offroad use, neither are Teslas, MGs etc.. What makes you think they were?

@Heywood, @Craig said ‘dirt roads’ not offroad. Many modern cars have this aerodynamic problem where the back becomes very dusty, obscuring rear vision and making the reversing camera opaque!

Heywood Smith10:44 am 14 May 24

Why would this car not be capable of going on ‘dirt’ roads? IRT your comment about the reversing camera, how about using the old school technique of turning your head, you know, like back in the days when reversing cameras weren’t even a thing! Ones reliance on tech is getting stupid.

@Heywood – projection? Again you jumped to the wrong meaning of words. I said rear vision – you know the small mirror on the windscreen at the front that lets you check what is coming up behind you out of the (now very dusty) rear window? And I never said that I solely relied on modern technology (reversing camera) but it sure makes some things easier. And if you think that turning one’s neck is the only safe way to check behind then you really don’t understand the human system and the risks involved in twisting in the driver’s seat.

Any chance of getting someone not obsessed with luxury, speed and names to do a useful review?

I don’t trust any car made in China, life is to precious to put your trust in such a complex machine being made in China.

Heywood Smith9:20 am 13 May 24

You do know Teslas are made in Chine, dont you?

GrumpyGrandpa5:11 pm 12 May 24

From time to time we need to drive outside of the City, down highways and gravel roads.
Any car that doesn’t come with a spare wheel is a no-go for me.

I asked a Tesla salesman about the spare and he said the car came with a can of goo and failing that, there was 4 years of road service. Once again, probably OK in the City. Drive outside of the City and rip the sidewall of your tire, become stranded and possibly wait for hours for road service, I don’t think so.

That is not an issue related to EVs. Many cars now do not come with a spare tire – even my 2013 Nissan (petrol) came with a can of “goo”. Otherwise, if you plan going off-road, you wouldn’t buy this car nor the ICE equivalent (the Kia Stinger).

Heywood Smith9:22 am 13 May 24

Suggest you research “run flat’ tyres.. They have been around for ages!

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