BYD takes on Western rivals with a 'Seal' team

BERLIN: BYD is the largest electric car manufacturer in the world and is taking an aggressive approach when it comes to trying to conquer the European market.

That's why hardly a quarter goes by in which the Chinese car maker doesn't launch a new model. Now the company is aiming to land a double blow with two new electric cars.

The Seal saloon got an international launch in late 2023, rivalling competitors such as the Tesla Model 3 and the VW ID.7. Now it’s got an SUV brother, the Seal U, which has the the Model Y and the ID.4 in its sights. The Seal starts at €44,990 (RM231,000) in Europe, while and the Seal U costs upwards of €41,990 (RM216,000).

Both cars follow the same no-frills, streamlined design that former Audi stylist Wolfgang Egger created. The interiors have fine materials, including imitation crystal glass on the gear selector.

There’s also a playful infotainment system typical of Chinese cars - a rotating XXL tablet, a selfie camera and even a karaoke app. Lots of tech is great, but it's a bit tedious when even adjusting the mirror or steering wheel settings has to be done using the touchscreen.

Seal sedan.
Seal sedan.
Plenty of space inside

The car’s occupants should feel extremely comfortable as there’s plenty of space in the first and second rows. Despite the batteries in the floor, the seating position is lower and therefore feels more natural than in most other electric cars.

The choice of materials is at least as elegant as in the BMW i4. Tesla's Model 3, on the other hand, appears spartan in comparison and the new VW ID.7 can't match the Seal either.

The 4.80-metre-long Seal was developed solely as an electric car and stands on a flat skateboard platform with a 2.92 metre wheelbase. It has plenty of space inside and also has a frunk for extra storage.

In contrast, the Seal U uses architecture from the combustion engine world. Although it’s also almost 4.80-metres-long, it provides a little less knee room for the backbenchers.

On the other hand, there is more head-room and the luggage compartment is impressively large. Whereas the Seal holds only 400 litres, the Seal U can take 552 to 1,440.

Seal U.
Seal U.
Driver's car or family transporter

The Seal U is a little less firmly tuned than the Seal saloon and not quite as closely connected to the road. That makes it noticeably more relaxed to drive and more of a family car.

If the Seal is a sporty electric car, the Seal U aims to be a quiet touring model and that difference can be seen the cars’ spec sheets.

For the sedan, the Chinese have installed a 230 kW/313 hp motor in the rear of the basic model and in the top model there is another 160 kW/218 hp motor on the front axle.

With a total system output of 390 kW/530 hp, that means the car can sprint from 0 to 100kph in 3.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 180kph.

2024-02-15 00_58_39-dpa news _ Photos ( Release 2.17.7 ) - Brave

The Seal U, on the other hand, initially only comes with one engine variant with an almost modest 160 kW/218 hp. It takes at best 9.3 seconds to reach 100kph and the top speed is 175kph.

The so-called Blade Batteries onboard both vehicles are flatter and weigh less than usual cells. They should, BYD claims, be safer while also contributing to the rigidity of the car.

In the saloon, the battery has a capacity of around 83 kWh and should last for up to 570 standard kilometres. BYD offers either a 72 or 87 kWh battery for the SUV and promises 420 or 500 kilometres.

Whether it's the saloon or the SUV, both cars look good, are up to date on the inside, drive confidently and are competitively priced.

And the model range doesn't end with electric drives either. With the electrical euphoria in Europe now noticeably cooling, BYD will soon be offering the Seal U as a plug-in hybrid too.
Autos BYD