Main rival of the Tesla Model 3, the BYD Seal (seal in English) has nothing to envy to the American reference in terms of presentation, equipment and comfort. Small details remain to be corrected, but European competition may tremble.
During our first static discovery of the BYD Seal, we were impressed by the flattering presentation and the neat finish of this 4-door family sedan. Without reaching the excellence of a BMW i4, the Chinese sedan competes without complex with the Tesla Model 3 whose manufacturing quality, although in progress, remains perfectible. The BYD Seal is more careful with the bodywork assemblies, the paintwork and the adjustment of the various parts of the interior furniture. The thick door seals and the presence of felt or anti-slip in the storage units testify to great attention to detail.
More opulent than a Tesla Model 3
A little longer than the American reference (4.80 against 4.75 m), the BYD Seal presents a classic style introduced by Wolfang Egger, the former head of design at Audi. From the basic version called Design, the Seal is based on beautiful 19-inch rims and benefits from a panoramic glass roof, dark-tinted rear windows and LED optics. Many cameras betray the presence of all the driving aids also standard on this entry level. Comfort equipment also abounds on board with heated and ventilated leatherette upholstery with electrical adjustments, laminated front glazing, induction telephone chargers and a 12 HP Dynaudio Hi-Fi system.
The central 15-inch screen is responsive and can swivel. It provides access to an efficient navigation system and allows you to find the main charging stations. Too bad there is no reminder of the directions in the instrumentation or even the head-up display (in the Excellence version) when changing menus. The Apple Carplay function is available, but requires connecting your phone by cable to the USB socket and requires a horizontal display. The ergonomics of the controls are quite obvious, but many reflections can disturb readability and the automatic day/night function lacks responsiveness. It should also be noted that if the start is done via a hands-free key, we were not able to test an application allowing you to pair your car with your smartphone as well as at Tesla. BYD has not, however, neglected the abounding storage space as well as the charging sockets.
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Nice bench seat, small trunk
The roominess is sufficient to travel with four or even five thanks to good rear legroom with a flat floor and generous headroom despite the car’s coupé profile. The bench seat is comfortable, but tall people will be bothered by the lack of height of the seat in relation to the floor, which imposes a curled up posture. The fault with the thick floor which integrates the famous batteries with blades known as Blade. The trunk benefits from an electric trunk and a double bottom, but hardly shines by its accessibility or its volume (400 liters). The modularity is limited to the folding of the backrests in 2/3 1/3. The Seal can however count on the presence of a second trunk at the front (Frunk) of 53 liters, very appreciable to fit its charging cables.
Mechanically, the BYD Seal is available with a single 313 hp engine located at the rear (propulsion) or two engines delivering a combined power of 530 hp to the four wheels (4×4). These permanent magnet synchronous units are powered by so-called “Blade” batteries of the LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) type with a generous capacity of 82.5 kWh. These accumulators offer the advantage of being devoid of cobalt (very expensive) and of not igniting when pierced. They also offer better durability and can be charged to 100% without degrading. On the other hand, they offer a lower energy density (and are therefore heavier) than NMC type accumulators (Nickel Manganese Cobalt). LFP batteries appreciate high charges in cold weather, which can sometimes limit energy recovery when going down a mountain pass, for example.
Freewheels, monitored driver
The BYD Seal can count on its many cameras to provide 360 degree vision and compensate for its poor rear vision penalized by the absence of a rear wiper. The relatively large turning circle (11.4 m) and the very limited regenerative braking (regardless of the mode adopted) do not bode well in the city either. The original sound of the turn signals and the pedestrian horn appear fun at first before quickly becoming tiresome.
But the BYD annoys above all by its intrusive driving aids which sound alarms in the event of the slightest speeding or approaching a center line. Even disconnected, these unbearable alerts restart at each start. A problem that we find all new Chinese cars. None of them has yet thought of putting a shortcut button that saves the driver’s configuration to prevent him from unchecking several menus each time he leaves.
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For lack of being the most comfortable in the urban jungle, the BYD Seal changes its face on the road where its comfort and balance work wonders. Even without the controlled suspensions (reserved for the 4×4 version), the shocks are well absorbed and the movements of the boxes contained despite a pachydermic weight (2055 kg). We were also pleasantly surprised by the excellent traction of this propulsion in the wet, proof that the traction control and anti-skid work wonderfully. The Continental tires also certainly have something to do with it.
The highly assisted steering offers an artificial feel at the midpoint (in Comfort and Sport mode) but proves to be quite precise at high speed and smooth in maneuvers. The brake pedal, also adjustable, shows enough progressiveness and biting. Enough to take advantage of the great acceleration and pick-up capacities of the Chinese sedan which displays 5.9 s on the 0-100 km / h, or 0.2 s better than a Tesla Model 3 Propulsion. The 530 hp 4×4 version claims 3.8 s against 3.3 s for a Tesla Model 3 Performance. The top speed is however limited to 180 km/h on both versions at the risk of frustrating autobahn enthusiasts.
On the fast lane, the BYD Seal stands out for its excellent soundproofing of aerodynamic whistling and rolling noise. Nothing surprising at the sight of the door seals and the assembly precision of the body panels. Once the annoying sound alerts are disconnected, the active cruise control and lane keep assist work well. The Dynaudio Hi-Fi set is also satisfactory, even if it seems less refined than the fantastic audio set that equips the Teslas.
Thanks to its tapered line, the BYD Seal also seemed rather sober to us since we recorded 16.7 kWh per hundred of mixed consumption and 18.4 kWh/100 on the fast track at a leisurely pace (between 90 and 120 km/h under the rain). By forcing the pace further on the road, we posted 22.5 kWh, which remains reasonable in view of the performance and weight of the vehicle. It is therefore perfectly possible to do 480 km in urban use and 350 km on the highway at 130 km/h and therefore consider long journeys.
Gentle but constant recharge
If the maximum direct current (DC) charging power is limited to 150 kW, the BYD Seal’s charging curve seems quite favorable since we recorded a peak of more than 80 kW at 70% battery. The manufacturer thus announces 37 mn for a load of 10-80% which remains in the good average. On alternating current (AC) the 11 kW on-board charger is also standard. Note that the Seal incorporates a heat pump as standard and can recharge outdoor electrical machines (V2L) up to 7 kW.
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Well placed, but not sold off
If the final prices of the BYD Seal were not yet available during our rainy test in Munich, the Chinese sedan must appear below the 47,000 € mark in the rear-wheel drive version to claim a bonus and fight against the Tesla Model 3 at very competitive rates. The Excellence 4×4 version should rather oscillate around €52,000, which places it a little more expensive than the American reference, the imminent restyling of which should not cause the very competitive prices to rise too much. The BYD can however highlight its more generous equipment, its more careful comfort and a 6-year warranty. The distribution network should also expand quickly and hopefully guarantee better after-sales service than the American brand.
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