Unveiled at the Munich Motor Show in September 2023, the BYD Seal U is arriving in the brand’s few French dealerships this spring. The Chinese SUV is the sixth model launched by BYD on the European market in a few months, after the Han, Tang, Atto 3, Dolphin and Seal. This model is not completely unknown, since it has already been sold in China since 2020 under the name Song Plus. The Seal U is therefore a major restyling with the aim of bringing it stylistically closer to the Seal sedan, which has just been marketed.
The Seal U therefore adopts the same look highlighted by a luminous hook, while its pointed snout is completely devoid of grille, electric oblige. Above the license plate, a small camera is inserted into the bumper, marked by false air inlets on each side. Silver skid plates and wheel arches framing 19-inch alloy wheels complete the range of the modern SUV. At the rear, the Seal U opts for a light strip connecting its lights, in the vein of many other modern vehicles. Certain styling elements such as the double sharp edge on the doors or the imposing wheel arches are reminiscent of several European and Chinese models. The explanation comes in particular from the fact that it was designed by Wolfgang Egger, a former Audi designer.
Seriousness and room on board
On board, the Seal U is more conventional than the compact SUV Atto 3. The more sober dashboard has lacquered black inserts, part of which can be illuminated, digital meters supported by a head-up display, and above all a large central screen rotary like all other BYD models. The panel, in portrait or landscape format depending on the mood of the moment, measures 15.6 inches on our Design test model or 12.6 inches on the entry-level Comfort. The whole is qualitative, with adjustments worthy of Europeans, whether at the level of the central console or the door panels which include topstitching and well-made “vegetable” leather. The console has a crystal-style gear selector like BMW or Volvo, while the few buttons are grouped around it: hazard lights, starting, stopping the air conditioning, adjusting driving modes or regenerative braking… The rest of the controls like the adjusting the air conditioning temperature (set strangely with freezing cold below 25°C) or driving aids goes through the central screen, which impacts overall ergonomics. Moreover, the menus are quite numerous but not really intuitive (in addition to a sometimes approximate French translation) and it is difficult to navigate between them to find the right setting.
As a Chinese car, the rear passengers are pampered with plenty of legroom thanks to the generous wheelbase (2.77 m) and comfortable backrests, even in the center. No transmission tunnel bothers the feet either. Headroom is also generous, even for tall people. The only small downside is a fairly average trunk volume compared to the size, since the Seal U announces 544 liters with the bench seat in place, while a Tesla Model Y of similar size has 854 liters in the rear and 117 liters in the “frunk” front, which the Chinese SUV does not have. Too bad, it’s still very practical for storing charging cables!
Driving performance not yet at the level of the European market
When starting up, the Seal U proves to be a good travel companion. The Chinese manufacturer has made great efforts on comfort, a very important element in the eyes of its local customers. We had already noticed this during our test of the little brother Atto 3 and the Dolphin city car, with appreciable operating silence (little air noise) and suspensions set soft, sometimes a bit too much. But the Seal U has the same flaws as the latter: very average traction of the front axle and steering that is too vague and too uninformative. Unlike the Seal sedan which has garnered much praise for its dynamism and its efficient 3.0 platform, the Seal U is a big step below, on the one hand because of its traction architecture and on the other hand by its more typical settings. comfort, to the detriment of driving dynamics.
In town, this isn’t too much of a problem. But as soon as we increase the pace, for example on the roads of the secondary network, the front axle of the SUV appears overwhelmed despite an overall normal torque for an electric vehicle with 330 Nm, certainly delivered instantly. This time, the tires are not the cause of the problem, since our test model was equipped with highly recommendable Michelin e-Primacy rubber. On the highway, the steering is too vague and requires the steering wheel to be refocused very regularly on a straight line, in addition to regular interventions from the lane keeping assist, which is a little too present. After a discussion with the BYD engineers in charge of the project, it seems that the model has in fact remained too close to Chinese standards, the Europeans being more demanding in terms of driving and dynamism. Moreover, it is not for nothing that BYD first launched its models on other markets before ending with the European market, the most “difficult”.
Did you say regenerative braking?
Another critical point: regeneration when braking. Two modes are available thanks to a small dial on the central console: “Standard” and “High” supposed to recover more energy. But when driving, the difference is completely imperceptible. The engineers present during our test mentioned a regeneration force of 0.004 to 0.008, an absolutely minimal difference. Worse, the regenerative braking seems stronger at high speed, where it is least needed, than in town where you are forced to brake entirely by foot, like a classic thermal car. No “one-pedal” mode is offered either. Fortunately, the accelerator and brake pedals are quite easy to adjust.
The other disappointment comes from the driving aids that are sometimes too intrusive: the overspeed alert imposed by Europe or the lane keeping assist are audible, and are reactivated each time you start. This therefore requires digging through the menus regularly in order to cut off the so-called assistance, which sometimes distracts more than anything else… Knowing that the “car” menu is not easily accessible if you are in navigation or on CarPlay, and the shutdown requires at least 5 operations in the submenus, it would be better to have a shortcut on the steering wheel or the central console.
A well-designed battery
As a good battery specialist for 30 years (BYD was a battery manufacturer before becoming a car manufacturer), the Chinese manufacturer has mastered the subject with a “Blade” battery installed directly in the chassis. The position of the cells in the structure takes up less space, and therefore improves performance and efficiency. Thus, the Seal U can carry a cell pack of 71.6 kWh in the entry-level Comfort version (up to 420 km of autonomy announced) or 87 kWh for “our” Design version displaying up to 500 km. The model is equipped as standard with a heat pump to better regulate the temperature on board without drawing too much on the battery. Our route did not allow us to completely drain the battery or recharge, but the variety of roads taken (city, small roads and highways) over nearly 170 km allowed us to verify that the on-board computer seemed rather reliable. The average consumption during our trip was 19.6 kWh, which would have allowed us approximately 444 km of range at the same rate.
Note that BYD will subsequently market a plug-in hybrid engine variant of this Seal U, although we thought we would only see electric models in the catalog. A way to diversify and reach another clientele, such as companies fond of this type of engine.
BYD is tackling the European market with a well-finished SUV, not unpleasant to look at, very widely equipped and average in terms of prices. Too bad its road behavior is still too far from European standards. The battle against the Tesla Model Y, the new world benchmark, is likely to be tough.
- Quality of finish
- Generous equipment level
We like less
- Driving behavior not up to par
- Medium trunk
- Almost non-existent regenerative braking
BYD Seal U data sheet
BYD Seal U Design
Version tested: €44,990 (German price)
From €41,990 (German price)
Average manufacturer consumption/during the test (kWh/100 km): 20.5 / 19.6
Manufacturer autonomy/during the test (km): 500 / 444
CO 2 (g/km)/bonus : 0 / 0
Fiscal power: nc
Country of manufacture: China
Warranty: 6 years or 150,000 km (car) / 8 years or 200,000 km (battery)
Electric, 218 hp, 71.8 kWh or 87 kWh battery
Motor: permanent magnet synchronous
Transmission: to the front wheels, 1 gear + reverse gear
Power (kW/hp): 160 / 218
Couple (Nm) : 330
Batterie : lithium-ion, lithium-fer-phosphate
Gross capacity (kWh): 87
AC 11 kW: 9h30 min
DC 140 kW: 43 min from 10 to 80%
Empty weight (kg): 2,147
Long.xlarg.xhaut. (m) : 4,79×1,89×1,67
Wheelbase (m): 2.77
Turning diameter (m): 11
Vitesse maxi (km/h) : 175
0 to 100 km/h (s): 9.6
Standard tires: Michelin e-Primacy
Front-rear test tires: 235/50 R19
5-person / 2-person trunk (l): 552 / 1,440
- Tesla Model Y, 275 hp*, from €42,990
- Skoda Enyaq, 285 hp, from €53,500
- Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD, 269 hp, from €52,990
*: estimate since Tesla does not communicate exact figures for the engine power and battery capacity of its models.
Photos : DR.
Also read on Auto-Moto.com:
BYD Atto 3 test: conquering the West
BYD Dolphin test: what is this Chinese electric rival to the Renault Mégane E-Tech worth?
Tesla Model Y Propulsion test (2023): what is the cheapest version worth?
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To sum up
BYD continues its European offensive with a sixth model marketed on the Old Continent: the Seal U. This Chinese electric SUV derived from the Seal sedan is particularly aimed at the Tesla Model Y, with a similar size and careful manufacturing quality. First test gallop.
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