BYD Seal U review

Category: Family SUV

The Seal U is an impressive new plug-in hybrid SUV expected to cost less than many rivals

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  • BYD Seal U interior front seats
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  • BYD Seal U infotainment touchscreen
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  • BYD Seal U panoramic roof
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  • BYD Seal U interior detail
  • BYD Seal U interior detail
  • BYD Seal U front left driving
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  • BYD Seal U interior dashboard
  • BYD Seal U boot open
  • BYD Seal U interior driver display
  • BYD Seal U left driving
  • BYD Seal U front left driving
  • BYD Seal U front static
  • BYD Seal U front right static
  • BYD Seal U rear left static
  • BYD Seal U headlights detail
  • BYD Seal U alloy wheel detail
  • BYD Seal U kickplate detail
  • BYD Seal U rear lights detail
  • BYD Seal U rear badge detail
  • BYD Seal U interior front seats
  • BYD Seal U interior back seats
  • BYD Seal U infotainment touchscreen
  • BYD Seal U infotainment touchscreen vertical
  • BYD Seal U panoramic roof
  • BYD Seal U interior detail
  • BYD Seal U interior detail
  • BYD Seal U interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

Seals and petrol are not a great combination in the natural world, but when it comes to cars it can work – as the BYD Seal U DM-i shows.

Let’s explain. While the BYD Seal is an electric saloon rivalling the Tesla Model 3, the Seal U DM-i is a family SUV version available exclusively as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) in the UK. China and some European countries will get a fully electric Seal U, but no right-hand-drive models will be built.

It’s the first BYD product over here that's not fully electric, but the car maker has actually been building PHEVs since 2008.

There'll be three versions of the Seal U available in the UK – one of which offers a whopping electric-only range of up to 78 miles, which is among the longest of any plug-in hybrid on sale. To go with that impressive range, it promises lots of equipment and a very competitive price.

So, how does the BYD Seal U DM-i compare with rival PHEV SUVs, such as the Mazda MX-30 R-EV and Kia Sportage? Read on to find out...

Overview

A big range, good quality interior, lots of standard equipment and what we expect to be a competitive list price – the BYD Seal U DM-i has a lot going for it in the plug-in hybrid world.

  • Very long electric range for Comfort models
  • Price expected to undercut many rivals
  • Incredibly well equipped as standard
  • Unsettled ride
  • Light and vague steering
  • Most climate controls on touchscreen
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

There are three power choices when it comes to the BYD Seal U DM-i, starting with the Boost model – which despite the name is the slowest option available.

It has front-wheel drive and gets a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine along with an electric motor and an 18.3kWh battery. Its maximum power output is 214bhp, delivering a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds, and the official range when running on electricity alone is 50 miles.

Then there’s a Comfort model (arriving in the UK later in 2024), which gets the same setup but a bigger 26.6kWh battery offering a massive 78-mile range. It can officially go further on battery power than even the Range Rover Sport P400e – a car that costs more than twice the price of the Seal U.

Topping the line-up is the Design model. That gets an extra electric motor on the rear axle, making it four-wheel drive, plus a turbocharger for its engine. In all, power adds up to 319bhp for a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds. The Design gets the smaller of the two batteries so the electric-only range drops to 43 miles.

Just remember that in the real world the range in all versions of the Seal U – and indeed even the best plug-in hybrids and electric cars – will be much less than the official numbers state. Still, even the Design's range matches the maximum official figure for the PHEV Kia Sportage.

So far, we’ve driven the entry-level Boost model and the plug-in hybrid setup is impressive. The switch between electric power and petrol power is remarkably smooth, and only flat-out acceleration makes the engine noise a little coarse. It’s hushed in all other instances and only wakes up with a whisper every now and then when it’s needed to help your progress, or when the battery is depleted. The car is generally very quiet inside, save some wind noise at motorway speeds.

BYD SEAL U image
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Along with the regular Sport, Normal and Eco driving modes, there are also Hybrid and EV modes. EV forces the car to run on electric power if there’s enough juice in the battery, while Hybrid uses a mixture of electricity and petrol as and when it’s needed, with the car working out when to swap. You can also force the battery to keep a specified state of charge to use electric power later in a journey.

The Seal U's ride is a bit of a mixed bag. It has a very soft suspension set-up and glides around quite happily at low speeds around town. At faster speeds on undulating roads, there's a lot of float to the ride and it’s easily unsettled.

The reactive suspension is particularly upset by sharp road imperfections (expansion joints etc), with loud thuds and lots of body movements when you travel over them. None of that makes it properly uncomfortable, but other PHEVs – including the Mazda MX-30 R-EV – have better controlled rides.

The soft set-up also means it’s not particularly dynamic on a twisty road, with a lot of lean if you carry some pace around a corner. The incredibly light steering does little to provide a sense of connection to the front wheels. On the flip side, twirling the wheel for manoeuvres at low speeds around town is very easy.

Driving overview

Strengths Brilliant electric range; smooth hybrid system; impressive refinement

Weaknesses Soft but easily unsettled suspension; light and vague steering

BYD Seal U rear left driving

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

The relatively high driving position inside the Seal U DM-i offers a terrific view out of the front.

Even though the rear windscreen is a little shallow, the standard 360-degree surround cameras mean parking is an absolute doddle. They offer multiple views out from various positions around the car, and you can easily swipe through and manoeuvre around the different camera angles on the touchscreen. You also get a handy head-up display on every Seal U.

The only real complaint with the driving position is the fact that the climate controls are on the infotainment touchscreen. While there are a couple of buttons down on the centre console for certain climate functions, adjusting the fan speed or temperature requires pokes and prods on the screen, which can be distracting while driving.

At least it’s a big screen with easy-to-see icons. As with the BYD Seal you get a 15.6in touchscreen which swivels 90 degrees when you press a button, so you can choose whether to portrait or landscape orientation. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring comes as standard but strangely only runs in landscape mode.

The infotainment system itself is reasonably responsive, but does have a lot of menus and submenus, which can make adjusting particular features of the car (like the battery management) a rather lengthy process.

The quality of the materials would not have you immediately assume this is a plug-in hybrid at the budget end of the class. There are soft-touch finishes where you’d want them, the plastics that are used feel solid and the general ambience is certainly on a par with the equally budget-focused yet impressive MG HS plug-in hybrid. A Mazda MX-30 R-EV is a cut above in terms of build quality, though.

Interior overview

Strengths Good materials and build quality, fantastic camera features

Weaknesses Most climate control functions are on the touchscreen

BYD Seal U interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

The BYD Seal U DM-i's front seats are very accommodating even if you’re particularly long-legged, and the wide interior will mean you certainly won’t be rubbing shoulders with the front passenger.

Storage is impressive too, with a cavernous cubby under the central armrest, another generous compartment underneath the centre console and good-sized door bins for drinks bottles.

The distance between the front and rear wheels is actually shorter than it is in the BYD Seal electric saloon – which therefore suggests interior space is ultimately less. But don’t let that put you off, because space in the back of the Seal U is still very good for tall adults.

Head room is a little less impressive, but you’d still have to be well over 6ft to have your head brushing the roof lining. What’s more, you can adjust the angle of the backrests in the rear, with a number of different positions to choose from to fine-tune a comfortable sitting position.

The flat floor means fitting three in the back is an easy job as well. In terms of practicality, the Seal U is leaps ahead of the cramped Mazda MX-30 R-EV, and is also more spacious than an MG HS.

The Seal U's 425-litre boot comes as standard with a height-adjustable boot floor – but don’t get too excited. The difference between the highest setting and the lowest setting is a matter of millimetres.

In its highest position, there’s no loading lip and with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats down the floor lies flush with them also. The boxy, simple storage space offers a storage cubby on one side at the front but it’s a shame that there isn’t much in the way of underfloor storage, even with the floor in its highest position.

The boot isn’t a match for the more practical Kia Sportage PHEV, but it’s still a practical space that can cope with a massive shop or a family holiday, offering greater storage than a MX-30 or Kia Niro PHEV.

Practicality overview

Strengths Angle of rear backrests can be adjusted; flat floor in the rear; good leg room

Weaknesses Some plug-in hybrids have bigger boots

BYD Seal U boot open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Seal U DM-i's pricing hasn’t been officially confirmed, but we expect it to be very competitively priced indeed. It’s highly likely it will undercut a whole host of plug-in hybrid rivals including the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage while also offering a longer electric range than most.

Company car drivers should especially take note of the Comfort model, because the excellent electric range and low CO2 emissions mean it’s likely to sit in the 5% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bracket, which is well below all of its immediate rivals including the MG HS (12%).

While the list price might still be a little more expensive than the Mazda MX-30 R-EV and MG HS, the level of standard equipment you get with the Seal U DM-i is fantastic.

There’s no difference in spec between the trims available, which means even the cheapest version of the car comes with heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise control with steering assistance and a head-up display.

You also get V2L as standard, so you can use an adaptor to turn the car into a power source to charge up a laptop or boil a kettle if you’re out camping.

The Seal U has lots of safety equipment, helping it secure the maximum five-star rating from safety experts Euro NCAP. You also get a competitive six-year or 93,750-mile warranty with all versions.

When it comes to charging up, the Seal U can accept a maximum charging speed of 18kW. That’s not particularly quick, but rapid charging speeds are not common among PHEVs. At its maximum speed, a 30-80% top up takes 30 minutes, or 55 minutes if you’ve got the bigger battery in the Comfort model. From an 11kW home wallbox you can expect a 15-100% charge in two hours.

Costs overview

Strengths Competitive list price is expected; low benefit-in-kind tax bracket; five-star safety rating

Weaknesses Full official pricing is yet to be confirmed


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BYD Seal U interior driver display

FAQs

  • The BYD Seal is an electric saloon that rivals the Tesla Model 3. The BYD Seal U is an SUV version of that car, which in the UK is only available as a plug-in hybrid badged as the Seal U DM-i.

  • No – the Seal U is an SUV that comes with five seats as standard. If you need more seating, see our best seven-seaters page.

  • It depends which model you go for. Boost models get a 50-mile electric-only range, Design has a 43-mile range, while Comfort offers a massive 78-mile range. When the PHEV battery has run out of charge, you'll be able to drive for several hundred miles using the petrol engine.

At a glance
New car deals
Target Price from £33,205
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RRP price range £33,205 - £39,905
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev
MPG range across all versions 256.8 - 313.9
Available doors options 5
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £464 / £558
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £928 / £1,116
Available colours