New BYD Seal vs BMW i4 vs Tesla Model 3: practicality

BYD is a relative newcomer to the UK, so can its Seal executive saloon beat the established competition in the shape of the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3?...

BYD Seal rear seats

Space and practicality

Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

All three contenders have an abundance of front head and leg room, but the same can’t be said for those sitting in the back of the BMW i4. Despite having a fairly high roofline (for a four-door coupé), the elevated rear seating position (the rear bench is mounted higher than it is in an equivalent BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé) means that even passengers of average height will find their hair brushing on the roof lining. You can get around this by slouching down a little, but leg room isn’t great and a large central hump in the floor robs a middle-seat passenger of foot space.

The BYD Seal and Tesla Model 3 are much more accommodating for rear passengers. Both cars come with broad glass roofs as standard, helping them to feel airy in the back, plus head room is plentiful and middle-seat passengers benefit from a completely flat floor.

BMW i4 rear seats

However, we were disappointed with the proportions of the Seal’s rear bench; despite offering up the most leg room of the three, a lack of under-thigh support, combined with an oddly shaped seatback, makes long trips uncomfortable. So, if you’re going on a long journey, the Model 3 is the one you’d want to sit in the back of.

The Model 3 continues to pull out a lead when it comes to luggage capacity, because it has a bigger ‘frunk’ under the bonnet than the Seal, and a bigger rear boot. A single carry-on suitcase can fit in each car’s frunk, but the Model 3’s main boot can swallow one more than the Seal’s (eight versus seven).

Tesla Model 3 rear seats

The i4 doesn’t have a frunk, but it does benefit from a wider rear boot aperture than its rivals (due to it being a hatchback rather than a saloon) and a relatively broad load bay, allowing it to match the Seal’s tally of seven cases below its parcel shelf. The i4 is also the only one of our trio that allows you to fold its rear seatbacks down in a handy 40/20/40 split; the Seal and  Model 3 have to make do with a less practical 40/60 split, and neither features a ski hatch.

Unlike with the Genesis GV60 and Kia EV6, the handles to release the rear seatbacks of all three of our contenders are mounted inside the car rather than in the boot, so you can’t fold their seats without opening a rear door. That isn’t ideal if you’re carrying a wet pair of skis or a dirty ladder. However, all three cars do at least benefit from electric bootlids.

Boot space

BYD Seal

BYD Seal boot

Boot capacity 400 litres (rear), 55 litres (front) Suitcases 7 (rear), 1 (front)

BMW i4

BMW i4 boot

Boot capacity 470 litres Suitcases 7

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 boot

Boot capacity 594 litres (rear), 88 litres (front) Suitcases 8 (rear), 1 (front)

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