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CAR OF THE WEEK: BYD Seal is hunting for lunch

May 10th, 2024 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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BY BRIAN BYRNE

THIS is the kind of car that legacy European carmakers are terrified of. If any are not, they should be.

Because the BYD Seal shows just how China is working to come and eat their lunch.

It’s no secret that Chinese electric carmakers are eyeing a big share of the EV business in the wealthy EU marketplace.

Not just because there’s a big overcapacity in Chinese car production, but also because they have a head start in the electric car industry thanks to a heavy and single-minded subsidy investment from the Chinese state over the last decade.

Of the dozens of EV brands building and selling in China, BYD is the dominant player.

Founded 28 years ago by the son of a poor farming family, it’s a battery maker that moved into building the kind of cars it was selling batteries for.

Now BYD accounts for 37% of car sales in China.

The company owns its own technology, makes its own batteries and semiconductors, and even its seat coverings.

And, while the Atto 3 SUV EV which debuted in Ireland last year has a few odd Asian style details, the Seal that arrived more recently is svelte, streamlined, and sexy.

It’s slap in the middle of the D segment pitch where Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have significant players.

It’s likely that the discussions amongst those other teams are wondering how in hell they’re going to compete with an incomer that has the pizzaz of a concept car but is actually a real road runner.

Inside the Seal the level of style and perceived quality is just as high as from the external view.

Soft-touch materials include suede-type finishes to the under-dash and door trims.

The seats are cosseting; switchgear where it exists feels solid. The review car’s full-length smoked glass roof added extra airiness. The whole occupant sense was feeling good.

The one jarring note was the design of the infotainment and driver instrumentation screens, the former over-large and both with sharp corners that took from the overall ‘huggy’ feel of the interior.

 

And though the graphics were large and colourful, the usual reliance on the screens instead of switches was annoying.

As too was the fact that the indicator and lighting stalks are reversed compared to the norm in Europe.

That meant my wipers coming on a lot when I was trying to indicate direction, until I got used to it.

But all of those are things that won’t take the Chinese long to sort when they get seriously down to marketing in Europe.

And BYD is already looking at building a factory in Europe, which is as strong an expression of intent as you’ll get.

There are all the usual driving ‘assist’ technologies, and as usual it takes a bit of menu-hunting to turn off the noises associated with them, something that needs to be done every time the car is restarted.

 

The electric drivetrain comes with a range fully charged that suggests 525km.

My commute consumption of 17.8kWh/100km got me quite close to that, so as rated ranges go it seems fairly accurate.

It’s a dual motor AWD drivetrain, with 530hp and a 0-100km/h ability of less than four seconds, so the Seal is no slouch by any standards.

Driving good. Feeling good. Looking good. There’s not much more that most owners will need to know about the Seal before they tap their debit cards on the salesman’s terminal.

Except how much? Which is less than they’d epect, I’ll bet.

Hide your lunchboxes, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Oh, did I mention that the Seal was designed by a team led by Wolfgang Egger, a former Audi design boss? He knows where the lunchboxes are.

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