Publication date: 29 January 2024
BYD Seal U

BYD Seal U

Dreamer or conqueror?

Review - BYD wants to conquer the world. Or rather:"Build Your Dreams" has already conquered quite a bit of the world, as it delivered more electric cars than any other car brand in 2023. To conquer the European market asl well, BYD wants to be able to offer a model in every segment of the market. That is why BYD is now introducing a mid-size SUV: the Seal U.

The Seal U has an unusual history. In China, BYD offers a mid-size SUV named "Song". That model has more classic lines aimed at the Chinese market. When the Song was due for a facelift, its looks and technology were overhauled so thoroughly that it became a new model: the Seal U. It has BYD's so-called "Ocean Aestetics"-style with fresh, flowing lines inspired by the sea.

BYD Seal U


Thanks to its lines, the Seal U appears much smaller than it actually is. Those seated in the rear are pleasantly surprised with a huge amount of head and legroom, despite the relatively short wheelbase. In the front, the Seal U also offers plenty of head and legroom, although the headrests integrated in the seats are too low for tall drivers. The seating is higher than that in a standard passenger car, but not as high as in some SUVs in this segment. Keep in mind that the so beautifully styled rear end with a small rear window also makes for moderate rearward visibility.

BYD wants to distinguish itself by offering "premium quality for everyone" ("premium accesible" in marketing terms). The build quality is therefore good, showing that although BYD is new in Europe, it has already accumulated many years of experience in China. In addition, the equipment is rich compared to the price. What is optional with established premium brands is all standard in the Seal U. The style is that of a computer on wheels, not a car with electronics.

BYD Seal U
BYD Seal U

Most functions are controlled via the central display, which tilts at the push of a button. Navigating is more pleasant with a portrait display, as the route in front of the car is then more clearly in view. For operating the infotainment system, however, the landscape position is nicer. Quite handy then, this rotating screen!

The controls are generally logical, but there are some areas for improvement. According to BYD, the number of warnings has already been reduced considerably, but still the Seal U is perceived as extremely meddlesome and belittling. Because it is mandatory from 2024, the Seal U punishes any carelessness on the part of the driver. And as with other brands, the camera also reads signs for exits and parallel roads, often causing unjustified warnings. Moreover, BYD does not limit itself to a buzzer, the car also talks and that is even more annoying ("you are over the speed limit"). Switching off can only be done in steps, which requires scrolling through many menus and submenus.

BYD Seal U

For the audio system, BYD worked with specialist Infiniti. In terms of clarity or dynamics, the sound is nothing special, yet its character should be described as "pleasant". This is because the system does not try to sound more spectacular or brighter than it is, and that honest sound is pleasing.

Electric car

BYD does not call itself a car manufacturer, but rather a tech company that also builds cars. This means BYD has all the technology in-house, from control unit to electric motor and from cell to battery. No copper or nickel is used in the battery. Thanks to clever construction, this so-called "blade battery" can store more energy in a smaller casing, which explains the above-average cabin space of the Seal U. Moreover, that casing will not catch fire if pierced, which is unique. All the controlling technology is integrated into one housing and therefore it is more efficient and smaller.

BYD Seal U

The Seal U is available with a 72 kWh capacity battery and a 313 hp / 310 Nm electric motor or with an 87 kWh battery coupled to a 313 / 330 Nm electric motor. For this test, the latter was driven. Initially, the Seal U seems extremely eager and lively, as the slightest movement of the right foot is immediately met with acceleration. However, when pedalling on, BYD seems to want to protect the driver from himself, as the Seal U never really bites. Energy recuperation is only possible at two levels, and in both cases there is hardly any engine braking and thus hardly any electricity generation. Single-pedal driving is not possible and there is no sign of the promised automatic recuperation based on the navigation system in practice.

Because of the low ability to recover energy, the restless response to the accelerator, the high weight and the moderate streamline, consumption is high. According to the brochure, the Seal U consumes 20.5 kWh per 100 km. In practice, it was slightly lower at 18.3 kWh per 100 km, however that is still the consumption of a higher class SUV. The range with the 87 kWh battery on motorways and inner roads through a hilly landscape in moderate weather conditions was 436 km (factory specification: 420 km).

BYD Seal U


Handling is where the Seal U differs most from the establishment. BYD opts for comfort and does so with a numb, but not particularly light, steering and a soft suspension. Consequently, the Seal U barely communicates with the driver, which takes some getting used to. When accelerating smoothly, one can clearly feel how the front wheels affect the steering ("torque steer") and that too does not inspire much confidence. The test drive therefore started extremely calmly. One advantage may even work as a disadvantage: the Seal U is so quiet that even the driving noise does not make it clear what is going on.

The Seal U therefore almost enforces a calm driving style. Then the Seal U is a delightful travel car that effortlessly covers long distances. The handling is therefore a personal choice for distinct comfort.

BYD Seal U


Will BYD conquer Europe with the Seal U? After a test drive, the answer is a cautious "yes". The problem is in the price. Other newcomers start with irresistibly low prices and the Seal U is only "well-priced". Moreover, the competition is putting pressure on the newcomers by also cutting prices, further narrowing the differences.

When looking at the mere product, the Seal U has a distinctive character. Handling is un-European with sloppy steering and bodywork that can tilt considerably when driving dynamically. However, this need not be a disadvantage: BYD opts for comfort, and those who drive calmly will have a wonderful mile-muncher in the Seal U. Although BYD is a newcomer in Europe, the equipment and build quality are already on par with the established brands. The battery is even of superior quality. Therefore, BYD is well on its way to realising the dream and capturing its own piece of the European market.

  • Very spacious
  • Extremely comfortable (and quiet!)
  • Unique, safe and efficient battery technology
  • Numb steering, dull bodywork
  • Driving with one pedal is not possible
  • Moderate performance, high energy consumption