BYD Seal Excellence: The 'superb' new electric car arriving on British shores from China

BYD Seal Excellence is a new arrival on UK shores. But motoring correspondent Frederic Manby is impressed by its superb styling with bags of goodies and lots of performance.

Our electric future on the road short-circuited this year. The variety of battery cars was broadening and the charging network improving and sales were rising. Then the UK Government abandoned the mandate that all new cars must be electric by 2030, so joining the EU’s 2035 date to go electric. Sales slowed.

Many drivers of petrol and diesel cars were relieved that E-Day was shelved for a dozen years. However, choices are narrowing, as carmakers indulge the wealthier among us with expensive cars and reduce the cheaper options. They are made more affordable by monthly payments which last for three or four years, have mileage restrictions and add thousands of pounds in interest as another income stream for the seller.

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Prestige makers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz ramp up the cost with the baubles expected. Their cheapest electric cars are around £50,000.

BYD Seal ExcellenceBYD Seal Excellence
BYD Seal Excellence

What hope for us? I can’t afford one of those, nor can most of the car reviewers who tell us how wonderful they are. And they are definitely wondrous. I would like a Porsche Taycan (from £80,000 or £1,000 a month) because it is a joy to drive, to sit in and to look at. As near perfect as things on four wheels get right now.

The onset of Chinese electric cars is unstoppable. China is replicating what Japan did last century, careful in getting the product right for discerning buyers in Europe. It leads the world in electric cars, developing the technology whilst the West was wrangling with controlling emissions from petrol and diesel engines. China now builds for many “Western” brands and owns Volvo. The hiccup is human rights violation and political wrangling which deter some buyers.

The world’s fourth car brand and the leader in electric cars has arrived here from China. It is called BYD. Don’t expect familiar names from China. It spells out Build Your Dreams, derived neatly from its Chinese name Biyadi. It was started by two cousins in 1995 as a battery company. The business story is as engaging as the car business. Its batteries are in smart phones and i-Pads across the world. It’s a remarkable success story and worth half an hour of your time web-browsing.

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In 2003 BYD bought a car company. By 2005 it had made its first car, called the F3, followed by the world’s first plug in hybrid, the F3DM in 2008, trivia you can divulge over a half in The Camshaft Arms. The following year came the battery powered e6 (a BEV) and a succession of rechargeable PHEVs. Today it ranks itself as the global leader in PHEV and BEV sales.

It also makes trains and monorail systems, and so on. Total payroll, around 600,000.

This year it brought over its ATTO3, a cheeky BEV with SUV styling costing from £36,490, so, not ‘cheap’ for many. The Dolphin is though, from £26,195 for a family hatchback. Just arrived: the more mature Seal, a powerful executive sports saloon costing £45,695 for the Design with rear wheel drive and £48,695 with four-wheel-drive in the Excellence - the one seen here.

All three BYD models have a five-star European safety rating. All have a unique flat battery pack which sits low, between the front and rear wheels, adding structural stiffness and apparently immune from realistic crash impacts. This cobalt-free battery gives excellent mileage and can be charged quickly. All share BYD’s integrated drive-train and control modules. All have an energy-saving heat pump for extended range in cold weather. All have a swivelling central information screen, upright to horizontal to suit the picture and data.

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BYD makes just about everything in its cars, with access to the raw materials which bedevil the supply chains of other BEV makers. At home it has been smitten with some problems but nothing like the technical hitches which have blighted trail-blazing Tesla. The latest sees a recall of two million cars in the US over concerns about the safety of its autopilot system.

Its Tesla-rivalling Seal, while priced beyond many of us, brings a superbly styled car with lots of goodies and lots of performance.

The Design has a 308bhp motor giving a quoted range of 354 miles and 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds. The monthly PCP is £549 over 49 months and 10,000 miles a year. The 523bhp Excellence has a range of 323 miles and a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds — echoed by the 3.8S badge on the back. The PCP is £589 a month. There are long warranties: six years for the car and eight years for the battery and electric motor.

Standard equipment brings a full-length fixed glass roof, leather ventilated seats and a useful 53-litre luggage bin under the bonnet. two phone charger pads and so on. The Excellence has head-up display, variable suspension dampers and intelligent traction control.

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First impressions count, and the Seal’s looks may be all that’s needed. There’s much more to come from BYD’s head of design, Wolfgang Egger, who worked for Alfa Romeo and Audi.

The early reviews have been hot: four stars out of five from most specialist publications. On paper, the Excellence with a small price difference and more kit and performance and the 4x4 traction makes you wonder who will buy the Design. One reason may be the feel of the two models. The Excellence suspension is firmer than the Design, which is lighter and has the dynamic appeal of rear wheel drive. On our 90-minute sample loop into demanding rural country the Excellence averaged 3.5 miles per kWh. On a home charger that’s cheap motoring.

BYD Seal Excellence: £48,695

Motor: 523bhp electric; 128bhp Torque 171lb/ft; Transmission integrated automatic with AWD; Top speed 112mph; 0-62mph 3.8 seconds; Range 323 miles; Battery 82.5kWh; CO 2 emissions zero; Length 189 inches; Braked towing limit, see dealer;

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