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New BYD Seal U SUV set for UK launch as a plug-in hybrid

The range of BYD models available to UK customers will grow again with the Seal U arriving early next year in plug-in hybrid form. Pure EV versions will then follow.

BYD is planning to add a fourth model to its UK line-up in early 2024, in the form of the Seal U family SUV – and it’s likely to be the first car in the brand’s British dealers to have some form of internal-combustion engine.

The Chinese manufacturer already has the Atto 3 and Dolphin models on sale, and its Seal saloon is due to arrive before the end of 2023. It gave the Seal U – a Qashqai-sized SUV – a European debut at the 2023 Munich Motor Show, and sources have confirmed to Auto Express that the car is expected to go on sale in the UK in the first quarter of 2024. It will be the first large BYD SUV to reach British customers, since the firm’s larger seven-seat offering, the Tang, is offered only in left-hand drive.

Unlike the Seal saloon, which is electric only and uses BYD’s latest e-Platform 3.0, the Seal U is a rebadged version of a car already sold in China with a choice of powertrains: plug-in hybrid or pure electric. BYD sources suggest that the petrol-based plug-in hybrid model will actually be the first to arrive in the UK, with the EV version following later next year.

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There’s no word yet on whether BYD will fine-tune the PHEV system for UK customers but the existing version of the car has a 1.5-litre engine producing 109bhp, a 194bhp electric motor and a lithium-ion ‘blade’ battery with a capacity of 18.3kWh and an electric-only range of more than 60 miles. That could be enough to place the Seal U into the eight-per cent bracket on benefit-in-kind tax, potentially making it a cheaper company car than the likes of the recently launched (non-plug-in) Nissan Qashqai e-Power.

As the name suggests the BYD Seal U takes on plenty of design inspiration and technology from the Seal saloon - itself a competitor to the Tesla Model 3. As a mid-sized SUV, the Seal U will rival the likes of the Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Explorer, and it's set to hit UK roads.

The Seal U is known in other markets as the BYD Song Plus Champion Edition and, as a result, we already have some figures about performance and powertrain, although these are still yet to be finalised for the UK market. 

Underpinning the Seal U is the same e-platform 3.0 found on the rest of the BYD range. It allows for two battery sizes to be offered - a 71kWh battery and a 87kWh unit. As a battery producer, BYD has its own supply and also has a patented ‘blade’ layout of lithium-iron phosphate (LPF) battery chemistry. The smaller battery should allow for around 261 miles of range, while the larger should return 311 miles. 

Despite the difference in battery size, both units power identical 218bhp electric motors, meaning the slightly lighter, smaller battery covers the 0-62mph sprint in 9.3 seconds and the larger battery does it in 9.6 seconds. Charging from 30-80 per cent takes as little as 28 minutes for the 71kWh model and a minute longer for the 87kWh version.

The exterior design is similar to the Seal saloon and on the inside we can see the same 15.6-inch rotational touchscreen in the middle of the dash. We should see a V2L (vehicle-to-load) socket and a heat pump fitted as standard as well. 

We expect the smaller battery Seal U to start from around £38,000 with the larger battery model kicking off around £44,000. 

The Seal U faces strong competition. These are the best electric SUVs on sale right now...

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Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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