No brand sold more electrified vehicles worldwide last year than BYD. Three million models with plugs is a gigantic number that most manufacturers can only dream of. 50 percent of these were purely electric models, which secured second place behind Tesla. After the five-meter-long Han sedan, as well as the Tang, Atto 3 and Dolphin models, the Seal is now also appearing in Europe.
The 4.80 meter long mid-range model is based on the BYD Group's 3.0 electric platform, which has an important innovation: the so-called cell-to-body construction (CTB) instead of a cell-to-pack construction (CTP). the battery cells are woven directly into the body structure. The upper part of the battery and the floor of the vehicle are one and the same part, which leads to a reduction in ground clearance, favors headroom and incidentally increases torsional rigidity. With an air resistance coefficient of 0.22, the Seal - designed by ex-Audi creative Wolfgang Egger - is among the best cars ever.
The blade battery used in all European BYD models uses lithium iron phosphate chemistry and is particularly low cost thanks to the integration of all components in a single module. The Seal is offered with rear-wheel drive with a synchronous motor (permanent magnet) that produces 230 kW / 313 HP / 360 Nm and is powered by an 82 kWh battery that promises a range of 570 kilometers. On request, the Seal is also available with an additional front engine with 218 hp (asynchronous motor), which offers a total output of 531 hp. The top speed of the rear-wheel drive car: a manageable 180 km/h.
In the first comparison, the BYD Seal meets the BMW i4, which in its entry-level version with rear-wheel drive produces 210 kW / 286 HP / 400 Nm. The almost identical dimensions (4.80 meters long, 1.87 meters wide and 1.46 meters high) confirm that the two cars are real competitors, with the Seal offering seven centimeters more wheelbase. The BMW i4 shines with its large tailgate and a storage volume of 470 liters compared to the Chinese's 400 liters. This one tries to compensate for this with a second storage compartment under the front hood, useful for easy access to the charging cable when the trunk is fully loaded. The rear seat backs of both competitors can be folded down, although the i4's cargo space is flatter than that of its Asian competitor.
From the solid door closure, which is better than the BMW, to the soft-touch surfaces or the double laminated glass in the front door windows, the BYD Seal offers a high level of subjective quality in this class. The central touchscreen with its 15.6-inch diagonal can be used vertically or horizontally at the touch of a button. The BMW i4 has two side-by-side screens - 12.3 inches for the instruments and 14.9 inches for the infotainment - both housed in the same frame with a slight curve. The operating system works more intuitively, more functionally and uses a better vocabulary.
The front seats of both models are wide and comfortable, with sufficient lateral support and integrated headrests. However, visibility to the rear is poor due to the massive C-pillars, which is compensated for by rear-view cameras. When it comes to interior space, the Seal has a clear advantage, especially because it is built on a special EV platform, while the BMW uses a mixed architecture, as the 4 Series Gran Coupe is also available with combustion engines.
The Seal offers six centimeters more rear legroom and four centimeters more interior width in the second row in addition to more rear headroom than its Bavarian competitor. The front occupants in the BYD travel more comfortably and although two people up to 1.80 m tall fit well in the rear in both competitors, taller passengers will feel more comfortable in the Chinese. A less relevant compensation in the i4: the back seat is flatter and the seat backs are more vertical. The Seal is equipped as standard with a panoramic roof that runs the entire length of the cabin and provides greater brightness.
The independent suspension in the Seal, which weighs just over two tons, is designed for comfort as it effectively absorbs the effects of most road bumps. The very good insulation makes the ride very quiet at all speeds; also thanks to the double glazing at the front, the better aerodynamics and an inner lining of the front hood. Dynamically, however, the Bavarian is superior in many respects. This is particularly true of the brakes, with a more direct response from the left pedal than on the Seal. Even though the steering of the BYD is more direct (2.5 compared to 2.7 steering wheel turns from lock to lock), that of the BMW, which also weighs almost 2.1 tons, is much more precise and communicative, so that the driver has a more precise feel for how The car and the road are aligned.
So the BMW i4 feels more like a rear-wheel drive car; also because its maximum torque is higher, which contributes to the problem of getting the power to the ground. The i4 looks snappier and sportier than the more modern Seal. But its maximum speed of 190 km/h is also not very impressive in this class and leaves a lot to be desired.
There are different strategies for recuperation. The BYD shows low amplitudes in energy recovery in the two levels that can be selected on the central screen: when braking from 120 km/h, around 52 kW is recovered in "High" and 19 kW in "Standard", while in the BMW the Regeneration at the same speed is 60 kW in driving mode B and almost zero in drive mode. In addition, the BMW has the "One Pedal Drive" function, which makes the foot brake almost unusable; BYD does not do this.
In terms of range, however, the Seal performs better because its battery is noticeably larger at 82 compared to 70 kWh, which, in conjunction with the lower test consumption (around 19 kWh/100 km compared to 22 kWh for the BMW i4), gives it a range of almost 500 kilometers with a full battery charge, while the competitor can hardly go beyond 350 kilometers.
For customers for whom range is a crucial criterion, there are other i4 versions with larger batteries and longer range.
In both cars, the batteries are prepared to receive a full charge on alternating current with a maximum of eleven kW in 8.5 hours (BYD) and seven hours (BMW). However, the BYD only recharges with a small 150 kW on fast chargers, while the BMW i4 can handle 180 kW. In any case, it takes just over half an hour to increase the battery's energy content from 10 to 80 percent. The i4's battery warranty is better: ten years or 250,000 km versus eight years or 200,000 km for the Seal.
The BYD Seal in the Design equipment variant has its big advantage in terms of price, as it is available from just 44,990 euros. The all-wheel drive version with over 530 hp and extensive equipment costs only 50,990 euros and is still well below the BMW i4 eDrive35, which starts at 56,500 euros. The bottom line is that the BMW i4 eDrive 35 is the car that is more fun to drive and stands for a noticeable electric premium; But the low price and the larger interior space make the BYD Seal ultimately narrowly win this comparison. The question that remains is how important the BMW brand name and the added driving dynamics are to the customer.