2024 BYD Seal U: Plug-in hybrid Outlander rival nearing Australian launch

The BYD Seal U, the rapidly growing Chinese brand’s first plug-in hybrid in Australia, has been approved for sale.

Previously confirmed for a second quarter 2024 launch by local distributor EVDirect, Federal Government approval documents show it will be offered with a choice of two powertrains.

As with other BYD models in Australia, it will come in Dynamic and Premium variants.

According to the approval documents, the Dynamic will feature a 72kW internal-combustion engine and a 145kW front-mounted electric motor, for a total system output of 160kW.

The Premium will feature a 96kW internal-combustion engine, a 150kW front electric motor and a 120kW rear electric motor, for a total system output of 238kW.

These documents don’t detail all the Seal U’s specifications, but we know globally BYD has confirmed the Seal U will offer a choice of 18.3kWh and 26.6kWh batteries, offering between 110km and 150km of range under the more lenient NEDC cycle.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and MG HS Plus EV rival can be charged at up to 7kW using AC power and 18kW using DC power.

Unlike those models, it’s set to be offered with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The HS is front-wheel drive-only, the Outlander PHEV all-wheel drive-only.

The Seal U measures 4775mm long, 1890mm wide (2085mm including the mirrors) and 1670mm tall on a 2765mm wheelbase.

That makes it 65mm longer, 28mm wider but 95mm lower than an Outlander PHEV on a 59mm longer wheelbase. It’s also 320mm longer, 15mm wider and 55mm taller than BYD’s electric-only Atto 3.

It remains to be seen how BYD will price the Seal U in Australia.

The electric Atto 3 starts at $48,011 before on-roads, while the MG HS Plus EV – Australia’s cheapest plug-in hybrid – is $48,690 drive-away.

While local specifications have yet to be detailed by BYD or EVDirect, in Europe the Seal U comes standard with a 15.6-inch rotating infotainment touchscreen, a wireless phone charger, and an Infinity sound system.

A full suite of active safety and driver assist technology is available in Europe, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, safe exit warning, and a surround-view camera.

BYD will also offer an electric version of the Seal U in Europe, but this appears to be a left-hand drive-only model.

The Seal U will be one of several product launches this year for the brand.

“The Dolphin, Seal and Atto 3 will be complemented by the hotly anticipated Seal U in Q2 and a further three product launches before the end of 2024,” teased EVDirect CEO David Smitherman in February.

One of these is expected to be BYD’s first ute, which is set to launch here first with plug-in hybrid power.

Another potential contender is the mid-sized electric Sea Lion 07 crossover, which has already been confirmed for a New Zealand launch.

BYD was Australia’s second best-selling electric vehicle (EV) brand in 2023, behind only Tesla, though overall it was the 21st best-selling brand here.

With 12,438 vehicles sold – almost entirely Atto 3s, as the Seal and Dolphin arrived very late in the year – the brand outsold the likes of Volvo, Renault, Skoda and SsangYong.

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