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Seal of Approval – BYD Seal Performance Review

Fur, Elephant, Leopard, Weddell and Hawaiian Monk are all breeds of Seal or Sea Lion. Now, there is a new bloodline of Seal whose habitat is not the west coast of the United States or the icy depths of Antarctica, but rather highways, back streets and urban settings instead. Yep, it’s the new BYD Seal and aside from the name, there isn’t much it shares with those barking sea-faring mammals.

What it does have in common with them, is a certain sense of grace and style. The Seal is the third model BYD have brought to Kiwi “shores” if you forgive the pun, and it is easily the best looking yet. A saloon with a low-slung coupe vibe, the Seal looks slippery enough from the outside thanks to its “Ocean Aesthetics” styling cues. I love little details like C-shaped LED lights at the front, the rear diffuser and the full width LED taillight cluster. Plus the gills with “BYD” designed embossed on either front quarter panel are also a nice touch. That and those 19-inch alloys just look the business.

Throw all this together and you have something which gains plenty of attention as you whisper silently by. You get the sense people are left scratching their heads, wondering what is it that graces them with its presence. Anyway, let’s take a break from waxing lyrical and un-package the Seal’s technical bits and bobs.

The range is split three ways and starts with the entry level Seal Dynamic at $62,990. The mid-range Seal Premium retails at $72,990 and gives you more power and toys, but my test car was the range topping Seal Performance 3.8S at $83,990.

The 3.8S is a not-so subtle reference to the fact this flagship Seal is capable of achieving a sprint to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. The reason for this brisk velocity is the Seal’s 83kWh blade battery and AWD system produces a combined 390kW of electric grunt and a fairly heft 670Nm of torque. Plenty of poke in anyone’s language.

Boldly going where no BYD has gone before in terms of get up and go, the Seal Performance is also capable of covering up to 520kms of electric range. Compatible with AC and 150kW DC fast charging too, the Seal is claimed to give you back 80 per cent in around half an hour if using the latter. Due to the quite considerable range, which in the real world is between 400 to 500kms, several weeks will probably go by between trips to the plug if you use your Seal for mainly commuting.

Inside the Seal feels like it costs twice its list price, a bit of a testament as to how far BYD have progressed over a short period. The driving position is the best I have experienced in any BYD product. Faux-leather clad seats hold you nicely in place and lumbar and lateral support strikes the right mix of serving up both comfort and support.

It’s a nice place to be and the flowing design of the cabin and the quality and durability is better this time around when compared with the ATTO 3 and Dolphin. Long may this continue on the BYD front. The 15.6-inch infotainment screen is very clear, concise and, in typical BYD fashion, can be displayed in either landscape or portrait view. You can also change the direction of the airflow from the air vents via the screen too which is quite clever.

In terms of entertainment and safety kit, there is plenty including Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, BYD voice interface, heated and ventilated seats, electric boot lid, 360-degree camera, heated steering wheel and a whole host of other safety features which you would expect at this price point. The sign recognition does get a bit annoying at times so I found myself mostly turning that off.

Another feature which I must mention is the built in car Karaoke. This was a real surprise and allows the driver and passengers to partake in a spontaneous sing-along. With an almost Spotify level of songs to choose from, you can also plug in a BYD microphone for the full “Singstar” experience. Thankfully the lyrics were not able to view on the screen while on the move, but I still managed to retain most of the words to Laura Brannigan’s “Self Control.” The 12-speaker DYNAUDIO sound system with subwoofer sounds epic.

There is a good amount of space to slob out here. Those in the back have a decent amount of legroom and the angle of the rear seats leave you feeling just as cocooned by your surroundings as those in the front. Open the electric boot and you find 400L of space. Need more? There is an additional 50L in the frunk up front.

The Seal uses BYD’s new 3.0 Architecture EV platform and encompasses Cell to Body Technology or CTB. In short, this means better structural rigidity and in turn will give a more engaging and safer drive. Let’s see if that rings true.

Flick down on the glass gear selector and you are away. Ride comfort is actually far plusher than I was expecting. Sure, there are bumps to be felt but overall the Seal does its utmost to glide over most of them. There are three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Sport. I spent most of my time in Normal and found the Seal to be a docile yet engaging drive. Rear visibility isn’t much cop but there is plenty looking forward.

On board to aid in the drive is the Intelligent Torque Adaption Control or iTAC. This maximises and prioritises comfort or driving dynamism wherever it is required or needed most. It shows too, the Seal handles well and in Sport mode, you can have some laugh-out-loud moments as you snake your way from bend to bend.

In this mode it’s a very point-and-shoot kind of car. I wouldn’t call it a street weapon but for a company like BYD to offer up something which has an almost perfect blend of daily usability and driving fun is quite remarkable.

In summary, the BYD Seal Performance is better than I was expecting and I was expecting it to be good. Much like that other Seal’s first big hit “Crazy” BYD’s third album is pretty darn impressive in just about every way. This certainly one gets my seal of approval.

RATING: 8.5/10

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