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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Let’s get this out the way first: the Seal U is a long ol’ way from being engaging to drive. But with such complex engineering beneath you – and the perils of family life likely crammed into the cabin above – a bit of disengagement might actually feel welcome. Cutting a vast engineering story into bitesize, it drives just like a single-speed EV: simply engage Drive and pull away, driving it with two pedals (the brake regen is never strong enough to drive it on one pedal, sadly).

If the battery is topped up, you’ll achieve 40 or so miles in complete hush. If it’s down to 25 per cent charge – the minimum it allows itself to drop to – then the engine will frequently kick in, but it tends to do so pretty quietly. It tends to moo away gently in the background at odds to your throttle input, as per a number of range-extender rivals.

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The whole powertrain feels like it’s deliberately distancing itself from you, like an uninterested date who’s present in the conversation but not exactly listening. Thankfully the Seal U never fully ghosts you; you’ll quickly develop a rhythm of driving and put the complexity below out of your mind. Flicking through Eco, Normal or Sport modes ups the engine’s eagerness, but it’s a brisk and smooth car in all three.

Should I get the faster spec?

There’s little to tell between the two powertrains, to be honest. The quicker AWD ‘Design’ is noticeably quicker if you really hoof the throttle, and there’s tangibly more depth to its handling if you’re really pushing the car into corners. But this is sensible family transport, and either instance is surely rare. We suspect most buyers will be happy enough with the cheaper and cleaner ‘Boost’ and ‘Comfort’ models.

Indeed, this car’s lack of interest in being driven hard is evident from the sat nav, which flags up ‘sharp bend ahead!’ warnings for gently sweeping curves that barely require a nudge of the overly light steering wheel. Here’s a rare instance: a car whose steering improves by engaging its heavier Sport setup. You now at least get an impersonation of feel and feedback through the wheel and a bit more confidence into bends (sharp or otherwise). Happily, it remembers and retains your favoured settings each time you restart the car.

What about fuel economy?

Our launch event car was delivered on its 25 per cent charge limit, so we have limited experience of lengthy stints in EV mode. Nor do we have a decent grasp of how achievable those sky-high fuel economy claims are. But 45mpg surely isn’t too bad in the heavier, two-ton Seal U Design: it’s on par with most other PHEVs on the market once their battery is depleted and pips several of its SUV rivals by around ten per cent. Think of this as the baseline fuel economy you’ll achieve if your company car scheme frisbees you a Seal U and you can’t charge at home.

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The AWD car comes with a bunch of off-road modes, with curiously twee names like ‘Snowfield’ and ‘Muddy land’. We can’t decide if it’s absent attention to detail or a welcome bit of charm in an otherwise studious and – dare we say it – slightly dull car. Comfy, refined, smooth: the Seal U is all of these things, it’s just never all that scintillating.

We’ve also a question mark over its ride quality that’ll need clearing up when the car makes it to UK roads. It definitely favours a softer, less focused approach than a number of its rivals, some of which are cloyingly firm over urban roads. But repeated undulations agitate its damping: one to watch on its first acquaintance with Britain’s fairly bespoke approach to road surfacing.

BYD seems to be learning what customers want, mind you. Here’s a company that iterates quickly and this feels a lot more convincing in its (admittedly tough) market than the Seal saloon does in its own. The lane-keep system is now much subtler in its intervention and no longer worth diving into the touchscreen to deactivate, while you can reduce the mandatory speed limit ‘bong’ to a gentle and helpful chime when the limit changes.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

1.5 DM-i AWD Design 5dr Auto
  • 0-625.9s
  • CO2
  • BHP367.4
  • MPG
  • Price£N/A

the cheapest

1.5 DM-i AWD Design 5dr Auto
  • 0-625.9s
  • CO2
  • BHP367.4
  • MPG
  • Price£N/A

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