byd atto 2023

The BYD Atto 3 Review – A Head Turner?

When it comes to choosing a car, would you prefer a Build Your Dreams (BYD)? Some of the newest players in the European car market are certainly leaving an impression with their memorable names. One such entry is the BYD Atto 3, an electric crossover that has recently made its debut. Surprisingly, this vehicle hails from China’s biggest electric car company—BYD—which may be unfamiliar to many. However, it has already achieved remarkable success by selling over 900,000 electric vehicles in 2022, predominantly in China but expanding its reach globally. The Atto 3 stands out as a straightforward and compact-to-medium-sized electric crossover option. Today, Current EV News will bring you a BYD Atto 3 review. Let’s dive in.

Featured Image source: topgear

Who is BYD?

It’s understandable if you’re not familiar with the BYD brand or “Build Your Dreams” as it is known in full. The parent company was established in 1995, while BYD Auto was founded in 2003. Unlike other brands, BYD has always manufactured its cars, some of which have shared similarities with existing models from other manufacturers.

BYD also holds a prominent position as one of the world’s largest battery manufacturers. Their expertise extends beyond cars to electric trains, buses (with hundreds running under Alexander Dennis bodies in London), grid storage units, and batteries for various applications, including electronic gadgets. BYD has around 600,000 employees globally, including an astounding 50,000 engineers.

Wolfgang Egger serves as BYD’s design chief—a name that may ring a bell due to his previous work on notable designs such as Alfa Romeo’s 8C Competizione and 156 before joining Audi, where he contributed towards projects like the Q2.

While the Atto 3 marks BYD’s initial offering available for order in the UK, there are plans to introduce additional fully electric models like the Dolphin family hatchback and Seal saloon very soon.

The Atto 3 represents an essential milestone for BYD as it utilizes their latest electric platform capable of accommodating front-wheel drive (FWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), and all-wheel drive (AWD) setups along with either a 400V or 800V system across different sizes suitable for low-slung cars or SUVs. Notably impressive is that every aspect—battery technology, motors, electronics, chips, and software—is developed internally by BYD and showcases advanced capabilities.

Despite appearing relatively modest as a first step, with FWD and a 60kWh battery operating at 400V, the Atto 3 is strategically tailored to meet the soaring demand for such vehicles in Europe. The aim is for the Atto 3 to establish a significant presence within a short timeframe.

What About Looks?

When it comes to exterior styling execution, though neat isn’t going to leave anyone swooning either, its language communicates familiarity: full-width front and rear lighting along with blanked-out grille signify “EV,” while tall proportions, roof rails, and lower cladding represent the “crossover” genre.

While the exterior design of the Atto 3 may be plain but unobjectionable, it’s evident that all the design creativity went into its interior. The combination of blue and cream leatherette, textured microfiber, and quirky CD-rack air vents can be overwhelming. And let’s not forget about the standout features like the rotating screen and banjo-string door pockets.

For some, this boldness might be too much to handle, while others will welcome a departure from the ubiquitous blackness found in many cars. Upon initial inspection, everything you touch feels solid with a soft finish, although the leatherette material seems unnaturally so. Even on our well-maintained press car with 3000 miles, there were noticeable marks on the lighter materials.

However, there are two significant issues with this interior. Firstly, certain materials emit a strong chemical smell that intensifies when exposed to heat or during driving. Despite touting air filtering capabilities in its menus as other Chinese cars do, it becomes futile if the outside air is more pleasant than what’s inside.

The second problem lies in user-friendliness—or lack thereof—of secondary controls. While the driving position is satisfactory, and the drive selection lever is decently sized without capacitive buttons, unfortunately, lesser-used functions are controlled by a cluster of buttons on the centre console. In contrast, crucial climate controls and necessary settings reside solely within the touchscreen interface.

On a more positive note, the Atto 3 effectively utilizes its space footprint. It offers comparable legroom to vehicles such as the Kia Niro EV while having marginally smaller boot space, which compensates through practicality thanks to a flat dual-height floor and sturdier parcel shelf arrangement.

Engines & Performance

The BYD Atto 3 delivers the expected performance with its 201bhp power going to the front wheels. It performs slightly slower than its equally powerful counterparts, such as the Kia Niro EV and Cupra Born, when accelerating from 0 to 60mph. The Kia also holds a slight advantage at higher speeds on the motorway.

Although the Atto 3 falls short of its quoted 0-62mph time by just 0.1 seconds, these figures would have been considered impressive for a warm hatch not too long ago. In terms of braking, the BYD’s shortest stopping distance was slightly shorter than that of the Kia.

However, in everyday driving, some aspects of the BYD’s powertrain behavior lack sophistication compared to its rivals. The traction control system exhibits similar characteristics to other models like the Ora Funky Cat and MG5 EV. 

On slippery surfaces, it allows for brief wheel slippage before cutting power multiple times when ascending inclines. While outright traction remains adequate, and this behavior can be mitigated by applying less pressure on the accelerator pedal, it is worth noting that other electric vehicles manage power delivery more smoothly while maintaining better overall traction.

Another aspect worth mentioning is regenerative braking. A toggle switch on the centre console allows drivers to choose between standard and strong regen settings; however, discerning a noticeable difference between them proves challenging as both settings provide minimal deceleration throughout most situations. 

This setup may suit some drivers but leave others longing for a more pronounced one-pedal driving experience. Since BYD has included a physical switch for this purpose, it begs consideration as to why they did not make it more impactful.

On a positive note, the light brake pedal offers a progressive response for smooth stops during regular driving scenarios. However, during repeated hard stops conducted for performance testing, an overheated brake odor was detected, and stopping distances slightly increased. By the fourth hard stop, the 70-0mph distance had extended to 48.2 meters, still deemed an acceptable result.

Drive Comfort 

The suspension of the Atto 3 offers a pleasant softness that effortlessly glides over bumps and uneven surfaces, providing a comfortable ride around town. The low-set dashboard enhances forward visibility, but the smaller rear window leaves much to be desired in terms of rearward view. 

Although a reversing camera is available, it tends to get easily covered in road grime and lacks its own washer system. However, the camera provides a clear image and features helpful 3D all-round views and a “transparent bonnet” view for navigating obstacles like rocks. One drawback is the thick front windscreen pillar, which hampers visibility when maneuvering through corners and junctions.

On the bright side, the steering feels light and responsive, while the tight 10.7-meter turning circle makes navigating tight roundabouts or executing u-turns effortless. Nevertheless, one peculiar aspect that accompanies low-speed driving is the eerie sound emitted by the pedestrian warning hum designed to alert others of your presence—it’s akin to being followed by restless spirits.

With its 201hp electric motor, acceleration from 40mph to 70mph is swift and satisfyingly brisk. However, once you exceed speeds of 60mph, wind noise becomes prominent—especially around the wing mirrors—an experience reminiscent of holidaying in a caravan perched on a Welsh clifftop.

When it comes to efficiency, it’s fair but not exceptional. During our testing period, the vehicle averaged 3.3 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which equates to a real-world range of approximately 190 miles, compared to its claimed range of 260 miles.

While this performance isn’t terrible, one might expect better results from a company that boasts its origins as a battery manufacturer with in-house design and production capabilities.

Range and Charging

As mentioned earlier, the range of the BYD Atto 3 is not particularly impressive. While theoretically it should be capable of covering 260 miles on a full charge, in real-world driving conditions, that figure often falls closer to – and sometimes even below – 200 miles.

Charging the battery is also not the fastest process. Despite BYD’s claims of advanced battery technology, the maximum DC charging speed when utilizing high-speed public charging stations is only 88kW. In comparison, a VW ID.4 can charge up to 135kW, while a Hyundai Ioniq 5 can handle an astounding 350kW if you have access to such powerful chargers.

For slower charging options, basic Atto 3 models support AC power charging at a rate of either 7.4kW or optionally boosted to 11kW. This allows for more efficient use of curbside chargers; however, it still lags behind competitors like Renault and Nissan, who offer AC charging speeds of up to 22kW.

To be frank, one would expect better performance on this front, considering BYD’s expertise in batteries (it’s quite possible that BYD manufactured the battery powering your laptop or phone). Nevertheless, one notable feature is the vehicle-to-load function, which enables users to utilize their Atto’s battery power to charge other devices such as e-bikes, e-scooters, and even potentially another electric car during extreme circumstances. Additionally, this functionality allows for using the vehicle’s battery as an emergency power source for your home if you have a smart electric meter installed.

Is BYD Atto 3 Worth Buying?

If you’re not particular about the badge on your car and don’t mind a few quirks, there’s plenty to appreciate about the BYD Atto 3. It offers a refined and comfortable driving experience, accompanied by a well-crafted interior showcasing abundant technology and unique design elements. Unlike many electric SUVs that stick to gloomy all-black cabins, the Atto 3 stands out by departing from this norm.

While some areas of the Atto 3 may lack polish, such as the prominently displayed ‘Build Your Dreams’ name at the rear, it shouldn’t deter potential buyers. 

The BYD Atto 3 is worth considering if you want a family-friendly electric vehicle.

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