View all BYD Reviews
► Chinese EV brand sets its sights on the UK
► Atto 3 SUV will take point on the advance
► 261-mile range, 201bhp electric motor
Although the BYD Atto 3 sounds like your next all-singling, all-dancing smartphone, it is in fact a brand new electric SUV from Chinese brand Build Your Dreams. If bells are currently ringing, it’s because this isn’t the first BYD vehicle to come to the UK. Those that live around London might remember Green Tomato taxis running a few electric e6 MPVs, while BYD also collaborate with bus and coach firm Alexander Dennis on public transport EVs.
Sensing a running theme here? BYD is very proud of its electric expertise, making the batteries, motors, control units and everything else you need for an EV. They even make semiconductors, so supply shouldn’t be an issue either. With many manufactures quoting wait times of months, BYD’s UK team are talking of just a fortnight between an order being placed and a car being delivered in the UK.
BYD’s immunity from supply issues helps, as does a refreshingly simple lineup. The Atto 3 comes in three well-equipped trims with no options save for colour, and while you can order online, all purchases go through a dealer. Remember those?
Colour me interested, rivals?
At 4455mm long, it splits the difference between the Kia Niro EV and Volkswagen ID.4, although the bootylicious Skoda Enyaq is longer than all for similar money. While the Atto 3 is unmistakably an SUV, you might also consider it as a more practical alternative to hatchbacks such as the Cupra Born, Renault Megane E-Tech or MG 4.
The BYD Atto 3 has a competitive if not outstanding range. Built on the brand’s third-generation electric platform and powered by a 60.5kWh battery, official range is 260 miles, which is around 20 miles less than the Renault Megane E-Tech electric and Kia Niro EV. It should still be enough for most owners’ needs, though.
Top-up times are average. The Atto 3 supports DC rapid charging, but only at speeds up to 88kW – and that means a 30–80% boost takes 29 minutes. The flagship Volkswagen ID.4 can accept 125kW of power, allowing it to it charge from 10–80% capacity in the same time despite having a higher capacity battery.
What’s it like to drive?
Thoroughly competent, although missing the last little bit of polish compared to Europe’s best. The Atto 3 is unashamedly set up for comfort, with soft suspension that makes a good fist of soaking up unevenly surfaced B roads. You’ll hear the suspension thumping and thudding away as the bumps pass, but the noise is almost always more severe than the jolt felt.
However, while it doesn’t feel like a wallowy land yacht thanks to reasonable body control, you are aware of your head being rocked around gently when travelling over undulating roads. With entirely conventional strut front and multi-link independent rear suspension, soft springs naturally mean a fair bit of roll in bends, but there’s enough grip and composure to make reasonable progress cross country.
Get past a bit of gloopy vagueness around the straight ahead and the Atto 3 can be placed precisely enough when cornering. There’s some torquesteer if you plant it out of slower corners, while the ESC is rather clumsy in its efforts to maintain traction. Make no mistake, this is a car that’s far happier to take things slowly.
Even so, the 60.5kWh battery is paired with a 201bhp electric motor mounted on the front axle. It’s a smooth unit and offers more than enough performance for the car’s needs. With a 0–62mph of 7.3 seconds, it’s also noticeably quicker than the equivalent Skoda Enyaq and Kia Niro EV, but can sometimes feel a little hesitant if you ask it for full throttle.
The brakes deserve a special mention. The Atto 3’s transition from regenerative braking to friction braking is uncannily smooth – and the pedal feels great.
How’s the interior?
Better than we were expecting. While Chinese rivals MG stick to unashamedly cheap interiors to match their pricing and Ora favour a thin smear of premium-lite, BYD has taken a different route. Common touch points like the centre console, steering wheel and door pulls have been trimmed in appealing soft touch materials, and even the ‘Vegan’ leather feels reasonably thick and not like vinyl.
Switches and buttons make finding many common functions easier, although the climate controls (two-zone. as standard) can be a bit tricky to locate in the touchscreen. Speaking of, the fan that forces hot and cold air inside is rather loud. This was noticeable on both a cold day in the UK and a scorcher in Europe.
BYD’s landscape 12.8-inch infotainment system is as sharp as any of its European rivals’ to look at, although the menus aren’t quite as intuitive, with too many small icons and long lists of settings. Apart from the odd moment’s hesitation, it’s responsive and didn’t crash like we’ve experience with Volkswagen Group and MG systems.
The screen has a trick up its sleeve, too. Push a button on the steering wheel and it rotates 90 degrees to become a portrait infotainment system. BYD’s thinking is that it’s better use the landscape screen for media functions and easier to use the portrait screen to read sat-nav instructions.
Unfortunately with the biggest 15.6 inch screen fitted to Design models, it’s a bit like putting a tissue box in the middle of your dashboard with part of your view blocked. It’s not a huge area at the base of the windscreen, but I’d still rather see that bit of road, thanks.
Is it practical?
Space up front is good, but headroom in the back is a bit tight because of the standard-fit panoramic sunroof. The runners for the glass rob a couple of inches from those in the outer two seats. Legroom is good, though – there’s no central tunnel to trip over and there’s lots of kneeroom, even with a tall driver ahead.
The boot’s a decent size, too. You get 440 litres with the bench in place and 1,338 litres if you fold the rear seats flat. That means the Atto 3 has slightly less storage space than the Kia Niro EV, but the room you give away in the boot is handed to rear seat passengers.
BYD Atto 3: verdict
If we’re talking thoroughly sensible family transportation, the BYD Atto 3 is definitely worthy of your consideration. Performance is strong enough, the range respectable and it’s certainly keenly priced for the sheer amount of kit you get, even if there’s bizarrely no auto wipers.
Sadly it’s not as satisfying to drive as the best in class, but it’s comfier than most which goes a long way to make up for it. Besides, the interior is for the most part spacious and looks far funkier than most of the drab stuff out there.
|Price when new:||£38,990|
|On sale in the UK:||Autumn 2022|
|Engine:||201bhp electric motor|
|Transmission:||Single speed, front-wheel drive|
|Performance:||0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, 99mph top speed|
|Weight / material:|
|Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):||4,455/1,875/1,615|