The World’s largest EV maker is Chinese firm BYD, a company only a few of us car nerds had heard of before this year. ‘Beyond Your Dreams’ is massive – with 600,000 employees! In just a few short years the tech based firm has overtaken Tesla as the biggest seller of electric vehicles on the planet. The name stinks of being designed by committee with help from google translate but there is no denying the brand will become a household name following its introduction to the Irish market this summer. Initially the Atto 3 that we’re testing this week is the first BYD on sale, with more models to follow by the end of this year – building to a comprehensive EV range in the coming years with the Seal (saloon) and Dolphin (hatch) models next up. BYD’s vast scale demands all car buyers and rival firms pay attention to the new kid on the block auto (founded in 2003 – its parent tech company in 1995). BYD’s Ireland importer is the along established Motor Distributors Limited and it is confident it has backed a winner.
The Atto 3 – the ‘3’ stands for the brands latest EV modular platform, is a compact SUV that seats up to five, looks sharp, has lots of standard equipment and features innovative ‘Blade’ battery technology. The car was designed by Wolfgang Egger, (the famous German designer). Exterior styling is smart and spot on trend. Atto 3 blends effortlessly among the bland carpark of contemporary European styled SUVs. There is interesting detail to be found around the body plus a nice light signature front and rear too.
Inside the youthful cabin there are some premium elements, soft touch material and other tricks of the trade that make the cabin a fresh and interesting place to be. The car’s best party trick is its motorised, rotating and simply massive centre touch screen that raises a smile. The screen in portrait mode is actually great for navigation use as the layout offers a commanding extended view of the route ahead. The map data used in our car was dated and offered up a couple of search addresses that were long defunct. The Atto 3 features a lot of tech for the money. One highlight is the Tesla-esque key card you can use to gain entry and drive away (via a tap on the side mirror). Atto 3 is a connected car (insert your own Chinese State surveillance gag here!) so I’m sure all software etc. can and will be updated over the air periodically. The whole package combined with competitive pricing that starts at €39,078 Active gerade – including delivery and a two year service plan) makes the Atto 3 a serious contender in its class.
The Atto 3 is front wheel drive, weighs 1,750kgs and is powered by a single electric motor (150kW/201hp) that gets its electricity from a 60.48kWh battery pack. 0-100km/h takes 7.3 seconds and top speed is 159km/h. BYD quotes a maximum range from its ‘Blade Battery’ of 420km from a full battery. Electricity consumption is modest with a a best of 6.4kms/kWh (WLTP). On the road, like so many EVs the Atto 3 drives adequately. It is brisker than the diesel or petrol/hybrid equivalent yet, sadly, has no real driving personality. The throttle/accelerator response feels slightly dampened in normal mode compared to rival EVs and this lessens the initial rapid acceleration affect that EVs deliver to the uninitiated. This heavy pedal actually helps reduce energy consumption and will in the long term help prolong tyre life. I adjusted my driving without much hardship to its acceleration curve. There are three drive-modes with Eco the one most EV drivers will select as their default.
The Atto 3’s maximum charging speed – at a public AC (slow) charge point is 11kW (Comfort and Design grades) and 7kW at a domestic charge point. Faster DC charging is relatively slow compared to its rivals – the current crop of EVs have a maximum charging speed that is roughly twice the car’s battery size e.g. a 50kWh battery can usually charge at up to 100kW max. The Atto 3 peaked for us at 86kW at a rapid charger when closer to 120kW could be expected. That said, I used rapid charger a couple of times and didn’t feel too bad about the time it took to fuel up (for an EV that is!). to go from 30% to 80% charge takes roughly half an hour.
It is not all perfect with the Atto 3. A small niggle concerned the driver’s display on our test car. It sits on the steering column and was just slightly off the horizontal – the internal equivalent of crooked number plates. BYD is retailed by the MSL Group with competitive pricing. At launch there are two BYD dealerships in Dublin and one in Cork. Active, Comfort (€39,546 – inc delivery and 2 year service plan) and Design (€40,949 – inc delivery and 2 year service plan)) are the grades available and the price walk is modest between the three. The Atto 3 is the spearhead for an invasion of interesting and value for money EVs from BYD that will deliver more choice – making the EV market much more competitive.