8 years or 120,000 miles
The BYD Atto 3 enters the crowded market for compact family-sized Crossover EVs, though this fresh Chinese contender is a little less compact than its mass-market rivals - and in some ways, a little cleverer too. It's the alternative you probably won't have considered, but possibly should.
So. Yet another Chinese-branded small EV. Following, MG and GWM Ora, we now have BYD. Which launches on the UK market with this car, the Atto 3. The brand letters stand for 'Build Your Dreams' and the company is actually a huge global player, in 2022 selling nearly 1.9 million EVs and Plug-in Hybrids. Apart from a few e6 MPV electric taxis though, the Atto 3 is the first BYD product we've seen here, its name derived from the word 'attosecond' (which apparently is one quintillionth of a second). They already love this car in China, but there it's called the Yuan Plus. This of course is just the start of BYD's product offensive, overseen by UK dealer network that'll grow from around 30 to about 100 outlets by 2025. By then, we may also be seeing this Shenzhen-based company's Yangwang premium EV brand, which will bring us luxury sports cars and SUVs. But let's start with a look at this Atto 3.
The performance on offer here won't be much the stuff of 'Dreams', unless those dreams happen to be somewhat modest. Nor, more significantly, will the 261 mile range figure you'll get from the 60.5kWh battery, despite said battery's uniquely-dense 'Blade'-style construction. It powers a single 201bhp electric motor mounted on the front axle (rather than on the rear one, as would it would be from a rival Volkswagen, Skoda or CUPRA model in this class). The Atto 3 doesn't pointlessly hurl itself at the horizon from the get-go, but performance is pleasantly eager, the 7.3 second 0-62mph time about a second faster than comparable Kia Niro EV or Skoda Enyaq iV 60 models. Not that this should suggest handling dynamics tailored for those who like their driving. On the contrary, as you might expect, the multi-link rear suspension with its soft springs has been set up here to prioritise comfort, as most likely owners will want. Expect impressive refinement too. And the usual EV-typical 99mph top speed.
At a glance, for several reasons, you might be left a little unsure of what this Atto 3 model is. In terms of brand, there's a kind of 'I-can't-quite-place-it-MG' sort of vibe. You might also be a touch undecided in terms of this Chinese model's size, where the positioning is little large for models in the compact hatch Kia Niro EV / Volkswagen ID.3 electric segment. And a little small if you're looking at something in the sector just above, like a Volkswagen ID.4 or a Hyundai IONIQ 5. Dimensionally then, the Atto 3 straddles two sectors, a bit like the Skoda Enyaq iV, one of its closest rivals. The Crossover styling is a touch blander than one of those, but smart - in a conservative kind of way. It's a lot more memorable inside, where there's a clear design layout with some unexpectedly quirky touches. The main feature of note is the central 'Electric rotary touchscreen', which will be either 12.8-inches or an enormous 15.6-inches in size, depending on the trim level you've chosen. Strangely, it can rotate to display in either landscape or portrait formats via a push of a provided steering wheel button (BYD thinks it's safer to use the landscape screen for media functions and the portrait screen for the sat nav). Cabin quality is better than the kind of thing you'll find in rival Chinese brands MG and GWM Ora, though there's still scope for improvement. And you get a clearly laid-out 5-inch digital instrument screen. Curious touches include air vents like old CD racks, door bins made of cords strung like guitar strings, interior door handles fixed on the speakers and, weirdly, no auto wiper function. Rear leg room is good, even by the impressive EV class standard, and there's a flat floor. The headroom's a little restricted by the standard panoramic glass roof. You pay for that legroom a little in boot space - it's 440-litres (35-litres less than the slightly smaller Kia Niro EV), but there's 1,338-litres available if you fold the seats flat.
Interestingly for an unknown brand, BYD isn't looking to substantially undercut its main competitors on price. Atto 3 pricing starts at around £36,500 for the base-spec 'Active' variant. You'll need around £37,000 for mid-range 'Comfort'-spec; and about £39,000 for top 'Design' trim. As we told you in our 'Driving' section, all versions are based around the same powertrain combination of a 60.5kWh battery and 201bhp motor. You order online, but all purchases go through the brand's UK dealer network, currently 30-strong. BYD's big market advantage is that, unlike other brands, it makes all its EV drivetrain components itself: batteries, motors, control units, semiconductors - the lot. Which is why instead of waiting months for your car, as is currently the case with EVs from some other brands in this segment, an Atto 3 can be with you in no more than a couple of weeks. And it'll be very well equipped. Even base 'Active' spec gives you quite a lot. There are 18-inch wheels, LED automatic headlights with High Beam Assist, LED tail lamps, roof rails, a panoramic electric sunroof, a heat pump and metallic paint. Parking is aided by camera and all-round sensors and you get adaptive cruise control with an intelligent speed limiter. Inside, even with base active spec, there's vegan leather upholstery, with power adjustment and heating for the front seats. Plus multi-colour ambient lighting, a wireless charging mat and a 5-inch TFT LCD instrument panel. Media connectivity is taken care of by a 12.8-inch 'Electric rotary touchscreen', with voice control, an 8-speaker DAB audio system, 4G Internet access and the company's 'BYD DiLink' suite of media systems. There's also an 8-year 'Cloud service' that gives you 1.5Gb of data per month for free for the first two years. And you get a useful 'Vehicle-to-Load' function so that you can charge things like lap tops and power tools from the vehicle. Mid-range 'Comfort'-spec is the same, except that the base version's feeble 7kW on-board charger is raised to 11kW status. Top 'Design' trim doesn't get you much extra apart from a larger 15.6-inch version of the 'Electric rotary touchscreen', an air purification system and a bit of extra ambient lighting. All Atto 3 models get the same extremely high standard of safety kit. There's a 'Forward Collision Warning' system with 'Automatic Emergency Braking', 'Rear Collision Warning', Rear Cross Traffic Alert', 'Lane Keep Assistance', 'Lane Change Assist', 'Emergency Lane Keep', 'Traffic Sign Recognition' and a full suite of airbags, including a front centre airbag. We said there was a lot.
The battery used here is of the unique-to-BYD lithium-ion-phosphate 'Blade' variety, which incorporates cells mounted in the strips directly to the pack. Which, the Chinese maker says, allows for a much higher cell density than a conventional battery could offer. So a much higher driving range then? Afraid not. The 261 mile range is reasonably class-competitive, but way off being class leading (a MK2 Hyundai Kona Electric, probably the closest rival here, manages 304 miles for instance). BYD claims an efficiency figure of 3.98 miles per kWh; expect more like 3.2 miles per kWh in the real world. To preserve driving range in cold conditions, a heat pump is standard (which draws want for the cabin from the surrounding ambient air and is something that's normally a pricey extra in this segment). You'd think that BYD building, designing and owning this car's entire set of EV drivetrain components (including battery and semiconductors) would allow the company to make the Atto 3 the first car in its segment to offer a truly modern 800V electrical architecture capable of allowing charging with the new breed of ultra-rapid DC public chargers - something we've already seen with the only-slightly-larger Hyundai IONIQ 5. But no, it's the same conventional 400V system as everyone else uses - and the entry model only gets it with a feeble 7kW on-board charger: from mid-spec 'Comfort' trim upwards, a proper 11kW charger unit comes included. Which, when connected to a public 150kW DC charger allows the Atto 3 to be charged to a modest maximum of 88kW. At that speed, a 30-80% boost takes 29 minutes. An AC charge from a home 7kW single-phase wallbox takes 9 hours and 42 minutes from empty to full. If you've avoided base trim and can use an 11kW 3-phase charger, that figure falls to six and a half hours.
So yet another option to add to your list if you're seeking a compact but family-shaped Crossover-style EV. We're surprised that BYD hasn't priced the Atto 3 a touch lower to give customers more reason to switch from an established brand. But there's no doubt that you get an awful lot for what you're paying here, including a greater slice of interior tech than you might expect at this price point. Interestingly, BYD (which wasn't even making cars until 20 years ago) describes itself as a 'technology company' rather than a car brand. Which shows itself here with this model's uniquely dense 'Blade' battery and standard heat pump. So there's more to this Atto 3 than meets the eye. BYD certainly has big plans for it - and the UK. The company already owns 95% of our electric bus market, it probably produces the battery in your smartphone or lap top. And in future, it wants to sell you your car too. Maybe not this one. But it's well worth a look.