BYD Atto 3
|Fuel efficiency||Ancap rating|
Hugely hyped and just a touch controversial, the BYD Atto 3 hits the mark for an affordable EV that’s well-built, well-equipped and decent to drive.
2023 BYD Atto 3 review: Everything you need to know
It’s affordable, rammed with equipment and offers decent electric driving range – but can the BYD Atto 3 really live up to the hype?
Is there a more talked-about brand in Australia right now than BYD? The Chinese car maker is one of Australia’s newest players and it’s making waves with its aggressive pricing, quirky interior styling and exciting-sounding ‘blade battery’ tech.
But it’s not just hype; Aussies are putting their cash where their mouths are. BYD already has more than 4000 orders for the Atto 3 and, during our day with the car we were approached by four people who were eagerly awaiting delivery of their own cars and stopped by many others.
The key attraction is obvious: price. For a while the Atto 3 held the title of Australia’s cheapest EV but MG swooped in earlier this month and stole the crown back with fresh driveway deals for the ZS EV.
Still, at $44,381 before on-road costs for the standard battery version, the BYD is easily one of the most attainable new EVs on the market.
So does its low price make the Atto 3 a bargain? Or does it feel and drive on the cheap side?
How much is it and what do you get?
Let’s start with arguably the biggest issue facing electric cars in Australia right now: they’re expensive. The number of EV sales are growing and incentives are on the rise but you’ll still need to fork out a lot of cash to buy one compared with a conventional petrol-powered equivalent.
Now, though, it feels like we’re reaching a tipping point and a number of new, more affordable models are becoming available. The BYD and the MG ZS EV, for example, are currently locked in an arm wrestle for the title of Australia’s cheapest EV. The prices change slightly depending on your state, but both are around $45K driveaway.
In the BYD’s case, that gets you one highly-specced variant that has loads of equipment and space and the choice of two battery sizes.
The standard car has a 50kWh battery pack and starts at $44,381 – but the car we’re driving today is the Extended range, which has a 60kWh battery and costs $3000 more, so $47,381 before on-road costs.
The Atto 3 is front-wheel drive, has a single electric motor that produces 150kW/310Nm regardless of which version you buy, and has a claimed WLTP driving range of 345km for the smaller battery version and 420km for models with the extended battery.
You also score an impressive list of standard equipment, but if you’re excited about personalising the spec of your Atto 3, prepare to be a touch disappointed.
The only choices you can make while ordering are which battery size you want, and deciding between four exterior colours: white, grey, blue or red. Every colour except white costs $700 extra, and red is only available on cars with the extended battery.
The rest of the equipment and spec are already locked in and includes 18-inch alloys (shod with truly terrible Atlas Batman rubber, but more on those later…), a huge 12.8-inch screen central display that rotates between landscape and portrait orientations, a healthy list of standard safety gear and a two-tone blue/white interior.
The overall design is clean and attractive and includes LED headlights, heated/retractable mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, roof racks and a power tailgate are all standard.
As for what’s missing? There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity just yet, although BYD says they will be made available via an over-the-air update soon. There’s no native sat-nav system either.
ANCAP is also yet to release an official crash rating but, again, BYD says that’ll arrive in the coming months.
UPDATE, November 21: Following a resolution on a critical child-seat tethering issue, the Atto 3 now has a five-star ANCAP rating. Read about it here.
How do rivals compare on value?
The BYD Atto 3 is a rival for the MG ZS EV, the Hyundai Kona EV, the Kia Niro and Nissan Leaf, and it measures up well for value.
It’s not only less expensive than its competitor set, aside from the aforementioned MG, but the BYD offers more interior space, a large boot and a more richly equipped cabin.
It also compares favourably for performance, range and charging times. See the table below for how the standard Atto 3, with the 50kWh battery, compares with the MG ZE EV and Hyundai Kona EV.
2023 BYD Atto 3 spec comparison: The basics
Interior comfort, space & storage
If the exterior design is simple and restrained, then the interior of the Atto 3 is the exact opposite.
It’s a riot of swooping lines, oddly shaped air vents and door bins enclosed by strings of red elastic pulled tight enough that they can be played like a guitar.
BYD says it designers were inspired by ‘fitness culture’ and the bulging centre section of the dash is meant to resemble a muscle, while the cylindrical air vents and chunky gear shifter are like dumbbells. Initially it verges on wacky, but take the time to explore the cabin in more detail and you’ll discover the fundamentals haven’t been overlooked.
Both front seats are comfortable, electrically operated and are trimmed in soft-feeling synthetic leather. The driving position itself is spot on, and there’s loads of interior storage thanks to an enormous central bin at your elbow and another underneath the centre console. Big glovebox, too.
The steering wheel is on the chunky side and the column-mounted digital instrument cluster is easy to read, despite being on the small side at just 5.0 inches.
Things are slightly less full-on in the rear, but again the sense of space and comfort continue. There’s miles of knee room, the cushion is low-set (taller passenger might lack for under-thigh support) and because the Atto 3 is built on a dedicated EV platform, there’s no clunky transmission tunnel to contend with.
You also score rear air vents, and there are Isofix anchor points on each of the outboard seats. Another Isofix point is found on the front passenger seat, although we couldn’t spot a clip for a top tether on that one.
Connectivity is decent with two USB ports in the front and another two on the rear of the centre console. There’s also a wireless charging pad ahead of the gear shifter.
It all feels well screwed together, too. And the mix of materials, while slightly odd in some places (the curved white section in the middle of the dash feels like an old wetsuit), is also of an impressive quality. It’s certainly a rung above an MG ZS or a Nissan Leaf for interior presentation.
It’s space, though, that’s perhaps the biggest luxury. The cabin feels noticeably wider and roomier than an MG ZS, and in pretty much every dimension, the Atto 3 trumps its rivals.
It’s certainly a rung above an MG ZS or a Nissan Leaf for interior presentation and space
2023 BYD Atto 3 boot space
The BYD Atto 3 boot is also a decent size at 440 litres, and it offers two levels for the floor so you can maximise luggage space or raise it for a flat loading bay when you drop the back seats. No spare tyre, though, so prepare to make do with a compressor and a can of goo if you hit trouble.
A final feature worth mentioning in the boot is a four prong power board that can be plugged into the Atto 3’s charging point. Do that and the BYD offers vehicle-to-load capacity, meaning you can power a laptop, light, coffee machine, and so on.
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Speaking of charging, the BYD Atto 3 accepts both AC and DC fast charging.
On a 7kW AC wallbox, BYD says you can achieve a full charge in around 12 hours. The DC charge rates vary slightly depending on the size of your battery.
50kWh versions can accept up to 70kW of DC charging, while models fitted with the bigger extended battery can take 80kW. On DC charging, an extended Atto 3 can go from 0-100 percent in 50 minutes.
What’s it like to drive?
This is an Aussie production car, so what’s changed? Well, aside from sitting on the other side of the car, not much…
Originally, BYD promised Australian cars would get local chassis tuning and Continental tyres as standard – but to keep production from the factory in Thailand rolling as fast as possible, neither of those has materialised.
Surprisingly, though, the Atto 3 is remarkably polished to drive. It’s built on BYD’s fresh EV-dedicated platform, and while the ride and handling isn’t going to tickle the fancy of keen drivers, it won’t disappoint.
The Atto 3 is remarkably polished to drive. It’s built on BYD’s fresh EV-dedicated platform, and while the ride and handling isn’t going to tickle the fancy of keen drivers, it won’t disappoint.
The chassis tune is quite soft, so there’s decent compliance over bumps and the steering is light and accurate. It’s not what we’d call agile or nimble, though, which is probably a result of its long-ish wheelbase and relatively hefty kerb weight.
At 1680kg, the BYD is pretty heavy for a small electric SUV, and around 100kg portlier than an MG ZS EV.
It’s not going to win too many drag races away from the lights either. Officially, BYD says the 150kW/310Nm Atto 3 hits 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds, which makes it the quickest car in its competitor set.
But, in practice, it doesn’t feel anywhere near that quick. The initial step-off is surprisingly sluggish for an electric car, and the throttle pedal feels doughy and snoozy, as though it’s stuck in an ultra-Eco mode. Once you’re up and moving, there’s enough thrust to push you back in your seat – but from a standstill, the Atto 3 is a little leisurely.
The weakest dynamic link, though, is the tyres.
Standard fitment are Atlas Batman A51 that measure 215/55 R18 and they lack both grip and traction. It’s easy to spin up the Atto 3’s inside front tyre when leaving an intersection, and on damp or wet roads they are a proper handful. We’d suggest swapping them out for a higher quality set of tyres as soon as possible.
The brakes are interesting. In the China-market car we drove earlier, we found the pedal to be overly sensitive and tricky to modulate, but those issues seem to have been ironed out for this production version.
There’s no one-pedal driving, though, and while there are two levels of regen-braking – which you engage via a switch behind the gear selector – both are weak and offer minimal retardation.
Right, time to talk about the battery.
Powering that electric motor is BYD’s hugely hyped ‘blade battery’, which is different from the traditional lithium-ion batteries in most EVs.
We went into detail about the blade battery in our earlier BYD review, so give that a read if you want to know more, but the headline differences are that the BYD’s battery uses a slightly different chemical makeup (Lithium-iron phosphate instead of Lithium-ion) and it’s made up of a series of long and really thin ‘blades’ that have a positive and negative terminal at either end.
It’s cheaper to make, because it doesn’t have as many rare materials, and it’s said to be safer in an accident if the battery pack is pierced.
All of those are good things, but, in practice, the BYD feels exactly the same to drive as pretty much every other electric car. Just one with a slightly soft chassis tune and average tyres.
So, is it going to blow you away behind the wheel? No. Is it better to drive than we were expecting? Absolutely.
How safe is it?
The Atto 3 is current unrated by Australia’s official safety body, but BYD says crash testing is currently underway, in cooperation with ANCAP.
Pending any shock results, the Atto 3 presents a solid safety case on paper, with a high level of active and passive safety features across both models.
Warranty and running costs
This bit is important and probably the biggest question mark, given BYD is a new brand that doesn’t have any official dealers of its own.
Plus, BYD has backtracked on a few of its initial claims about its warranty and tow ratings, so we’ll understand if you’re feeling a little nervous about the level of customer support you’ll get if you buy an Atto 3.
Firstly, BYD’s model is online only. Nothing new or scary about that. Servicing is handled through select Eager Automotive sites or via a growing list of MyCar service centres, which used to be Kmart Tyre and Auto. BYD says 51 MyCar sites are already on board, and there are plans to add more, so accessing a suitable service centre shouldn’t be an issue.
There are two capped price servicing plans. A standard kilometre plan requires a visit to the dealer every 12 months or 20,000km, and includes eight years of coverage – which averages the service costs out to around $299 per visit or a total of $2390.
A low-km version is also offered, and if you can keep your BYD below 12,000km per year, services average out to be $189 per visit.
Now, warranty. This is a big one, given BYD’s quality and reliability is a bit of an unknown. Originally, BYD promised a seven-year/unlimited-km warranty (which was a match for MG’s warranty coverage) but that’s now been wound back to six-years/150,000km for the car itself.
The battery is covered for eight years or 160,000km, but unusually BYD’s Aussie importer, EVDirect, has specified different warranties for different components. Elements of the suspension and the infotainment system, for example, are only covered for three years or 60,000km.
It’s a surprisingly persuasive thing, the Atto 3.
It might be one of Australia’s cheapest EVs, but to answer my question at the beginning – in this case, cheap doesn’t mean nasty. It’s decent to drive, rammed with equipment, and feels a more polished and roomier electric SUV than its key rival, the MG ZS EV.
It’s certainly not perfect, though. The cabin won’t be to everyone’s taste, we’d replace the tyres ASAP, and BYD still has a way to go to prove itself from a customer service and reliability point of view. But, in terms of bang for your buck, there’s certainly lots to like about the Atto 3.
2023 BYD Atto 3 specifications
Things we like
- Attractive price
- Loads of standard equipment
- Roomier than key rivals
- Cabin quality is of a high standard
Not so much
- Unproven record for reliability and customer care
- Short warranty on some components
- Sluggish step-off acceleration
- Interior design won’t be to everyone’s taste
- Terrible tyres as standard
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BYD Atto 3 Prices and Specifications
|Atto 3||$48,011.35–$51,011.35||Electric||150 kW||1 SP Automatic|
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