Less than 12 months ago, BYD hadn’t delivered a car in Australia. As it stands right now, it’s the second-biggest electric car brand in the country behind Tesla.
No matter how you spin it, that’s impressive. Even more impressive? It’s done that with just one model; the Atto 3 we have on test here.
A few things have changed since the Atto 3 debuted Down Under. Its price has risen, for starters, and it’s under pressure from a raft of new competitors from MG and GWM offering smaller, cheaper electric cars for buyers on a budget.
Even without bargain basement billing, this BYD has plenty to offer.
The Atto 3 isn’t quite as cheap as it was at launch, but the Atto 3 is still sharply priced.
Our Extended Range tester was $51,011 before on-roads, helping it undercut the MG ZS EV Long Range ($55,990).
It also undercuts the Tesla Model Y ($65,400) and Kia Niro EV S ($66,590), and is aligned with the Nissan Leaf ($50,990). As for hybrid alternatives? The Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid with all-wheel drive ($51,910) is the most logical competitor.
2023 BYD Atto 3 pricing:
- BYD Atto 3 Standard Range: $48,011
- BYD Atto 3 Extended Range: $51,011
All prices exclude on-road costs.
There’s some funkiness here (the door pockets are guitar strings…), but hiding behind it is a pretty practical interior.
The driver and passenger sit in sporty-looking seats with a nice blend of support and long-haul comfort, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel can be set nice and high.
There’s plenty of storage space, from the dual cupholders to the spacious opening beneath the central tunnel, and those guitar-strung door pockets will actually hold a drink bottle. Throw in a decent space in the underarm bin, and you’re not short of spots to store road trip snacks.
Dual USB (one -A, one -C) ports and a wireless charger are on hand to keep you juiced up; the fact Apple CarPlay is wired (Android Auto is wireless) renders the wireless charger redundant for anyone who wants to use smartphone mirroring.
There’s a real sense of quality here. All the surfaces that look soft generally are, the faux leather trim on the seats and wheel is a pretty convincing impression of the real deal, and the doors close with a reassuring thunk.
Throw in an interesting colour combination, a massive panoramic sunroof, and some flashy LED ambient lighting, and you’ve got an interior that punches above its price point.
Then there’s the technology. The compact display in front of the driver is simple but effective, with a prominent speed readout and a range of trip computer options.
As for the massive, rotating infotainment display that dominates the dashboard? It’s a mixed bag. For the most part, it’s quick and easy to navigate on the move, with large icons and a pretty simple menu structure.
The climate control pod at the base of the screen makes it easy enough to change your temperature on the move, but some functions are still buried – accessing the heated seats, for example, takes at least three button presses from the home screen.
Being able to rotate the screen is a neat party trick, but if you’re using Apple CarPlay the display will have to stay in its landscape orientation.
CarPlay looks great on the big screen, and its inclusion (as part of an over-the-air update late in 2022) shows BYD is willing to improve its cars on the fly.
The excellent surround-view camera doubles as a drive recorder, and can be used to take still photos.
But the downside of having your climate controls buried in the screen is when you’re using CarPlay, you need to jump from Apple’s interface back to BYD’s to change your temperature. A permanent shortcut strip at the base of the screen or buttons would be a better solution.
Rear seat space is a strong point. The flat floor enabled by BYD’s electric car platform is an advantage over internal-combustion rivals, and legroom is accomodating for tall teenagers sitting behind tall drivers.
The backrests on those sporty front seats may make it harder to fit a rear-facing child seat, although there’s still more space back there than in the rival MG ZS EV… or much smaller alternatives like the GWM Ora.
USB ports feature back there, along with air vents for kids on hot summer days. The central armrest folds down and packs cupholders, and rear passengers also get guitar-style door pockets.
If your kids are prone to fiddling, prepare for lots of strumming on road trips.
The powered tailgate opens to reveal a 440L boot, expanding to 1340L with the rear seats folded. It’s big enough to take a week’s worth of shopping or a couple of school bags, but the way the boot is shaped means long items (golf clubs, or a big pram) take a bit of manoeuvring.
Below the boot floor you get a tyre repair kit rather than a spare wheel.
Power in the BYD Atto 3 comes from an electric motor on the front axle making 150kW and 310Nm.
It’s mated with a 60kWh lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery pack good for a claimed 420km of range on the WLTP test cycle.
Hooked up to an AC charger it’ll recharge at 7kW, hooked up to a DC fast charger BYD says the Atto 3 can accept up to 80kW. We saw a peak speed of 74kW and an average of 60kW on a charge from 15 to 50 per cent on a 350kW DC fast charger.
Our average consumption in mostly urban conditions was between 15 and 16kWh per 100km – equivalent to a range of up to 400km.
Smooth, quiet, and comfortable, the BYD Atto 3 is a pretty effortless commuter.
Like all electric cars, it jumps away from traffic lights faster than the average petrol or diesel car, and it does it silently… save for an artificial groan below 20km/h, designed to let pedestrians know you’re coming.
BYD doesn’t have a one-pedal driving mode, and even in its most aggressive mode the regenerative braking – which slows the car down by using the electric motor as a dynamo to draw energy back into the battery – isn’t particularly noticeable. That’s in contrast with Tesla, which sets its cars up so drivers rarely need to touch the brake pedal.
If you’re not careful it’ll spin the front wheels off the mark when it’s wet, thanks in part to the amount of punch on tap from the electric motor, and in part to the Atlas Batman tyres.
They’re not a problem, but it’d be interesting to see how the Atto 3 performs with different tyres fitted. Maybe that’s a test for another day.
Ride quality is excellent in the city. BYD hasn’t tried to make the Atto 3 sporty, and has instead set it up to float over potholes and speed bumps. It does a good job keeping occupants isolated from what’s happening on the outside, although occasionally it can feel a bit floaty over repeat bumps.
With light steering, plenty of performance between standstill and 60km/h, and excellent vision all-round, the Atto 3 is easy to thread through tight city streets or into tight parking spots.
The pre-collision assist can be a bit overzealous, though, and is prone to chiming when there’s no risk of an accident. It can be turned off using the touchscreen, but reactivates every time you start the car.
BYD’s other driver assists are well calibrated. The adaptive cruise control confidently maintains a gap with the car in front, and the lane-keeping assist nudges you back between the white lines when you drift on the highway.
Combined with the comfortable ride and excellent noise suppression, they make the Atto 3 a pretty happy cruiser on the open road. Save for a bit of roar from the tyres on coarse-chip roads and some wind rustle from the mirrors, there’s not much to ruin the serenity.
Occasionally it feels a bit heavy over big highway crests, taking one, two, three movements to control its mass, but for the most part the Atto 3 is a settled cruiser that feels bigger than it actually is.
Atto 3 highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Roof rails
- Powered panoramic sunroof
- Power tailgate
- Heated and power-folding side mirrors
- LED headlights
- Auto high-beam
- LED daytime running lights
- LED rear lights
- 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen infotainment system
- 5.0-inch digital instrument cluster
- DAB+ digital radio
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- Voice assistant
- Factory navigation
- Bluetooth connectivity
- 8-speaker Dirac HD sound system
- USB-A port and USB-C port in centre console
- USB-A port and USB-C port in rear
- Wireless phone charger
- 12V socket
- Keyless entry and start
- Single-zone air-conditioning
- Heat pump
- PM2.5 air filter
- One-touch up-and-down windows with anti-pinch function
- Multi-colour gradient ambient lighting
- LED front reading light
- LED rear side reading light
- Luggage compartment light
- Artificial leather upholstery
- 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
- 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat
- Heated front seats
- Domestic 3-pin plug AC charger
- Tyre repair kit
The BYD Atto 3 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests carried out in 2022.
It earned an adult occupant protection rating of 91 per cent, a child occupant protection rating of 84 per cent, a vulnerable road user protection rating of 69 per cent, and a safety assist rating of 80 per cent.
All BYD Atto 3 models have the following safety features:
- Front, side, side curtain, and far-side airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Front collision warning
- Rear collision warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Surround-view cameras
- Drive recorder
- Front, rear parking sensors
- Tyre pressure monitoring system
- Front, rear seat belt reminders
The BYD Atto 3 is covered by a six-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, along with 12 months of included 24/7 roadside assist.
Other warranties include:
- Electric motor, high-voltage assembly, motor controller: eight years or 160,000km
- Lights, tyre pressure monitoring module, suspension, ball joints: four years or 100,000km
- 12V battery: one year or 12,000km
The infotainment system is covered under a three-year, 60,000km warranty, along with components like the shock absorbers, wheel bearings, USB charging port connectors, and AC/DC charging port assembly.
Servicing can be performed at a BYD Service and Repair centre, or at certain independent mycar sites. Maintenance is required every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first. There’s a free check-up at three months or 5000km, whichever comes first.
Two service plans are offered. The first is for drivers doing roughly 20,000km per year, and costs a combined $1384 over the first five years of ownership. The second is for owners who do around 12,000km per year, and will set you back a combined $945.
It’s easy to understand why the Atto 3 has hit the ground running in Australia.
It drives with the sort of polish you’d expect from a brand that’s been building electric cars since 2009, and is generously equipped given the price tag – relative to petrol, hybrid, and electric rivals.
The Extended Range has enough range to cover most needs, and carries a pretty minimal price increase over the Standard Range model. It’s the Atto 3 that we’d be buying.
As for what’s wrong with it? We’d sub the Atlas Batman tyres out, but beyond that the only real question is around how BYD and its importer, EV Direct, are going to perform when it comes to service time.
But neither concern has been enough to hold back buyers so far – and they wouldn’t be enough to stop us from signing on the dotted line.
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MORE: Everything BYD Atto 3