The electric car has opened doors to new manufacturers and changed the process of developing automobiles along with leading a paradigm shift in how we perceive them. EVs are much easier to develop than combustion engine cars while allowing new players to compete with legacy names. BYD, the hugely popular brand leading EVs across China is certainly not a new player, but its skateboard battery design has been making waves across Australia recently, courtesy of the latest affordable EV, the Atto 3.
Within a short span of time, BYD is already one of the best-selling EVs in Australia and that is due to the Atto 3 being a sensible family SUV albeit being sprinkled with some funky bits. Forget the price and the BYD Atto 3 in isolation scores well in almost all areas starting with being the right size along with its non-fussy shape. The build quality is impressive while it adheres to the latest SUV styling template of a light bar across the rear along with a slightly tapered roofline.
The interior, arguably, sold us more on the Atto 3 with a funky design along with a mishmash of various design influences including Mini. The layered dashboard is finished in high-quality materials with no obvious signs of cost-cutting along with a rather unique combination of blue, cream and red. The air vents seem to be plucked from an old American car while the aircraft-inspired gear lever feels premium along with a centre console that is very BMW-like. The door handles would turn out to be a talking point as well with their unique details along with door pockets with guitar strings which you can make music with too! Talk about standing out from the crowd.
Elsewhere, the 12.8-inch touchscreen offers a crisp display that can change from landscape to portrait mode. Rather curiously, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered but you get OTA updates along with a raft of features like a full-length glass roof, USB-A and USB-C ports, a 360-degree view camera, powered/heated front seats and more including a V2L function where you can power other electrical devices. A bespoke electric architecture means space inside is abundant and more than other similarly priced EVs with a large boot along with a flat floor as well. The large bucket seats are comfortable too.
We drove the ‘extended range version’ with a 60kWh battery pack which means an official WLTP range figure of 420km while its single motor develops 150kW and 310Nm. The real-world range hovers around 380km plus and that is quite close to the official estimate. In terms of its driving experience, the Atto 3 keeps a firm hand on the histrionics with a linear power delivery along with smooth acceleration. It isn’t as quick as a Tesla, nor is it an enthusiast’s delight but that’s not the agenda here.
The Atto 3 ambles along nicely with excellent refinement. There is a certain polish to its driving experience, while the suspension has been tuned towards the softer side. You do feel the weight of the car during hard cornering but for everyday duties, it is a premium crossover that does the basics quite well with only a whiff of torque steer when pushed around. The steering is light and it feels manoeuvrable as well. In terms of regenerative braking, there are two levels but neither is very strong.
The blade battery technology is interesting since it is said to be more durable and better packed than most lithium-ion batteries while being safer too.
With the extended range version now priced at $50,000 plus, the Atto 3 is not the most affordable EV on sale in Australia but still one of the best value ones in terms of its range, space, and the quality on offer. It is a good EV that builds on the core strengths of what a capable family SUV should be like.