BYD’s first foray into the booming UK electric market is the Atto 3, a mid-size premium SUV that will go head-to-head with the likes of the new Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro EV and Škoda Enyaq. It will be sold via a range of partner dealer groups, with plans to expand the number of showrooms from six at launch to around 100 by the end of the year.
BYD Atto 3 design
The Atto is based on BYD’s latest set of all-electric underpinnings and was designed as an electric car from the start. Created specifically for the European market, the car was penned by Wolfgang Egger, an industry veteran who boasts stints at Audi and Lamborghini on his CV. The end result is a car that does a solid job without really standing out from the crowd. The front end, according to BYD, was inspired by ancient dragons and features swept-back headlights that resemble eyes. Apparently.
The side-view is perfectly fine, the 18-inch wheels look decent, and there’s some chrome trim around the windows and on the rear pillar that add a bit of jazziness. Around the back there’s a full-width LED lightbar that looks a bit like a Cupra Born, a chunky spoiler at the top and similar black plastic bits lower in the bumper. It also has ‘Build Your Dreams’ rather than the simpler and neater BYD written across the back. If on-car slogans make your teeth itch, car badge removal videos on YouTube will help improve your mood.
In terms of dimensions, the Atto 3 is 4,455mm long, 2,050mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2,720mm. If you’re looking to visualise that against rivals, a Škoda Enyaq is 194mm longer while a Kia Niro EV is 35mm shorter.
If the Atto 3’s exterior design is a little too vanilla for you, the interior might hit more of the right notes. BYD has clearly thought long and hard about the Atto 3’s cabin and appears to have incorporated EVERY idea it had into the final production car. If you’re a fan of Tesla’s minimalist approach to car cabins, the Atto 3 is likely to give you a migraine. For reasons that aren’t entirely obvious, BYD chose gym equipment as its inspiration for much of the Atto 3’s design. That’s not our witty interpretation by the way, the brand proudly claims this in its marketing material.
There are barbell-style door handles, a kettlebell gear selector and free-weight style vertical air vents. Even the armrest - which has the wireless phone charger inside - is supposed to resemble a treadmill. It’s all quite bizarre and while everything does actually work as it should, the sheer number of features does make the interior a very busy place to spend time.
Another slightly odd feature is the large, 15.6-inch Tesla-like central infotainment screen mounted on the main dashboard rail (lower spec models get a 12.8-inch screen). At the press of a button, the whole assembly rotates through 90 degrees. According to BYD, owners prefer to listen to music in landscape format but find that portrait format is better for navigation. Although why owners need to be looking at a screen to listen to music is something of a mystery. Gimmick or not, the rotating screen is a neat piece of engineering and can be done on the move via a steering wheel button.
Strangely for such a big car that has been designed as electric from the ground up, the cabin is surprisingly snug. The wide centre console corrals longer legs towards the steering column while the overly chunky door furniture pinches space on the right hand side. To make matters worse, the central storage box cum armrest (the one that looks like a treadmill) will be slightly above elbow height for most drivers and makes the driving position feel cramped.
There’s better news in the back, with decent levels of head and legroom, and the standard panoramic roof (fitted to all trim grades) bathes the cabin in natural light and comes with an electrically retractable sun blind. Further back, the boot has a 440 litre capacity that extends to 1,338 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
As for quality, BYD has done a decent job with the interior. With a handful of small exceptions (such as the trim strip above the centre air vents), the materials and build quality appear high. We drove the car on some particularly pockmarked Wiltshire backroads and the Atto 3’s cabin remained squeak and rattle-free throughout. It’s clearly a well executed car in terms of quality.
BYD Atto 3 infotainment and connectivity
The Atto 3 comes with two information screens, a small colour display ahead of the driver and a larger central screen. Design models feature a 15.6-inch display while Comfort and Active grades makes do with a 12.8-inch version. The software is intuitive to use and decently quick to react. There are screens to control heating and ventilation, along with additional sections for entertainment and navigation. As we would expect, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both built-in, while the BYD Connect app delivers the usual suite of functions including remote heating and vehicle status checks.
BYD Atto 3 battery, charging and range
Unlike most car makers (Tesla excepted), BYD designs and builds its cars with all its own key drivetrain components. The battery, motor, control electronics and inverters are all BYD’s own designs, which delivers a remarkably streamlined production process.
The Atto introduces the brand’s acclaimed ‘blade’ battery technology to the UK for the first time. The 60.5kWh pack uses Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LFP) as its cathode material, which, according to BYD, offers a much higher level of safety than conventional lithium-ion batteries. The pack is also cobalt-free and comes with a new integrated heat pump as standard on all models. BYD claims that the pump delivers the industry’s first direct cooling and heating system, which has the potential to increase the thermal efficiency by up to 20% in the winter. Vehicle to Load (V2L) is also fitted as standard to all models from launch.
In terms of how far the battery will take you, the Atto 3 comes with an official 260 mile WLTP figure. During our two hour test drive in sub-zero temperatures, we achieved 3.2 miles per kWh on a variety of roads in all three driving modes (ECO, Normal and Sport). This suggests a real world range of just under 200 miles in very cold conditions. We would expect that figure to rise by 20-30 miles in milder conditions.
Rapid DC charging maxes out at a surprisingly low 88kW – a figure that puts it at odds with a number of rivals. The Volkswagen Group’s ID models, for example, can accept DC charging at a peak of 135kW. That said, BYD claims that the Atto 3 has an almost flat charge curve and charges at its maximum rate for almost all the charge cycle. A 10-80% charge will take around 44 minutes on a 150kW charger.
For home and destination charging BYD offers the Atto with 7kW capability as standard, with Comfort and Design models coming with 11kW onboard charger. A complete charge from empty to full will take 9 hours and 45 minutes on a standard 7kW wallbox.
BYD Atto 3 driving impressions
Out on the road, the Atto 3 delivers a passable rather than great driving experience. With 204bhp and 310Nm of torque channeled to the front wheels only, the Atto sometimes struggles to transfer its power smoothly to the road. Like all front-wheel drive electric cars, the combination of high torque output and a lack of weight over the front axle means that wet or gravelly junction getaways quickly call the traction control system into action. And because the front wheels are doing the steering in addition to delivering power, the steering wheel has a tendency to squirm around under heavy acceleration.
Performance is fine, and as you would expect given the power output and weight (the Atto 3 is a trim 1,750kg). Although Eco mode is best avoided if you want to make a quick getaway from the lights, the 204bhp motor serves up plenty of mid-range punch and the Atto 3 is perfectly happy on a fast A-road or motorway.
On a more positive note, the ride quality is very good with the suspension doing a decent job of filtering out surface imperfections and small pot-holes. It’s also well composed at higher speeds thanks to its low centre of gravity. Completing the Atto 3’s dynamic package are a good set of brakes. With ventilated discs all-round, the 3 has plenty of stopping power and a natural feel through the pedal.
BYD Atto 3 value and equipment
The Atto 3 range consists of three trim grades and five exterior colour choices. And that’s it. You can’t dip in to the options list because there isn’t one. This, according to BYD, is the reason Atto 3 doesn’t have a waiting list. By streamlining the build process with a minimum of alternatives, BYD can build fast and in bulk.
And what do you get for your money? Well, the simple answer is quite a lot. All models including the entry-level Active come with panoramic roof, heat pump, vehicle to load function, vegan leather trim, eight-speaker audio system and vast array of safety systems. The mid-spec Comfort trim adds an 11kW onboard charger while the range-topping Design model features the larger 15.6-inch infotainment display and an air purification system.
BYD Atto 3 verdict
The Atto 3 is an interesting addition to the UK market. Unlike MG, BYD hasn’t attempted to set a new price benchmark with the Atto 3, but is instead offering a lot more car and kit for the same money as its established competitors. If you tried to spec up a Kia Niro EV to the same level as the BYD Atto 3, you’d be looking at spending much more. Whether this approach of offering more equipment will tempt buyers away from more traditional brands remains to seen. As a car, it’s a perfectly well-executed package with a few quirks and a driving experience that all but the most demanding drivers will find perfectly acceptable.