By Dylan Campbell
Published: Monday, May 8, 2023
Could your next car be electric, and made in China? That’s the hope of the peculiarly named Chinese-owned car manufacturer Build Your Dreams – or BYD for short.
BYD’s first electric car in Australia is the Atto 3, a medium-sized SUV priced from $48,011 before on-road costs.
It was recently Australia’s cheapest electric car, before BYD jacked up prices by more than $3600 just before Christmas 2022 (making Santa very unhappy).
The BYD Atto 3 comes in two versions: the cheaper Standard Range and the pricier Extended Range, costing $51,011 before on-road costs.
Both versions use BYD’s high-tech new Blade lithium-ion battery. The Standard offers up to 320km of range compared to the Extended’s very reasonable 420km.
Recharging the Extended from flat to full takes eight-and-a-half hours using an at home 7kW AC wall charger (which costs extra to have installed), or 45 minutes using an 80kW DC public charger.
The somewhat conservative exterior styling contrasts to that of the quirky interior. It’s one of the most unusual new-car interiors I’ve experienced.
BYD says it’s inspired by ‘gym culture’. There’s an eccentric, swooping dash design and a gear lever that is supposed to look like a dumbbell.
Behind the steering wheel is a small, five-inch digital instrument display that reminds me of a motorbike; a central, 12.8-inch infotainment display can swivel at the touch of a button between portrait and landscape orientations – for seemingly no real benefit.
BYD fitted strings of taut elastic to the lower door bins and says you can play them like a guitar… if you want.
Despite the odd styling, it all works well and is easy enough to get used to. Thanks to its long 2720mm wheelbase, there’s also ample rear-seat room – and it’s light and airy owing to the large, standard-fit moonroof.
Once moving, the Atto 3 is surprisingly delightful to drive. The ride quality is plush, while the 150kW/310Nm electric motor – powering the front wheels only – provides plenty of punch.
The BYD has the same lovely characteristics of all other electric cars, being smooth, quiet and responsive – and makes a petrol car feel as high-tech as something steam powered. At 1750kg, the Atto 3 is surprisingly light for an electric car – and with the weight low in the chassis, the handling is almost fun.
A final word
For a first effort, it’s very impressive. We’d recommend visiting BYD’s new Medindie showroom and sitting in an Atto 3 before buying.
Also read the fine print of the warranty and ask about the wait time. For some buyers, it’s stretched out for many months.
|ANCAP safety rating
|Six-year warranty or 150,000km