BYD Atto 3 EV: Watch and act

2023 BYD Atto 3 9

What is it?

Although the name BYD will be well-known to electric vehicle buyers, it’s still largely unknown in the Australian motoring mainstream – but that’s about to change.

Somewhat quirkily BYD stands for Build Your Dreams and the Chinese company is actually the world’s second-largest manufacturer of fully-electrified vehicles, second only to Tesla.

When plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are added, it’s the largest, with over 1.6 million built in 2022.

Although there were a couple of BYD models sold in Australia from 2017 onwards these were private imports. 

It wasn’t until the arrival of the Atto 3 in June, 2022 that the brand made any impact, and an impressive one at that, with sales of nearly 7000 in its first year.

2023 BYD Atto 3 1

What’s it cost?

A fully-electric compact SUV, the Atto 3 comes in two variants.

There’s Standard Range and Extended Range, priced at $48,011 and $51,011 respectively (plus ORCs). 

That’s around the same price  as its closest competitor and compatriot, the MG ZS EV which also comes with standard and long-range variants.

With a length of 4455mm, Atto 3 is around the same size as Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota CH-R – but 135mm longer than the MG.

Although the overall design of the Atto 3 is neat and attractive, it’s relatively conservative especially when compared to the Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. 

As with most electric cars there’s no real or pretend grille. 

A horizontal bar with the BYD insignia on it merges into narrow sweeping LED headlights with a thin band of LED daytime running lights between them.

The profile is similar to many similarly-sized SUVs although we did love the design of the 18-inch alloy wheels. 

We find the ‘Build Your Dreams’ lettering spaced across the rear a bit too quirky. 

We understand that some owners have been able to successfully remove the letters without causing damage – but don’t take our word for it.

The rear also features a full width LED brake light and powered tailgate.

Four colours are offered. White is standard while the other three (grey, blue and red)  are $700 extra.

The standout feature is the 12.0-inch high-definition tablet-style touchscreen which, at the touch can rotate between landscape and portrait format. 

So, for features like map and camera displays it works best in landscape, while for most other features, portrait is not only more suitable but also brings the screen within closer reach of the driver.

The original Atto 3 did not come with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto but these have been added with the MY2023 update and will also be installed as part of the latest upgrade for earlier models. 

Apple CarPlay is wired, Android Auto is wireless.

There is a wireless smartphone charging pad at the base of the front console.

Sound comes through an eight-speaker Dirac digital audio system.

There are USB-C and USB-A ports underneath the centre console and also in the rear.

The cameras provide a large variety of features including a dashcam which automatically records and saves action in front of the car. 

The videos are stored on a memory card which can be extracted and the videos transferred to an external source. 

Very handy if there are any incidents or even to monitor the driving habits of different drivers. 

Young or inexperienced drivers – you have been warned!

Atto 3 scores a full five stars for safety, with an extensive list of safety equipment, starting with seven airbags, six radars, adaptive cruise control with stop/start, automatic emergency braking, front and rear collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and braking.

There are front and rear parking sensors, rear-view 360-degree cameras, Isofix child seat anchor points and hill descent control.

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What’s it go like?

When you step inside the BYD Atto 3 Monty Python’s catchphrase “And Now For Something Completely Different” springs to mind. 

It is very different with a number of groundbreaking interior features. 

We reckon buyers who are willing to think outside the square and buy a BYD will love the adventurous approach of this newcomer to the Australian market.

With predominantly sculpted soft-touch materials, overall build quality and fit and finish of the Atto 3 is excellent.

Some of the features are gimmicky, others are functional. Some are both, such as the three guitar-type strings that act as sides of the door storage pockets, but which are just asking to be twanged. 

We shudder to think how annoying that could be on a long trip with children in the rear. 

After initially searching for the interior door handles, we found they were flip-up levers on top of the small round speakers in each door.

In this case however form and function combined nicely and we quickly adapted to them.

Large circular air vents dominate the front of the centre console but are easy to adjust and provide excellent air flow.

In front of the driver is a 5.0-inch screen that effectively combines a head-up display with a digital instrument panel cluster.

The front seats are large, supportive and comfortable although the headrests are moulded into the seat backs, so they can’t be adjusted.

They also partially block forward vision of rear-seat occupants.

Otherwise, rear passengers are well catered for with a similarly comfortable bench seat, although they do have adjustable headrests. 

There’s plenty of leg, ankle and headroom with the flat floor making the centre seat more bearable than vehicles with a transmission tunnel.

The air vents are the same design as those in the front. 

The panoramic sunroof extends across the full roof with a powered blind, although only the front section can be opened.

Available boot space ranges from 440 to 1340 litres with a powered boot lid and two adjustable floor levels.

There is no spare wheel, just a tyre repair kit below the boot floor.

At this point in time, BYD doesn’t have the same media fleet as almost all other brands, so we weren’t able to conduct our normal week-long test. 

Fortunately, however, one of our neighbours recently bought an Atto 3 and she was able to give us a guided tour of the car and let us take it around our usual drive route.

Apart from the normal key fob the Atto 3 comes with a plastic card which opens and closes the car by tapping it on the driver’s side door handle. 

Entry is quite easy even for larger occupants and the seats are large, supportive and comfortable.

There’s an aircraft-style gear selector which is fun to use. 

Like all other electrified vehicles the instant torque provides exhilarating speed off the mark. 

The dash to 100km/h takes 7.3 seconds which is brisk but not nearly as quick as many EVs.

Drive is to the front wheels through a single-speed reduction transmission, with a single electric motor for the front axle that puts out 150kW of power and 310Nm of torque.

The standard model gets a 49.92kWh battery and the long range, 60.48kWh.

Regardless energy consumption is 16.0kWh/100km with a driving range is listed at for the two variants at 410km and 480km under the old NEDC system or 345km and 420km using the more realistic WLTP measure.

Our test car was the Atto 3 Extended Range variant.

Its larger battery brings kerb weight to 1750kg — 70kg heavier than the Standard Range. 

Inevitably extra weight affects performance and we found the Extended Range Atto 3 a little more sluggish than competitors with lighter batteries. 

So something of a trade-off there.

The car’s regenerative braking has only two modes, standard and high, operated by a small toggle lever on the centre console rather than the more convenient steering wheels paddles of most EVs. 

Nor is there a single-pedal option so the brake pedal needs to be employed to bring the car to a stop.

Atto 3 is built on 400-volt electrical architecture and supports maximum AC charging (Type 2) of 7 kW (standard) or 11 kW (option) as well as DC fast charging (CCS2) at a maximum rate of either 70kW (Standard Range) or 80kW (Extended Range).

Atto 3 does have V2L (Vehicle-To-Load) charging which allows external items to be powered from the vehicle. 

2023 BYD Atto 3 7

What we like?

  • Quirky
  • Styling relatively conservative
  • 12.0-inch rotating touchscreen
  • Built-in dashcam
  • Five-star safety

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What we don’t like?

  • Build Your Dreams badge
  • Guitar-type string door pockets
  • Can’t adjust front headrests
  • Tyre repair kit
  • Range could be an issue

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The bottom line?

More and more people are asking us about fully-electric cars. 

Our standard response is to hold off until prices reduce and the driving ranges increase. 

That time is moving closer, triggered mainly by the arrival of Chinese EVs such as the MG ZS EV, GMW Ora and – most impressive of all – the BYD Atto 3.

Although it lacks the head-turning looks and performance of rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV 6, the Atto 3 is significantly cheaper and, at the end of the day, most EV owners are looking for sensible, affordable transport rather than sportiness.

There’s no doubt the Atto 3’s interior, with its combination of quirkiness and gee-whiz technology, will attract most sales. 

So, if you are going to take one for a test drive, and we’d certainly recommend doing so, then set aside plenty of time to experiment with the many features.

It’s an ideal size for a small family and for urban commuting, with very competitive pricing.

And, with zero emissions, the planet will thank you.

2023 BYD Atto 3 3


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BYD Atto 3, priced from $48,011
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 9/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
  • Tech - 9/10
  • Value - 9/10

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