BYD Dolphin review

Category: Electric car

The BYD Dolphin electric car offers a comfortable ride and a competitive starting price

BYD Dolphin front cornering
  • BYD Dolphin front cornering
  • BYD Dolphin interior dashboard
  • BYD Dolphin boot open
  • BYD Dolphin interior driver display
  • BYD Dolphin left driving
  • BYD Dolphin front cornering
  • BYD Dolphin left driving
  • BYD Dolphin rear driving
  • BYD Dolphin front left static
  • BYD Dolphin rear right static
  • BYD Dolphin front detail
  • BYD Dolphin wheel detail
  • BYD Dolphin interior front seats
  • BYD Dolphin interior back seats
  • BYD Dolphin interior infotainment
  • BYD Dolphin interior steering wheel
  • BYD Dolphin interior detail
  • BYD Dolphin interior detail
  • BYD Dolphin front cornering
  • BYD Dolphin interior dashboard
  • BYD Dolphin boot open
  • BYD Dolphin interior driver display
  • BYD Dolphin left driving
  • BYD Dolphin front cornering
  • BYD Dolphin left driving
  • BYD Dolphin rear driving
  • BYD Dolphin front left static
  • BYD Dolphin rear right static
  • BYD Dolphin front detail
  • BYD Dolphin wheel detail
  • BYD Dolphin interior front seats
  • BYD Dolphin interior back seats
  • BYD Dolphin interior infotainment
  • BYD Dolphin interior steering wheel
  • BYD Dolphin interior detail
  • BYD Dolphin interior detail
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by
Dan Jones
Published01 March 2024

Introduction

What Car? says...

We'll say one thing about the BYD Dolphin – it'll give people playing I Spy a good way to baffle opponents. After all, who expects to spot a dolphin while they're passing the time on a long motorway journey?

As well as an I Spy masterstroke, the Dolphin is a small electric car that sits alongside the BYD Atto 3 electric SUV and the BYD Seal electric executive car in the Chinese car maker's line-up.

While its name is a little quirky, the Dolphin offers something the car industry is striving towards: an affordable way in to electrified motoring. Brands from China have pretty much nailed it, and we've seen the same ethos applied to the MG4 EV and the GWM Ora 03 (formerly the Funky Cat).

BYD gives you a choice of three power outputs and two battery sizes, with the biggest battery and motor giving you enough range to rival the MG4 Long Range and a hot hatch rivalling 0-62mph sprint time.

It all sounds very promising, but the big question remains – is this a fitting addition to the electric car market, or will the name just be an anecdote to alleviate boredom on long trips? In other words, is the BYD Dolphin a good car? Read on to find out...

BYD Dolphin rear cornering

Overview

Thanks to its list price, practicality and relatively plush interior, the BYD Dolphin looks like a decent alternative to the Vauxhall Corsa Electric and the MG4. True, its soft suspension means they handle better, but it’s still pretty comfortable around town. We’d stick with Comfort trim until the smaller battery versions arrive.

  • Good straightline performance
  • Comfortable ride around town
  • Plenty of interior space
  • Slower charging than rivals
  • Wobblier than rivals on undulating roads
  • Brake feel takes some getting used to
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

For now, you can have the BYD Dolphin with a 150kW motor and a 60.5kWh usable capacity battery. An entry-level 70kW version – called Active – and a 130kW mid-spec Boost version are set to join the range later. 

The Active and Boost will each get a 44.9kWh battery (usable) and official ranges of 211 miles and 195 miles respectively. For reference, the entry-level MG4 should go slightly further, officially managing 218 miles, but it does have a larger battery.

The bigger 60.5kWh battery version – called either Comfort or Design depending on the trim you choose – officially extends the range to 265 miles. However, in our winter real range test, the Dolphin managed just 188 miles – 39 miles less than the MG4 Trophy Extended Range. 

It's pretty quick though, with its 201bhp electric motor carrying it from 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds in our tests. That’s faster than we’ve managed in either the MG4 or the GWM Ora 03 (which both took more than 7.0 seconds). 

Of course, you probably won't be using your Dolphin as a dragster, but the oomph it has makes it more than capable of reaching motorway speeds quickly or nipping into spaces in traffic. Indeed, it’s more than good enough for pretty much anything everyday driving will throw at you.

BYD DOLPHIN image
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The Dolphin's suspension is on the softer side, and at slower speeds it’s quite comfortable, dealing with potholes and imperfections with ease and very little fuss. As with many soft-riding cars, once the speed increases, body control becomes more of an issue.

You can feel you’re being bobbed up and down and your head tossed from side to side. Firmer rivals, such as the MG4, Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa Electric, are far more composed. What’s more, the softness means there’s more lean through corners, although it’s less cumbersome than the Ora 03.

The Dolphin's steering is precise enough, with some weight build-up, but don't expect it to respond keenly enough to be engaging. As with most small electric cars, it's not what you’d call fun on a country road. If that’s what you’re after, we’d point you towards the Cupra Born

BYD didn't design the Dolphin for storming along B-roads, and when you drive normally, it’s quite refined as an urban runabout. There isn't a huge amount of electric motor noise, and road noise only becomes more apparent at higher speeds.

The brake pedal travel is a little long when slowing the car down from speed – the MG4 feels a little more progressive and reassuring as a result.

Driving overview

Strengths Quick in a straight line; competitive battery range; comfy around town

Weaknesses Relatively noisy on the motorway; some rivals are more fun to drive

BYD Dolphin interior dashboard

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

When you take a seat inside the BYD Dolphin, you’ll find it’s easy to get comfortable because every trim level comes with electrically adjustable sports seats and a manually adjustable steering wheel with plenty of range. As with the MG4 and GWM Ora 03, you don’t get adjustable lumbar support, even as an option. 

The driver’s seat doesn’t perch you particularly high up, but that’s to be expected from a car of this size, and narrow front window pillars ensure forward visibility is fine. The same can be said for the view over your shoulder, where narrow rear pillars make sure you can see cars well, without too much of a blind-spot.

To make parking a doddle, every Dolphin comes with rear parking sensors, while the two top trim levels also add front sensors. Impressively, you also get a 360-degree parking camera, something usually reserved for the upper echelons of a car’s trim levels. 

The image from that camera is displayed on the 12.8in central infotainment touchscreen, which can be rotated between landscape and portrait orientation at the touch of a button. That’s something we originally saw on the larger BYD Atto 3 and it’s a neat party trick, allowing you to change it to suit your preference. 

Indeed, a motorised screen is a rare feature – the £100k-plus Mercedes-AMG SL has one, but that only tilts forwards and back. Even so, the Dolphin's screen feels solidly mounted (more so than the SL’s), while the software responds swiftly enough when you prod it and has sharp graphics. 

You get some physical buttons on the centre console and on the steering wheel, but as with the MG4, all your air-conditioning controls are accessed through the infotainment system. That makes adjusting the temperature and fan speed far more distracting than in the Vauxhall Corsa Electric, which has physical controls. 

The rest of the interior materials feel rather plush compared with most small electric cars, but the Dolphin lacks the colourful flair you get in the Ora 03.

In fairness, though, the MG4 and Corsa Electric's interiors are both equally bland and, save a few shortcut buttons under the screen, the Dolphin does at least feel well built for its price.

Interior overview

Strengths Electric seat adjustment on all versions; feels plush for the price; large rotating touchscreen

Weaknesses No adjustable lumbar support; bland interior

BYD Dolphin boot open

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Space is a strong suit of the BYD Dolphin and there’s plenty of room for two six-footers to sit comfortably up front. Neither will struggle for head room or shoulder space, even if they’re quite broad.

There’s also loads of storage space in the front, with a decent-sized glovebox, door bins that’ll happily take a large bottle of water, two cupholders, a small cubby to place your phone (which doubles as a wireless phone-charger in top-spec Design cars) and another space under the central armrest. 

In the rear, two more six-footers will be able to sit in the outer seats without worrying about head room. There’s plenty of leg room behind a six-footer sitting in the front, so you can happily seat four adults on a long journey.

The middle seat is raised slightly, so head room is more restricted, but the flat floor means your middle-seat passengers won’t struggle for foot space. There might be some shoulder rubbing with three in the back, but then this is a small electric car.

When it comes to luggage space, the Dolphin has a square boot that offers a total of 345 litres. That’s less than the altogether larger MG4 but way more than the GWM Ora 03 offers. In real-world terms, it gives you enough space to fit a week's worth of shopping, and the tiny lip at the entrance makes it easy to load up. 

To ensure your charging cables don’t swallow any of the boot space, you get a big cubby under the boot floor. If you need more space, you can drop the rear seats in a 60/40 split to increase the space to 1,310 litres with a flat boot floor.

Practicality overview

Strengths Plenty of space for four occupants; useful boot capacity

Weaknesses Nothing major for a small car

BYD Dolphin interior driver display

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

As a cash purchase, the top two trims of the BYD Dolphin will cost you slightly more than the MG4 EV SE Long Range, but less than a Cupra Born or VW ID 3.

When the Active and Boost trims arrive, they’re expected to undercut all of the Dolphin’s rivals, including the Electric Fiat 500, GWM Ora 03 and Vauxhall Corsa Electric. To make sure you're getting the best price for any model, check our New Car Deals pages

The Dolphin’s four trim levels start with Active and even that version gets plenty of standard kit. Indeed, the list includes 16in alloy wheels, vegan leather upholstery, vehicle-to-load charging (so you can run appliances such as a kettle with the car’s battery) and a heat pump to improve efficiency in the winter. You can only have this trim with the smallest 44.9kWh battery and a 70kW motor, though.

The mid-spec Boost trim comes with the same battery but gets a 130kW motor. It also adds 17in alloy wheels and multi-link rear suspension.

The two top trims, Comfort and Design, both get the bigger battery and most powerful motor. Comfort comes with electric folding door mirrors and an upgraded six-speaker stereo, while top-spec Design adds a panoramic roof, rear privacy glass and dual-tone exterior paint.

The smaller battery option can charge up to 65kW, while Comfort and Design versions have a faster maximum charging rate of 88kWh. Both have the potential to top up from 10-80% charge in around 40 minutes, which is about the same as the Ora 03.

The Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa Electric can charge at up to 100kW, taking around 30 minutes for a similar top-up. Meanwhile, the MG4 Long Range can get from 10-80% in 35 minutes, but will travel further for a similar price. 

We don’t have reliability data for BYD cars, but the Dolphin comes with a six-year/90,000-mile basic warranty, an eight-year/124,000-mile warranty on the battery, and an eight-year/90,000-mile warranty on the drive motor and drive controller. That’s slightly better than MG offers and longer than the Ora’s five-year warranty (although that does get unlimited mileage).

Costs overview

Strengths Cheap to buy outright; plenty of standard kit; generous warranty

Weaknesses Rivals are slightly quicker to charge up

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FAQs

  • Yes, you can already buy one. You can check prices on our BYD Dolphin deals page.

  • With the exception of the entry-level Active (which gets the smallest motor) and can do 93mph, every Dolphin has a top speed of 99mph.

  • If you like the idea of the Dolphin, you’ll also want to take a look at the Fiat 500 Electric, the GWM Ora 03 (formerly called the Ora Funky Cat), the MG4 EV and the Vauxhall Corsa Electric.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £1,317
Target Price from £26,195
Save up to £1,317
Swipe to see used car deals
Nearly new deals
From £24,995
RRP price range £26,195 - £31,695
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)electric
Available doors options 5
Warranty 6 years / 150000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £52 / £63
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £105 / £127
Available colours