BYD Atto 3 long term test: report 1

Can an unfamiliar car brand show established names a thing or two when it comes to comfortable, practical and cost-effective electric motoring? We're finding out...

BYD Atto 3 Long Term on drive, lights on

The car BYD Atto 3 Run by Chris Haining, sub-editor

Why it’s here To find out whether an unfamiliar brand can show established names a thing or two when it comes to comfortable, practical and cost-effective electric motoring.

Needs to Cope with a long motorway commute, accommodate an active lifestyle and be easy to live with day to day

Mileage 865 List price £38,990 Target Price £38,990 Price as tested £38,990 Official range 260 miles Test range 200-234 miles Options fitted None

16 July 2023 – The shock of the new

As a kid who wanted to design cars when he grew up, I’d always be excited to read about an all-new model in a car magazine, or to see a concept car at a motor show. Even more thrilling, though, was when an unfamiliar marque suddenly burst on to the scene, bringing limitless possibilities to my beloved world of cars. Now I’m 42, but the BYD Atto 3 on my drive has me thinking like an eight year-old once again.

While I’m as jaded and cynical as the next middle-aged bloke, I still find it exciting when a new brand joins the automotive fray. Especially if it brings new ways of thinking, either in terms of design or technology. BYD is just such a brand.

BYD Atto 3 long-term review start button

Long-established in its native China, it started out in 1995 as a battery developer, but has been building cars since 2002 and now produces more than three million vehicles a year. Only now, though, is it entering the European market, and I’m lucky enough to be among the first to sample what it has to offer British buyers.

Like a kid in a sweetshop, I can’t wait to tuck in to the BYD experience. My Atto 3’s first task is to beat my previous car, a Honda Civic, in terms of running costs. Given that car’s astonishing fuel economy (I regularly saw 60mpg on my 240-mile commute to and from work), that’s no small challenge. However, with the Atto 3 being an electric car, having a 7.4kW Indra fast charger at home means I won’t have to pay through the nose to top up with electricity from a public charger en route; the Atto 3’s official 260-mile range means it should be able to tackle that distance.

Its next – and even more important – task, is to make said commute pleasurable. To ace this mission, the Atto 3 needs to be quiet, comfy and effortless to drive, and its stereo needs to be good. The Civic, with its Bose sound system, did particularly well in the latter regard, but then again, it needed powerful sounds to overcome the amount of tyre noise. Bearing in mind that the Atto 3’s tyres are the same width as the Civic’s, it’ll be interesting to see how quiet – or otherwise – it is.

BYD Atto 3 long-term review car park side view

While my commute will be the Atto 3’s bread and butter, it’ll score extra points if it can make me smile during leisure hours. Being an SUV, it should lend itself well to some of my more lifestyley leanings; it should have no trouble swallowing an inflatable kayak, or maybe a mountain bike here and there. Whether it can be entertaining in itself is another matter, though. I’m not expecting it to be quite as engaging as the junior-hot-hatch Civic was, but I’ll be delighted if it has me cracking a smile every now and again.

My Design-spec car is the highest of three trim levels, the others being Active and Comfort. It’s the only version to get an enormous 15.6in touchscreen infotainment display, whose party-piece is to swivel from Landscape to Portrait mode at the touch of a button. And whereas the other trims make do with an interior air filtration system, the Design gets full air purification; just the job on the M25, when I’m frequently surrounded by particulate-belching lorries when stuck in a jam. It also has BYD's full name and slogan "Build Your Dreams" emblazoned across the back. Well, let's see if it can.

The price? £38,990, inclusive of any of five metallic paint shades with lifestyle-themed names (my car is Climbing Grey; I could also have had Surfing Blue, Skiing White, Exploring Green or Parkour Red). To make ordering (and no doubt production) easier, no optional extras are offered. Not a cheap car, then; the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV are similar money, and both of those eclipse the Atto 3’s official range.

BYD Atto 3 long-term review badge

The Atto 3 is here with a hell of a lot to prove, then. But I’m going to derive serious pleasure from finding out what it’s made of. It is, after all, a new toy that very few people have yet, and my inner eight-year old loves that.

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