BYD Atto 3 long-term test: report 4

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...

Long-term BYD Atto 3 commuting

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 4738 List price £38,990 Target Price £38,990 Price as tested £38,990 Official range 260 miles Test range 200-234 miles

13 September 2023 – playing range roulette

I've been settling into a nice, steady commuting routine, setting off every morning in my BYD Atto 3 electric SUV with barely a thought other than to arrive safely at my destination, and make the return trip at the end of my working day. Touch wood (he says, patting his desk), it hasn't let me down. However, since participating in our annual Summer electric car range test a few weeks ago, I'm a little less relaxed when it comes to thinking about my car's stamina.

Long-term BYD Atto 3 air-con

During the test, it was sheer coincidence that I was behind the wheel of the Atto 3 when it ran out of juice – which happened rather suddenly. I was cruising at 70mph on our test track’s two-mile bowl, with an indicated 20 miles of range remaining, when the car began slowing down, even with my foot to the floor. The slowing began with 213 miles elapsed, and the car came to a complete stop with 215 miles showing. That's 45 miles behind the official range figure of 260 miles.

We know that our test, with its stop-start, 30mph element designed to simulate urban driving, and its periods of 50mph and 70mph cruising, is more punishing and more realistic representation of many folks' driving regimes than the process from which official economy figures are derived. More that that, though, our test also taxes the car harder than my daily commute does. The What Car? office in Twickenham is 117 miles away from my house in Essex, and my 234-mile round trip ought not be possible, according to our tests. 

Mind you, in our range test, cars are tested with their air conditioning switched on. Because I leave my house at 06:30 AM, when the air is cool, I don't have to run the air-con, and it’s pretty clear this saves a lot of juice. In fact, it was on one of the hottest days of the year, last Monday, that I felt I pushed the Atto 3 closer to its range limits than ever before – by forgetting to switch the air-con off at the beginning of the journey.

Long-term BYD Atto 3 low charge

I was about 40 miles in when I realised, and the battery was already more depleted than it usually was at that point. When I reached Twickenham, I had exactly 50% charge left – a little less than usual. I took it really easy on the way home, and my heart was in my mouth when the ‘charge battery’ warning came on when I was still an uncomfortably long way from my front door, with the accelerator pedal's response dulling as a measure to preserve charge.  

I made it home, on 4% charge, with an indicated 10 miles left – 11 fewer than when the car began to slow down at our test track. It’s made me realise that I’m perhaps sailing a little closer to the wind by expecting the Atto 3 to handle a 234-mile commute, day in, day out.

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