BYD Atto 3 long-term test

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 rooftop

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 12582 List price £39,695 Target Price £39,695 Price as tested £38,990 Dealer price now £32,965 Private price now £30,890 Test range 200-244 miles Official range 260 miles Running costs (excluding depreciation) Electricity £1310

5 January 2024 – It's time to wave goodbye

Despite having friends of a nautical persuasion, I have never taken the plunge (as it were) into proper boat ownership. I feel like I’ve had an enjoyable taste of the marine life, though, during my time with the BYD Atto 3.

BYD Atto 3 2023 long-term test boatyard

It turns the M25 – on which the Atto 3 and I spent an awful lot of time – into an expanse of calm, placid water. On those rare occasions that I manage to gather speed, it's unfazed by the road’s many concrete ripples, and even potholes feel no more harsh than when a yacht’s centreboard gently touches the bottom when exploring a shallow estuary. 

Really, the Atto 3’s motorway ride is superb. In fact, I recently had the pleasure of driving a £142,000 BMW 7 Series luxury saloon, and while that was among the very comfiest vehicles I’ve ever sampled, I was amazed by how much worse the Atto 3’s high-speed ride isn’t. It’s pretty quiet, too; the rear suspension thumps every now and again and concrete road surfaces can generate a bit of a roar, but there’s no need to raise my voice to communicate with passengers on Tarmac sections. At any rate, the stereo is powerful enough that I’m happily distracted from unwanted noise anyway. 

BYD Atto 3 2023 long-term test stereo speaker

As a result, dealing with the usual M25 warzone is as relaxing as an afternoon sail. The Atto 3 is a much quieter, smoother motorway companion than my previous Honda Civic, and to compare it with an electric rival, it trounces the Kia Soul EV I once ran when it comes to comfort. My blood pressure level has never been so low on a commute. 

Both of those cars are more rewarding drivers' cars, though, with the Atto 3 again reminding me of the adventures I’ve had at sea. It leans enough to remind me of my dinghy sailing days, bounces like it's crossing a ship's wake, and its helm feels more like a yacht’s tiller than a racing car’s 'wheel. However, wide 235-section tyres mean it has enough grip that you can cover ground pretty quickly, and things never got overly wayward. It’s not what a Lotus driver would call fun, but I found it curiously satisfying when tacking from one corner to the next.

BYD Atto 3 2023 long-term test charging

Of course, most yachts have a motor to fall back on when the wind drops, but when an electric car is out of charge, it leaves you marooned. While its official range of 260 miles was optimistic, the Atto 3 had no trouble tackling my 234-mile commute in the first few months; I’d connect my Indra home charger overnight and it’d be ready to go in the morning. Its range steadily decreased, though, as the weather grew colder, and at the end I was having to top its 60kWh (usable) battery up by at least 17kWh at a public charger in order to make it home from Twickenham to Mistley. At its worst, I couldn't rely on it taking me any farther than 200 miles on a full charge.

Another major gripe concerns the infotainment system, which could do a better job of integrating Android Auto smartphone connection. It’s wireless, which is good, but engaging it so I can use Google Maps through the touchscreen makes everything else on the screen (including the temperature controls) disappear – and that isn’t.  

BYD Atto 3 2023 long-term test kayak

There are plenty of positives, though. The interior is eye-catching and full of textures that are pleasing to the touch; the equipment level is high (although I really wish there was a heated steering wheel and a head-up display), and only the gangliest of families will find interior space tight. The boot is decent, too; our test team fitted six carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf, and it had no trouble handling my inflatable kayak and a pair of lifejackets. The Atto 3 is more spacious than the Soul EV.

Should you buy one, though? The Atto 3 holds What Car?’s three-star rating, and in the face of strong competition at its price point of near £40k, that score is entirely fair. For this money, you could buy any of a number of better all rounders, including the five-star Smart #1 and – if you’re open to non-SUVs – the executive car class-leading Tesla Model 3. That said, few cars I've driven, electric or otherwise, have had such an easygoing nature as the Atto 3, and that alone could be enough to win you over.

BYD Atto 3 2023 long-term test dream building

So, as the first model from the relatively little-known BYD brand to hit the UK, did the Atto 3 build my dreams? Well, it impressed me enough to  have my mind wandering, contemplating future models from the marque. And at no point did it cause me sleepless nights in any more sinister ways.

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