Tesla's biggest threat: 2023 BYD Atto 3 EV review

Blue BYD Atto on concrete floor with black background

Bruce Newton

Posted January 16, 2023


BYD's new compact electric SUV is among a growing number of affordable eletric cars on the market in Australia. Here's how it stacks up against its competition.

If you think about electric vehicles chances are it’s Tesla that springs to mind.

But there’s a whole fleet of Chinese EV brands emerging to challenge Tesla’s supremacy and BYD is at the forefront.

The acronym stands for Build Your Dreams, which sounds a bit goofy, but BYD is actually challenging Tesla to be the world’s biggest electrified brand.

And there’s nothing silly about BYD’s Atto 3 compact EV. It’s impressive, affordable (by EV standards) and available in Australia now. The BYD Atto 3 is also available to try before you buy through SIXT.

Close up of rear view of blue BYD Atto

BYD is an acronym for Build Your Dreams.


How much does the BYD Atto 3 EV cost?

There are two BYD Atto 3 models defined by battery size and range. The Standard costs $48,011 and the Extended we’re testing here is $51,011.35 (both plus on-road costs).

In some places, there are incentives that help reduce the on-road price. In Melbourne, the Extended range is about $51,000 drive-away once Victorian state government costs like stamp duty are added and a $3000 rebate deducted.

It’s still a lot of money for a small car but it’s one of the cheapest EVs you can buy in Australia right now. 

Standard Atto 3 exterior equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels. 

Inside you’ll find a funky 12.8-inch infotainment touchscreen that can rotate from portrait to landscape at the touch of a button, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connection, wireless phone charging, single-zone climate control with controllable rear vents, synthetic leather seat trim, powered and heated front seats, an eight-speaker audio system, and keyless entry and start. Over-the-air updates provide upgrades such as streaming audio.

The Atto 3’s vehicle warranty is six years/150,000km, although there are exceptions such as the multimedia system which is covered for three years. 

The high-voltage battery is protected for eight years/160,000km. Service intervals are 12 months/20,000km and the price schedule for each of the first eight years varies from as little as $189 to $447.

Is the BYD Atto 3 safe?

You may have noticed some recent controversy about the BYD Atto 3’s local ANCAP safety rating. 

Essentially, this revolved around carrying young children in the middle rear seat and the front passenger seat. Vehicles built from November 21 2022 comply and vehicles built before that date can be updated to comply.

As a result, the BYD Atto 3 has now gained the maximum five-star rating from ANCAP.

Standard safety equipment includes dual front, side chest-protecting, side head-protecting (curtain), and centre airbags 

Autonomous emergency braking (car-to-car, pedestrian, cyclist, junction assist and reversing) operates up to 85km/h. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and emergency lane keeping are also standard.

 

Interior of BYD Atto EV with sunroof open

There is a rotating touchscreen and the 440-litre boot expands to 1340 litres if you need extra space.


What’s the BYD Atto 3 like inside?

That rotating touchscreen is the talking point of the BYD Atto 3’s interior, but that’s not all that’s intriguing or different.

A tiny instrument panel sits on top of the steering column, there are elasticised guitar strings for the door pockets, air vents that look like racks of CDs and indecipherable door handles.

But the fundamentally important BYD Atto 3 achievement is enough interior space to fit adults front and rear and enough cabin storage opportunities to stow stuff like phones.

The boot, accessed by a power tailgate, starts off at 440 litres and expands to 1340 litres. For a 4455mm-long car that’s a pretty decent result and a reflection of the sort of packaging plusses an EV built on a dedicated platform can provide. 

What’s under BYD Atto 3’s bonnet?

The BYD Atto 3 Standard is fitted with a 49.92kWh battery pack that ekes out a claimed 345km range between recharges based on the WLTP testing regime. 

The Extended comes with a 60.48kWh battery that produces a claimed 420km range between recharges.

Both models are powered by a 150kW/310Nm motor that drives the front wheels.

The Atto 3 allegedly reaches 100km/h from rest in 7.3 seconds but does its best work at slower speeds than that thanks to the endearing electric motor trait of releasing maximum torque from the moment you press the throttle.

That makes it great for zotting around town between traffic lights and, of course, it does it quietly.

The urgency of response can be tuned by dialling through three modes – Eco, Normal and Sport.

 

Learn how JET Charge makes EV charging at home easy and convenient.

Is the BYD Atto 3 efficient?

The BYD Atto 3 claims an average consumption rate of around 16kWh/100km and that’s pretty much how it turned out on test. It’s a decent result.

The real-world range between recharges wasn’t too far off the claim at about 400km. For a small runabout that’s pretty good.

The Atto 3 Extended can DC fast charge at a rate up to 80kW, which is definitely nothing special and means you’ll be plugged in for about 40 minutes achieving a 10-80 per cent refill. 

The maximum AC wall-box charge rate is 7kW, which translates to nine hours plugged in to fully recharge. Repowering from a regular outlet would take about 30 hours.

The Atto 3 has two levels of driver-adjustable regeneration, neither of which allows single-pedal driving. It also provides vehicle-to-load capability, which means its high-voltage battery can power external items like laptops, camp fridges, lighting and the like.

How does the BYD Atto 3 drive?

Chinese vehicles sold in Australia have tended to be a bit hit-and-miss on driving quality. Mostly miss, to be blunt.

But the BYD Atto 3 is a pleasant surprise. It’s set up to ride comfortably, therefore aligning appropriately with its urban commuter role.

Yet that comfort focus doesn’t turn the Atto 3 into a wallowing, roly-poly mess when it comes to handling. It retains its composure when the opportunity allows to speed up a tad and a corner is encountered.

The Atlas Batman (yep, I’ve never heard of them either) tyres can be a bit grip-limited if you’re hitting the throttle hard or the road is soaked.

A change to a recognised brand could be the go when they wear out.

Should I buy one?

The 2023 BYD Atto 3 Extended offers us a taste of just how important Chinese car companies are going to be as we transition to battery-electric vehicles in the coming decades.

It has impressive performance, useful range, a long list of standard equipment, and a price that is far more attainable than the vast bulk of EVs being offered to us by more familiar car manufacturers.

If you want to go electric and you’re after a compact car that is primarily focused on urban and commuting duties then the BYD Atto 3 Extended should be on your consideration list.

 


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