2024 BYD Dolphin review

Toby Hagon

Posted December 21, 2023


The BYD Dolphin is the most affordable electric vehicle on sale in Australia. Is it a worthy competitor to legacy small cars like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, and new EV options?

While many people still haven’t heard of BYD – or Build Your Dreams – it’s the second biggest seller of EVs globally after Tesla and since arriving here this year with the Atto 3 medium SUV, the Chinese brand has been making big waves in the EV space.

The Dolphin is BYD’s entry-level five-door hatchback that aims to tempt buyers away from the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, and even the electric MG4 and GWM Ora.

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2924 BYD Dolphin

The 2024 BYD Dolphin comes with an extensive list of standard equipment. Image: Toby Hagon


 


BYD Dolphin Pricing and Features

The BYD Dolphin is priced from $38,990 plus on-road costs. That’s for the Dynamic model that we’ve tested here. The BYD Dolphin comes with a vast list of standard equipment, including 16-inch alloy wheels, fake leather trim, power adjustable and heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and smart key entry that also allows you to make your phone the key.

There’s also a 5-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.8-inch central touchscreen. That touchscreen can rotate 90 degrees so you can either have it upright or lengthways. However, when running Apple CarPlay it will only run in the lengthways (or landscape) position.

It’s a lot of gear for the money and stacks up well against more highly-specified versions of the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Kia Cerato.

In the EV space, though, the BYD Dolphin’s natural competitors include the MG4 and GWM Ora.

 

2924 BYD Dolphin Cabin. Image: Toby Hagon

The 2024 BYD Dolphin has a 5-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.8-inch central touchscreen. Image: Toby Hagon.


 

BYD Dolphin safety equipment

The BYD Dolphin scored five stars in ANCAP safety testing against the 2023 protocols. While crash protection ratings were strong, the safety assist score was only good at 77 per cent.

Standard safety gear includes dual front airbags, side front airbags, side curtain airbags and a centre airbag between the front occupants.

Plus there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB), front cross traffic alert and rear cross traffic alert, as well as lane departure warning, lane keep assistance, speed sign recognition, door opening warning, blind spot warning and a 360-degree camera.

An unusual addition to the safety kit is a small tool to smash the windows in case you get locked inside.

 

2924 BYD Dolphin Window Tool. Image: Toby Hagon

The 2024 BYD Dolphin Window Tool. Image: Toby Hagon.


 

BYD Dolphin interior and design

It may be at the affordable end of the EV spectrum but the BYD Dolphin has an interior that punches beyond its price tag. The fake leather looks respectable, although it can get sticky under thigh on a hot day. The materials and finishes demonstrate above average attention to detail.

Circular air vents have a nice sweep to them, as do the door handles and the seats with fixed headrests give off a sporty vibe.

There’s no shortage of space in the cabin, either. While the BYD Dolphin’s exterior dimensions are similar to a small hatchback, its cabin is more accommodating courtesy of a flat floor and generous proportions, especially in the back seat.

Storage is well thought-out, too, from the tray protruding from the dash to the broad door pockets. The storage tray under the centre console is also handy, although there’s not much clearance to the console above, limiting what you can load in there.

Boot space is modest, though, at 345 litres, although there’s a false floor that can cater for a little more.

There’s also impressive tech, most of it packed into that 12.8-inch touchscreen. It’s bright and vibrant with one of the better camera displays of any car at any price.

Logical menus make it easy to select the main functions, although you can head down some rabbit holes trying to find more detailed features. Still, on the whole the BYD Dolphin tells a decent tech story, especially at the affordable end of the market.

 

2023 BYD Dolphin interior. Image: Toby Hagon

The 2024 BYD Dolphin panoramic sunroof. Image: Toby Hagon


 

BYD Dolphin battery power, charging, and efficiency

BYD started as a battery manufacturer and is now a major supplier, not only manufacturing its own batteries but also selling to other brands, including Tesla. It now produces vehicles that go head-to-head with Tesla's top sellers.

The company brands its batteries as Blade, referencing their shape across the underside of the car.

But the more significant element is their chemistry. They’re a type of lithium-ion battery but are LFP (lithium ferrous phosphate) as opposed to the NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) used in most EVs. LFP batteries are cheaper to manufacture, although they don’t hold as much energy. But when affordability is a key criteria, there are clearly benefits.

Still, there’s 44.9kWh of battery capacity which translates to a WLTP driving range of 340km. Knock that down to 260-odd-kilometres on the open road, which obviously limits how far you can venture in single charge.

But as a predominantly suburban prospect – or for day trips from Melbourne to Geelong, for example – the BYD Dolphin should be fine.

AC charging can be done at up to 7kW for a full charge in about seven hours. A home powerpoint will take about 23 hours to top up.

Faster DC charging can be done at up to 60kW.

The BYD Dolphin also comes with a power board that plugs into the external charge port to provide electricity for regular household items and camping gear.

2924 BYD Dolphin Charge Socket. Image: Toby Hagon

2024 BYD Dolphin charging port. Image: Toby Hagon.


 

BYD Dolphin engine and braking

On paper the BYD Dolphin looks undernourished compared with petrol-powered alternatives. There’s only 70kW of power in this entry-level Dynamic variant, which makes it one of the least powerful cars on the market.

Fortunately, it partially makes up for that with torque, which is the pulling power that helps push you back in your seat when you accelerate. There’s 180Nm to play with, which is respectable for a city hatchback. And like all electric motors it’s readily available as soon as you press the pedal.

It makes it a useful device around town, although on the open road the lack of power is more noticeable, so you’ll need to plan overtakes well ahead.

There’s regenerative braking to soak up energy when you lift off the throttle. It’s generally mild but can be stepped up slightly via one of the central toggle switches.

Unlike the MG4, the BYD Dolphin sends power only to the front wheels. And while we’ve also trialled the more powerful Premium model – with a bigger battery able to deliver 150kW/310Nm – it’s less user friendly due to its propensity to break traction if you’re accelerating out of a tight corner or from an intersection.

The Dynamic’s 70kW/180Nm outputs are easier to handle and make for a more relaxed drive.

2023 BYD Dolphin. Image: Toby Hagon

The 2024 BYD Dolphin has supple suspension. Image: Toby Hagon


 

BYD Dolphin performance and handling

Speaking of relaxed, the BYD Dolphin has relatively supple suspension, something that adds to its easy going nature. It makes for a comfortable ride that soaks up bumps nicely.

Less impressive is its dynamic nous. It’s not particularly athletic when you aim it at a corner and the suspension can get flustered over multiple larger bumps. And the rear-end is prone to some unwanted bouncing over larger imperfections.

There are also some gripes with the electronic driver assist systems.

The lane keep assistance beeps more often than it needs to and can aggressively jolt you away from a lane marking, sometimes when you least expect it.

Similarly, the overspeed warning loves beeping but isn’t always relying on reliable data. So you can be below the limit but it’s beeping to tell you to back off.

Hopefully they’re things that can be addressed with software updates, something that can happen remotely with the BYD Dolphin via the over-the-air software functionality.

 

2924 BYD Dolphin Rear logo. Image: Toby Hagon

2024 BYD Dolphin Rear badging. Image: Toby Hagon


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