The BYD Atto 3 is the newest and most affordable electric car that is set to shake up the Australian car market. Built by Build Your Dreams (BYD), the Atto 3, along, with other BYD electric vehicles will be sold by independent distributor EVDirect
We’ve seen limited render pictures, a domestic model in the Sydney showroom and some media drives. But now, one of the first local Australian-spec, right-hand drive BYD Atto 3s is on display via its partner Eagers Automotive Limited, so we take a first impressions look at Automall West inside Brisbane’s Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
Starting from $44,381 before on-road costs and incentives in one high-spec model and two battery sizes, first orders of the small electric SUV will be delivered this month or next for the Extended Range variant ahead of the Standard Range battery landing from November or December this year.
👉 Read the full pricing and features of the 2022 BYD Atto 3 here.
Other models like the BYD Dolphin hatchback, Seal small sedan and yet-to-be revealed electric ute are all on the cards for Australia. The Shenzhen automaker is also on a global mission by expanding to markets like New Zealand, Hong Kong and Japan.
BYD Atto 3 Design
The BYD Atto 3 looks quite premium for its price with full width LED light bars at the front and rear, a sporty front bumper, and nice creases and curves on the side profile.
Granted, the showroom lighting, display setup and $700 extra Boulder Grey exterior colour certainly lifts its appearance.
The affordable small electric SUV boasts some interesting detailing like the matte silver arrow patterns on the C-pillar similar to the Kia Carnival, ‘BYD Design’ and ‘BYD Tech’ logos, and the fairly (and subjectively) inoffensive ‘Build Your Dreams’ lettering strewn across the tailgate.
The 18-inch alloy wheels are in an anodised finish and covered in some sections to improve aerodynamic efficiency, but doesn’t look overtly like an EV like a Tesla Model Y. They’re wrapped in a set of unfamiliar Atlas Batman wheels (215/55).
Unfortunately, the manually-opening charging port is positioned on the front-right side above the wheels. While it may be convenient for side-mounted public EV charging stations, it may be difficult for cables to reach it for most other stalls placed in front of the parking space.
Other EVs like the Renault Megane E-Tech, Jaguar i-Pace and Porsche Taycan also have their charging ports on their front wheel fenders, requiring cables to be twisted or awkward parking angles in order to reach the port, especially on DC fast charging stations.
Inside, the standard two-tone Eclipse Blue/Hazy Grey with red contrast stitching combination is a welcome, refreshing and quirky design.
BYD certainly tries to be unique with interior door handles attached to circular speakers, multi-colour ambient lighting, red guitar strings on the door, long horizontal grooves across the cabin, and circular disc-like air vents.
The latter has a light, plasticky feeling and closing the doors convey a hollow thunk sound, but the overall interior is solidly built based on our limited time with the Atto 3.
There are also an array of tactile buttons and switches on the centre console and steering wheel to control safety assistance systems, the infotainment system and some quick climate control shortcuts.
BYD Atto 3 Practicality
The Atto 3’s electric tailgate opens up to a 440-litre boot that expands to 1340-litres when the rear row seats are folded down. It features a carpeted floor that can be set two height levels to yield the most boot space or have a flat load lip with the folded rear seats.
The affordable electric crossover’s boot also has nets on each side for storing smaller items and is illuminated using a single LED lamp, but lacks any bag hooks.
Also, there’s no frunk storage space, even though there’s plenty of noticeable space and gaps under the bonnet.
The small SUV’s seats are wrapped in a vinyl-like synthetic leather material that’s quite soft, though it may not give enough support for larger frame individuals.
Knee space is adequate (slightly better than the Kona Electric we reviewed), a dark headliner, integrated headrests of the sporty bolstered front seats, and prominent protruding design elements like the air vents and speakers all contribute to a closed-in feeling.
However, there is a flat second-row floor, panoramic glass sunroof, a deep storage tray underneath the centre console and average-sized glovebox.
BYD Atto 3 Technology
The large 12.8-inch tablet-style infotainment system is the headline act of the affordable small electric car.
It protrudes out from the dash on a mount like the Tesla Model Y and can rotate between horizontal and vertical orientations using a button on the steering wheel or the touchscreen.
Its Android-powered BYD DiLink interface looks modern with light and dark modes, a row of shortcut buttons at the bottom and home screen icons akin to a smartphone. In our brief time with the BYD Atto 3, there is a learning curve to using the touchscreen like understanding where vehicle settings are within multiple menus and tabs.
However, this display vehicle suffers from significant lag when opening and closing apps, which becomes almost unusable when the driver is also changing between pages on the instrument cluster.
There’s an unbearable delay in changing the volume via the steering wheel buttons and the 360-degree camera and driving recorder apps can sometimes even bug out and fail to display at all. As this is a 'display' model, these issues might well addressed by the time first deliveries take place or via an OTA update.
Once in the app, though, it’s fairly responsive – which is important given the dual-zone climate control and PM2.5 air filter settings must be operated through the touchscreen.
Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is promised in the third quarter (July to September) of this year, and is already shown in this display example, with over-the-air software update capabilities that we hope can improve the infotainment system’s performance.
Meanwhile, ahead of the driver is a small five-inch digital instrument cluster attached to the steering column that seems to pack too much information with the speedometer, battery state-of-charge, time, outside temperature, regenerative braking mode and more all in a small area.
BYD Atto 3 First impressions
I’m impressed by the BYD Atto 3.
For its affordable sub-$50K price tag, it is a handsome, quirky, feature-laden small crossover SUV that will fiercely challenge the facelifted MG ZS EV, popular Hyundai Kona Electric and more expensive Tesla Model Y.
After all, the Shenzhen automaker has been producing cars longer than Tesla and its coveted lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) ‘Blade Battery’ is claimed to be more durable, energy dense and longer lasting than other LFP packs.
The standard PM2.5 cabin air filter, NFC card key and vehicle-to-load (V2L) capabilities are also underrated features.
But, the Atto 3 isn’t as practical as I’d thought it would be for a dedicated EV – it errs on being a sporty-designed crossover instead – the infotainment is too slow in its current state and the charging port location is awkward.
We also don’t know how the Atto 3’s suspension setup and Atlas Batman tyres will hold up against Australia’s rough roads.
However, like any new car brand, questions loom around its aftersales support – especially for a fledgling distributor – reliability and depreciation values.
EVDirect stopped selling the BYD T3 commercial van and e6 people mover after only delivering a handful to Australian customers, it has set bold targets to be a top five overall car brand by 2025, and it backed out of delivering new vehicles via independent mechanic mycar Tyre and Auto after partnering with Eagers Automotive Limited.
These aren’t confidence-inspiring signs but the backing of Eagers, one of Australia’s largest dealer franchisees, certainly improves its credibility and claims to already have more than 4000 pre-orders with a dedicated right-hand drive production line making 3000 Atto 3s per month destined for Australia.
Only time will tell...
Nevertheless, the BYD Atto 3 seems like a solid product and a much needed affordable entrant to move the Australian EV market game forward.
Photographs by Henry Man
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