The BYD Atto 3 has been one of Australia’s most controversial new electric vehicle entrants.
Despite the BYD (Build Your Dreams) Shenzhen-based automaker producing cars longer than Tesla and the affordable sub-$50K electric car price tag, its new local distributor EVDirect has backtracked on its initial vehicle and battery warranty coverage promises, imposed vehicle warranty exclusions on specific parts, and revised its initially high capped price servicing prices.
It has also shifted away from delivering BYD electric cars from its partner mycar Tyre and Auto, instead opting to use its Eagers Automotive partner, and paused new Atto 3 deliveries for three weeks due to not complying to an Australian Design Rule (ADR) that requires a more accessible middle child top-tether point at the rear row.
Media reviews have mostly praised the Atto 3, but what is it truly like to own?
Glen Andersson is an owner of a BYD Atto 3, environmental consultant at Sunshine Coast Energy Audits, and self-confessed BYD fan.
As an early pre-orderer, Glen took delivery of his Atto 3 Extended Range painted in Ski White in September – replacing his 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. It costs $46,061 drive-away after the $3000 EV rebate from the Queensland Government. He shared his delivery experience, insights and thoughts to zecar after two months of ownership.
- Good technology: voice control, adaptive cruise control
- Good size: small on the outside but quite big on the inside
- Physical stalks and buttons
Could be better
- Wheel spin in sports mode
EDITOR'S NOTE: An independent interview was conducted. The subject was approached by zecar and was not given copy approval before publication. The ratings were also provided by the subject and do not necessarily represent's zecar's views.Check out 2023 Atto 3 price and specs
Why did you buy the BYD Atto 3?
GLEN ANDERSSON: I've been looking for a good value electric car since 1996 when I was in the States and I saw GM [General Motors] made an impact with the EV1. I always wanted one and the only one that came close to value, I thought, was a Nissan Leaf 10 years ago.
I was looking for the best value electric car that was an SUV and would suit my family. I think I’ve found it with this Atto 3. And I was lucky because I didn't test drive it, but I relied on a lot of reviews and a lot of YouTube to work out that A: I thought BYD was one of the better Chinese companies and B: They were all about providing value to customers.
Also, I understand that this battery is warranted to a million kilometres in China. It’s the same battery; they obviously stand behind it overseas, so that was also something that really motivated me to purchase this car.
How was your BYD Atto 3 delivery experience?
I went to the Automall at Indooroopilly [Brisbane] and it was easy to find BYD there. The car was ready and charged. Two staff members were happy to take my son through how everything worked via the screen in the car. And they also would’ve spent an hour with me explaining to me how everything worked if I didn't want to get the kids in the car and get back to the Sunshine Coast [in a rush]. So, my delivery experience had absolutely zero issues.
Because I hadn't test driven it before, the first drive was in the rain back to the Coast and working out how to use the adaptive cruise control.
It already impressed me. The first 100 kilometres from Indooroopilly, it was under 150Wh/km and I think that's fantastic. That means a decent range of nearly 400kms is doable for part suburban driving and part highway driving.
What do you like about the BYD Atto 3?
I actually use the voice control for the driver's seat heating and for turning on the radio, changing the temperature in the car. I wouldn't know how to find it on the touchscreen. You just don't get distracted; you just talk to the car and you can do whatever you like.
I've found that the adaptive cruise control in eco mode with two spaces set in front of you is really good. If you're either in normal or sport mode, it's got so much torque that it will try to catch up to the car in front too quickly. I use the adaptive cruise to sit in traffic on Caloundra Road for about 10 minutes and it does remind you if you're taking your hands off the wheel very quickly. It's quite aggressive. But, it'll basically get me all the way to work in traffic.
Also, I use high regenerative braking. It's nothing like the Tesla [one-pedal driving] regen, but it will still get 30 to 40 kilowatts back into the battery going down a hill. Really, the first third of the brake you can feel that that's all electric and then after that, you're getting the hydraulic brake.
I like physical stalks, so the indicators are the right hand side and wipers are controlled by you rather than being automatic rain sensing [which isn’t included]. I actually don’t mind that.
I'm not a fast car driver or a petrolhead, but it has incredible torque and pulls from about 10km/hr. They've done something with the throttle mapping so that it doesn't get off the line fast [at the start]. Especially in eco and normal mode, you can hit the accelerator hard and it won't spin the wheels no matter what. But in sport mode, these [Atlas Batman] tyres will spin.
I think this BYD Atto 3 is 90 per cent of a Tesla for 60 per cent of the price.
I only have nine-year-old twins and, for us, we find that particularly the interior space is just huge. You’ve just got heaps of room and because the wheelbase is similar to a Toyota RAV4, it's small on the outside and quite easy to manoeuvre. It’s a tardis – it's small on the outside, but it's actually quite big on the inside.
What do you dislike about the BYD Atto 3?
In sport mode, I've overdone it a couple of times. A slight turn or even just hammering it in slightly wet conditions, you'll get this wheel spin that is sort of unexpected. So, obviously the stability control is not slowing down the wheels enough and the [Atlas Batman] tyres are good, but not great. I will definitely put some Michelin tyres on it in about two years, but I'll definitely use these [Atlas Batman’s] until they're finished.
The suspension is super comfortable. The only time you'll notice that it's working really over time, because it's a heavy car [at 1750kg kerb], on the Sunshine Motorway at the Airport there's sine waves in a row and by the time you get to the third sine wave, you’re really going up and down. I don’t like that, but 99 per cent of the time I appreciate that it's comfortable and as a family car – not a sports car – the setup is really good. It feels like a slightly softer Toyota RAV4 to me.
The interior is what worried me the most before I got it. Now I get in and I think it's joyous. I get into a grey car and think it's just terrible, it's dulled down. The interior has grown on me. It's grown on my kids; my son will play the guitar strings along to a song on Spotify because he’s a musician.
I think I'm the lucky one of the lucky ones because I got the over-the-air software [OTA] update so early. I did get three or four warnings that there was an update coming, but I couldn't download it. And then finally, I must have got to the front of the queue and it just downloaded itself, whether it's through the included two gigabyte per month [SIM card] or through the Wi-Fi at home. We use Spotify constantly, we don't use the maps as often because I use Google Maps or Waze [on the phone], and the voice commands I just use every day because it’s just so convenient. If we’re playing music and there’s four of us talking in the car, BYD struggles but it picks up my voice perfectly otherwise.
In the next OTA update, I’m definitely looking forward to using Android Auto. Also if they could map out the delay from the throttle, I think people would appreciate that to get that instant torque off the line, but they’re leaning on the side of safety so it’s hard to criticise.
I’m not very good with technology but I’m finding that if I have enough time, I can navigate the screen. I wouldn’t want to try to do anything while I’m driving and that’s why the voice control is really good to use. Possibly slightly more Anglicisation would be good [on the touchscreen software], rather than direct translations from Chinese.
I do want in the next update camp mode or dog mode to keep the climate control running and not turn on the front lights.
I’m quite impressed. Unfortunately, I’m a fanboy.
How is the BYD Atto 3 range and charging?
The range absolutely suits my needs. In fact, I could have gotten away with the Standard Range, but my kids were like ‘get an Extended Range’. It’s nice to have that extra range. I could get to Byron Bay from here on a full tank or Brisbane and back.
I know the Blade Battery is very good, but over time as that range decreases slightly, I still won’t have any issues with range and for me that’s worth the $3000 for an extra 10kWh. It’s just sensational value.
Probably next year I’ll put a BYD high voltage battery here [at home] and I’ll be able to just store that and plug in the car at night. Hopefully by then I’ll be able to also use the car and feed back into the house if I can use this as a [V2H] generator. That’s the long-term strategy. I understand that BYD is taking their bus batteries and breaking them down to 10 or 12kWh batteries once they’ve done a million kilometres, they still have the energy density but not the power, so you can still use them for low-drain house duties. So, please do your recycled batteries BYD!
Glen has driven 2617km on his BYD Atto 3 Extended Range, with an energy consumption figure of 143Wh/km and average 30km/h speed according to the infotainment system. This is in line with the WLTP-rated range.
Half of the time, I drive it for shopping, school runs and we go to the beach just about every afternoon. And then the other half is getting to work, which is a 20 minute drive down the freeway and then down into Caloundra.
Mainly, I charge at about 1.8kW from the granny charger [standard home socket]. I’ve been doing it for the past two months and there’s no issues with it tripping anything. During the day when there’s the sun [for solar generation], it’ll put 150 to 200 kilometres back into the tank which is more than enough range for me. I haven’t plugged in at night or used it off-peak, just because solar is the cheapest way so I really haven't found the need to use anything else. Occasionally, I’ll charge at the office.
I just haven't needed to go to a DC public charger. It's around $3 for a full tank on solar, so it's hard to justify going anywhere else to charge it. I just take advantage of the sun. When the sun's out, I'll just plug it in and let it go. With the lithium-iron-phosphate, what they're [EVDirect and BYD Automotive Australia] are telling us is to fully charge it once a week, take it down to 20 per cent once a month and then fully charge up from quite a low battery percentage.
As an energy efficiency auditor, you can see the difference between a heat pump and a standard PTC heater is huge. I wouldn’t buy an EV without a heat pump.
Are you concerned about EVDirect’s backflipping record on the BYD electric car?
Initially, I was concerned before I bought the car. I was reading everything online about how they were making this [warranty] included, making that excluded. So, I read about what the New Zealand warranty was, how long in South America, and how long in China.
And I realised, what I thought was, they are dealing with EVDirect, BYD Australia and Eagers – and between the three of them trying to work out how they were going to make money out of this car. The warranty concerned me up until the day I bought it and have had zero issues with it so far. Now, I feel quite fine about it.
I particularly kept an eye out for the 12-volt battery, so I have [jumpstart] charging leads just in case. But I understand that that was an over-the-air update fixing that they've got that battery charging every hour instead of every two hours.
You can even look at the screen in the car and it does its own health check to tell you if there's any problems. It did say initially that the cruise control had a problem and then after an over-the-air update, that's now gone. So, I'll be due for the first three-month/5000km service soon and I'll get an idea of the health of everything then.
It would be an inconvenience [to go to the nearest approved mycar in north Brisbane] to do that first service. Hopefully, by the time I'm due [later intervals], there will be somewhere on the Sunshine Coast that's approved to do it. If not, I have to take it to Brisbane, I'll spend the day with my parents; that's not the end of the world.
I absolutely agree with the Tesla owners that these electric cars don't need that regular servicing, so why do it? But the more I drive this car, the more loyalty I feel to BYD. Given it's around $200 dollars [on the light distance tier] for those services, I feel like it's loyalty money to help other people if there's any issues with the car. I want to see well-trained technicians to operate on these cars and so I think that money – even though it's not for myself and it's a very community spirit thing – throw some money at Eagers, throw some money at mycar, and hopefully we'll get that back in assistance when we need it.
Why did you also order the Tesla Model Y?
When I first ordered this BYD Atto 3 in February, it was coming in July. So I thought, I'll get a good chance to drive this car because I ordered the Tesla Model Y later [in August] and it wasn't due until February or March 2023.
But Tesla bought my car [delivery ETA] forward six months, BYD pushed the car back three months, so I never got a real chance to drive this Atto 3 before I had to make a decision.
And having test driven a Model Y a couple of times now, I do like the size of the Y and the car. But I think it's all about function and not as much about form, whereas BYD thought about both of those things and they made a car that's comfortable to go on long rides.
What’s next for your BYD Atto 3?
I might put this on a car sharing or rideshare platform, either evee or use it as an Uber. I have ubered before 10 years ago, but at the moment Uber is offering half price service charges for electric cars. Also, I would have virtually zero ‘fuel’ costs for the car, so just considering it as an option. If this car proves reliable in the next few months, I'll give it a go and get my [Uber] driver’s authorization back and just see if that would be a good part-time money source.
If that works, I’ll buy a [upcoming] BYD Dolphin in a heartbeat because it’s a similar size battery, similar range and [predicted to be] $10,000 less. If you buy it in a company, you can still get the $3000 rebate on up to five cars from the Queensland Government. That’s just sensational value as well.
I just have to order all the AliExpress accessories. They've got seat covers, I’ve already bought a matte screen protector, a floor mat in the back, and a rubber key fob cover. There's nothing on AliExpress I don't want. I want to protect this car; I've done a ceramic coat on the outside by myself and I’d like to see it last.
It’ll be at least another 10 years hopefully with this car. It has exceeded my expectations. I just hope that they’re successful. I just feel fortunate that we took a gamble on the car and I feel like it's paid off. Anyone that's interested should go for a test drive and I don't think that the people waiting in the queue will be disappointed when they finally get it.
BYD Atto 3 FAQs
Photographs by Henry Man
Datawrappers by Danny Thai
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