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26 Jul 2022

What We Dislike
Interior design can be divisive
Still slower than most EVs we've tested

Eccentric on the surface, but docile underneath, the all-electric Atto 3 marries better performance with great practicality, and serves as a promising taster of what's next for BYD.


For all the boundless wonder and assertiveness harboured within its name - it's as much an invitation as it is a quiet command - BYD's time in Singapore thus far has felt dissonantly muted. 

The general dream was - is - of an all electric future; that much had always been clear. But beyond that, even the greatly improved second gen e6 was more likely to invite polite nods of acquiescence than glassy-eyed admiration, or indeed imagination. You bought a BYD because you didn't mind it, not because you really wanted to.

Until now, that is.

Bait and switch: Different manners of standing apart 

If the order books still allow for it, this Surf Blue is the colour to get the Atto 3 in 
The Atto 3 won't be singled out for any "Futuristic EVs with quirky designs!" listicles - but that's not to say it won't turn heads too. 

There are no fancy creases (nor a fake grille) up front - only black cladding, above which a single LED strip appears to connect the wing-like head lights over a chrome slat. Meanwhile, the rear gets a curved light bar with a 'feathered' pattern, and in place of the nondescript oval badge of old, the firm's name spelt out ostentatiously in full.

Whether you see any resemblance with the mythical creature, BYD's dragon-inspired design ethos is undeniably distinct, and everything is brought together neatly and handsomely on fantastic-looking 18-inch alloys. 

The interior's unique personality is commendable, but not every bit is equally satisfying in function
The eyebrow-raising will start, however, when you swing the Atto 3's thick doors open and climb in. Where only the rush of air-conditioning and whir of the electric motor are audible, the tranquillity of the cabin only exacerbates how every feature is yelling out for your attention. 

Various colours and textures are brought to life amidst the muscle fibre-mimicking lines and disc-like aircon vents, spanning grey (brushed) aluminium on the dash, red stitching on the seats, and the gloss-black on the all-new multifunction steering wheel. An array of 31 ambient lighting colours will even dance along to your playlists. 

Doled out in select portions, there is certainly delight to be found here.  

Curving the door handles over the ambient light-encircled speakers, for example, integrates multiple elements together in a novel and elegant fashion that doesn't frustrate the act of getting out.

Shortcut buttons on the centre console allow for switching between drive modes, among other functions
Form and function also converge in the centre console, where physical shortcut buttons surround a solid-feeling, plane-like lever for a gear selector. In such instances, the interior's alien-likeness is brought back to earth with some familiar touches.

But despite the generally commendable build quality, not everything delivers the same level of satisfaction. 

The guzheng-inspired strings will elicit "oohs" and "ahhs" every time a new passenger gets in, but they hide the fact that the door bins themselves aren't very big. Additionally, the use of some glossy plastic surfaces also feels cheap. If 'art for the sake of art' isn't one's philosophy, the Atto 3's cabin won't be their favourite - in spite of its very valiant effort at being inventive and unique. 

Screening assessment: Break from the usual programming

While the distinct advantages of different orientations are unclear, the freedom to choose is welcome
Up front, the 12.8-inch Intelligent Rotating Infotainment Display continues to dazzle as BYD's own tech-flex despite not being new. While the plethora of menus threatens to overwhelm the driver, the screen is responsive and appreciation for its size should only swell over time - especially when the car's panoramic cameras are blown up on it in full.

This large display, sheathed in a fresher interface than on the e6, is also where you'll be able to access the generously stacked list of smart features and safety assistance systems (all manners of alerts and warnings are on offer).

Unfortunately, the Atto 3 doesn't have in-built navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay currently, but its DiLink system is built to receive over-the-air updates, and E-Auto tells us these features should reach drivers soon. 

Although cramped, information is displayed intuitively
What's new, however, is the 5.0-inch digital cluster behind the steering wheel.

Decently crisp while delivering key figures such as your speed, power consumption and, of course, range and battery level in a straightforward manner, the incontrovertible upshot of its size is that you'll always get to view it in full regardless of your angle of vision. The downside, however, is that the display can feel over-stuffed, considering the very limited digital real estate. 

A (practical) marathoner disguised in a sprinter's clothes

Even though it isn't the quickest EV, the Atto 3 is undoubtedly BYD's most eager machine to date 
Despite being built on the e-platform 3.0 BYD says was designed for "high performance electric vehicles", palpable performance in the Atto 3 isn't what one might call hair-raising against the field of EVs we've already experienced.

From a single motor, the car gets 201bhp and 310Nm of torque sent to the front wheels, but you'll need to flick it into Sport mode to really squeeze these numbers out. Also un-EV-like are its gentle regenerative brakes, although their demure nature and the car's ability to creep should find favour with those coming over from ICE cars. 

BYD's e-Platform 3.0 maximises the car's wheelbase-to-length ratio, and cabin space benefits as a result 
Nonetheless, there's no doubt this is the most eager-to-accelerate machine we've gotten from BYD to date. The near-instantaneous surge of the Atto 3's 1.7 tonne body will still surprise first-time EV inductees - especially given the relative silence with which it gets executed. If you so wish for it, the car has sufficient pace to cut through traffic, or leave someone at the lights a bit confused. 

The Atto 3 finds itself in its true natural habitat, however, when it's kicking back and cruising along.

The car's well-damped suspension allows it to gently amble over undulations and humps as if a foam pillow was cushioning it underneath. Steering, although by no means vague, also isn't razor-sharp, and its lightness is best appreciated in shopping mall carparks and city traffic (where the Atto 3 is well-sized). 

A realistic range of over 400km will be put back into the battery within an hour with its 80kW DC charging
Likewise, the placement of the Atto 3's battery down low helps to counteract body roll, but the car's ride height is unmistakeable around bends. Those front 'sport seats' will instinctively induce a relaxed manner of driving with their extreme cushiness too, despite the racy cut-outs.

All these qualities are ultimately more congruent with the car's Eco and Normal modes, in which its responsiveness to one's right foot is notably dulled.

Furthermore, they also line up more sensibly with the Atto 3's strengths as a passenger carrier. Legroom is generous thanks to the long 2720mm wheelbase stretched out by its bespoke platform, and build quality in the rear is on par with the front, although 1.8m-tall passengers may find headroom a bit tight with the full-length panoramic roof. 

From its highly-efficient 60.5kWh Blade Battery, the Atto 3 will manage more than 400km of range easily on a single charge, and supports fast charging (up to 80kW) to an 80% state-of-charge under an hour. Our driving returned an impressive consumption figure of 14.8kWh/100km - even lower than the claimed 14.9kWh/100km - over four days and 300ish km. 

Dreaming bigger and better for the future

The Atto 3 offers good range and a good range of features at its price point, including an NFC Keycard
No doubt sparked by Tesla, debates continue to swirl around the role of a legacy carmaker - with well-honed sensibilities for a car's behaviour and cabin - vis-a-vis an EV-maker dealing in flashy but sometimes unnecessary features. 

The Atto 3 may be hard to place at first, and arguably runs into risky territory if its phantasmagoric interior and modern dashboard cannot find favour with the driver. But these features require minimal effort to adapt to, and besides, do not detract whatsoever from the car's comfortable and practical cabin, nor its accessible (and frankly adequate) powertrain.

With the Atto 3 as its turning point, it finally feels like BYD is dreaming bigger
Furthermore, fully maximising the Atto 3's 80kW DC-charging capabilities is highly realistic with today's infrastructure. As such, if the Atto 3 is the landmark entry point into EVs we suspect it will be for many, it handily ticks most desired boxes that will ease the switch. It's a shame COE premiums have artificially inflated its pricing, but for the amount it's asking for, there aren't any direct competitors with its level of range and spectrum of features.

Above all, however, the Atto 3 also feels significant as a turning point. Considering the brand's image thus far as a manufacturer of perfectly acceptable but not particularly alluring cars, BYD's self-built bridge onto a different future - of EVs that are simultaneously more distinct and more complete - is slowly materialising. With the Atto 3, it feels like the carmaker is finally dreaming, and dreaming big.

Interested in other compact all-electric SUVs? You may want to consider these alternatives...

The MG ZS is a reasonably capable, practical and affordable all-electric SUV

Hyundai's facelifted Kona Electric also offers sharper looks and more equipment on top of its everyday usability
 
If you don't mind stretching your budget by quite a bit, the Mercedes-Benz EQA boasts a very responsive drivetrain and impressive cabin

Want to see more of this new all-electric SUV? Why not also catch our video review here?

Car Information
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Promotion
There's a promotion for BYD Atto 3 Electric

Price

: $185,888

Engine Type

:

Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor

Engine Cap

:

-

Horsepower

:

150kW (201 bhp)

Torque

:

310 Nm

Transmission

:

Single-speed (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

7.3sec

Top Speed

:

160km/h

Energy consumption

:

6.7km/kWh

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byd  atto 3  e6  m3e  t3  electric  vehicles  evs  suv