20 December 2022

In a market where the best-selling EV is $65K, does China's BYD look compelling?

| James Coleman
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BYD Atto 3

The 2022 BYD Atto 3 in the Canberra Outlet Centre car park. Photo: James Coleman.

If you’re looking at ditching your fossil-fuel-powered car for an electric vehicle (EV) in the near future, you will have heard of BYD. And that’s because the newly arrived Chinese brand promises to offer the best-value one out there.

The circa-$45,000 ACT driveaway price for their Atto 3 Standard Range SUV (in white) brings the EV entry point closer to more people, who previously were stuck with the MG ZS EV with its dismal 320 km range or a Nissan Leaf with its outdated, uncooled battery.

That’s how I was going to begin this review, but in the four days between when I picked up my test example from the Janrule Parts Warehouse in Fyshwick and dropped it off, the prices had risen by $3630. The Standard Range (345 km) now starts at $48,011, and the Extended Range (420 km) at $51,011.

READ ALSO Chinese EV brand to open Phillip ‘experience centre’

Okay, so in Canberra’s market, where the best-selling EV is still a $65K-plus Tesla, it’s still not bad. But what do you get?

It’s relieving to see car manufacturers have finally worked out how to give an EV a face. Decades of internal-combustion engines left us with a grille for a mouth and headlights for eyes, but EVs don’t need as much air. So we had a few years of fake vents and blank patches, but there’s nothing awkward about the Atto 3. Except for the ‘Build Your Dreams’ lettering on the back.

Pleasing styling touches such as the shark-skin-textured brushed aluminium on the back pillars and racy 18-inch wheels set it off. I don’t know if it’s this or the still largely unfamiliar BYD badges, but passers-by look too.

However, it’s inside where the gasps really roll out.

It looks like one of those prototype cars that are wheeled out to cooing crowds at international motor shows, bristling with all manner of weird and wonderful whims from the design department. Two years later, however, and the buying public is presented with a shadow of the car’s former self, with the ejector seats and 52-inch touchscreen replaced by a “sophisticated interior trimmed in Graphite vegan leather”.

Yeah, not this time.

Take the door pockets, for example. They could have gone for the usual moulded plastic affair but no, there are literal guitars down there and a quick sound check with a smartphone app confirms that, when plucked, the three red cords sound a mix of A and E notes. Parents will love that. What the cords don’t do, however, is hold a 710 mL drink bottle. Fortunately, there are plenty of storage options everywhere else.

READ ALSO SUVs like VW’s new T-Roc might help with a very Aussie problem

Apart from the inevitable strumming, it’s library-quiet inside – and I wasn’t expecting that.

I thought there’d be annoying squeaks, rattles and other quality issues. And it’s true the brake makes a curious clunk at times, but while driving through one of Canberra’s springtime blustery gales, the BYD was like the eye of the cyclone. Only a whirr from the electric motors lets you know you are, in fact, moving.

It also handles the road impeccably.

Back to the brake pedal to get the bad news out the way first: BYD knows most of their buyers will be coming out of fossil-fuelled cars for the first time, so they’ve tried to make the transition as smooth as possible. This means no single-pedal driving or regenerative braking, as other EVs offer. It’s also left the brake pedal with a slightly spongey feeling that isn’t confidence-inspiring in traffic.

It doesn’t bolt off the line as quickly as other EVs either, even though it’s far from sluggish, with a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 7.3 seconds. Everything else about it, however, from the deft steering to the pliant suspension – not to mention the soft leather seats – makes it a genuinely nice car to drive around town.

Then there are the cameras which form a 3D image of the car on the 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen for easy parking, and you’re left amazed by BYD’s party trick: cramming as much into a car as possible for the price. The difference with the BYD is that it doesn’t even feel that cheap.

Just checking … and yep, the price is still $51,011.

2022 BYD Atto 3 Extended Range

  • $51,011 driveaway
  • Electric motor, 60.48 kWh lithium-ion phosphate (LFP) ‘Blade’ battery, 150 kW / 310 Nm
  • Front-wheel drive
  • 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds
  • 420 km estimated range

Visit BYD Automotive for more information.

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Capital Retro9:45 pm 28 Dec 22

The EV fantasy is about to crash so all this speculation about the main Tesla competitor is academic:

https://www.afr.com/world/north-america/tesla-forced-to-double-its-discounts-in-sign-demand-is-dropping-20221223-p5c8hb

Note the US government is about to throw more taxpayers’ money at EVs, too.

I wouldn’t go for them yet. Early adopters with heaps of money yes, but I’m waiting for the 1000km range sub $50k EV. The current crop will be worthless as trade ins for the next generation (2030 and beyond)

Hmm “soft leather seats” – they are plastic. Made from oil stock. Manufacturers refer to them as vegan leather. They are plastic. Just like Tesla.

Am not in the market for a new set of wheels, but if I were ..

There is available a Mercedes Benz S class, 10 years old, 115 thousand KMs and they want 50K for it.
The S class is the Benz top of the line model, and looks very sharp.
I’d be thinkin I’d be goin’ for the Benz , and not a untried , not overly attractive SUV looking thing.

Now I know my choice puffs out that stuff that’s apparently bad for us, but around my ranch I have a number of trees that suck this in , and in turn they ease out good old oxygen. They thrive on the stuff, and being a local resident , I also have a share in our Namadgi park, which has a zillion trees working o’time doing the same as my trees.

Perhaps in 10 years time I may lean towards a EV. They will improve, especially the large expensive battery pack.
Seem to remember how the first mobile phones were nicknamed The Brick, and look how they have progressed.

Andrew Hargrave3:09 pm 26 Dec 22

Comparing a new vehicle with 6+ years warranty (8 for the battery) with an old expensive to repair, likely to breakdown, with no warranty vehicle is beyond absurd.

I refuel once every 400km and it takes about 5 minutes. How does that compare with the time taken to recharge an EV? When an ordinary affordable long range EV with a low battery can be recharged in under 10 minutes I will consider it as a practical alternative.

Andrew Hargrave3:06 pm 26 Dec 22

Well, I never have to refill for 5 minutes.

I drive all day, and simply plug the car in when I get home afterwards.

So, filling up your car is more inconvenient than filling up mine…

Capital Retro8:15 am 29 Dec 22

All day? That’s 8 hours and I have never heard of an EV that can drive continuously for that time. Do you expect us to fall for that hype?

We may be labeled sceptics but we are not stupid.

Andrew Hargrave – sounds like an Uber, if you drive all day. I figure regen braking would get you that 8 hours. Butas Capital Retro says, there’s no way you could drive an EV on the freeway for eight hours without recharging, unless you are doing 40km/h and that’s dangerous

Around town yes. Try taking a driving holiday to Queensland.

In the outback in a remote campsite? You are presuming people take the car home every night. I don’t have my home power point with me for several months a year. For work I cycled. I am going to buy an electric bike for getting around town more. Car, not until they are more practical for long distance driving, outback.
Searching for that power point (an ordinary power point in many places) and then needing to wait for the car to charge before being able to travel on. How many hours; how many days wasted? Then repeating, and repeating that. Travel time will be doubled.

Hi Maya123, look at an e-bike with a belt drive. Mike bike has an 85Nm motor, but Mercedes have a bike (N-bike) that has heaps more power:
Nplusbikes.com.au

I will be looking for one with mountain bike tyres to go on some dirt tracks too. Weight is another factor, even if I need to pay a bit more. I need to be able to lift it, although I can remove the battery to make that easier. Sometimes I might like to take it in my car when I’m travelling to use around towns, or on tracks my car is not allowed on. So need to be able to lift and slide it in the back. Easy with a non electric bike.
Then it will be suitable for about town and beyond. When younger, I went on several long distant trips cycling. I can’t see me doing that again, but with an electric bike, I might give that some thought for short trips. Could be charged nightly in my motel room, and being a smaller battery than a car battery likely to fully charge overnight (I would hope).

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