The BYD Atto 3 EV Packs a Lot in for Its Price

The BYD Atto 3 EV Packs a Lot in for Its Price

Yesterday I had the pleasure of driving the BYD Atto 3, the hotly anticipated “cheap” EV that has now arrived on the Australian market.

Now, unfortunately, I didn’t get to drive it for very long. The review timeframe I was offered only lasted a day, but boy did I push every button I could.

I think the BYD Atto 3 is my favourite EV in Australia at the moment. The value proposition is too good to ignore and at the very least the Atto 3 will disrupt the EV market in the country, with other carmakers needing to bring prices down or face irrelevancy. It’s that good.

From three drives around Sydney’s inner west, here’s what I think about Australia’s cheap EV contender, the BYD Atto 3.

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Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

$15,000 speaks for itself

The BYD Atto 3, in my opinion, is well positioned to take on the Polestar 2 and the Tesla Model 3, at a price roughly $15,000 cheaper.

Starting at $44,381 MSRP for the standard model and $47,381 MSRP for the extended range model (which I drove), the BYD Atto 3 offers a user, driving and range experience way ahead of models much more expensive than it.

The standard model offers a range of about 345km WLTP, whereas the extended range model offers a range of about 420km WLTP, although at full battery, the car was reporting a 480km range expectation.

Let’s bring that into context. Compared to the three closest-priced EVs to the standard range BYD Atto 3, the car is:

  • More expensive than the MG ZS EV Excite with about 25km more WLTP range
  • Cheaper than the Hyundai Ioniq Electric with about 34km more WLTP range
  • Cheaper than the Nissan Leaf with about 70km more WLTP range

And with the extended range model offering a higher price of about $3,000 in most states, the trade-off for a greater range is, in my opinion, well justified.

Additionally, the standard model offers a max charging speed of 70kW with a DC fast charger or 80kW with the extended range model (7kW max AC charging on both), which are pretty respectable speeds for such a cheap car, able to get you up to 80 or 90 per cent within less than an hour in optimal conditions.

Car feel

The BYD Atto 3, in terms of driving ‘feeling’, is quite heavy on its small wheels (weighing 1,680kg, which is pretty standard for an EV) but it doesn’t feel that heavy on the road.

Keep in mind it’s only available in front-wheel drive, with its 0-100km/h speed clocked at 7.3 seconds. Additionally, 215/55 R18 wheels come as standard, which aren’t huge, but are part of why it feels so heavy and strangely weighted. I’m not a fan of these wheels and would recommend alternatives.

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See those chords? They’re on every door and sound like a guitar when strum. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

With lane assistance, full-surround parking cameras, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, the Atto 3 doesn’t skimp on driving experience features. I was quite impressed on all fronts.

I feel like I’m singing the praises of the BYD Atto 3 with bells, chimes and a choir behind me, but you need to believe me: this thing offers value before anything else.

And it doesn’t end with range or price.

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No frunk. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Screen goes spin

One of the car’s few novelties is its spinning screen, which rotates into either landscape or portrait mode with the click of a button. It adds a touch of personalisation to the car but is hard to comprehend beyond a novelty: it doesn’t really need to exist, but it’s neat that it’s there.

And that’s how I feel about many of the BYD’s features. A well-placed screen behind the wheel for information, a comfortably tactile experience with enough buttons to satisfy a screen-hating driver (without being overwhelming) and heated seats, along with fairly accommodating (but fairly overwhelmingly presented) climate control settings.

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The screen behind the wheel. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

So many features in the BYD are just nice to have, especially at the price point. However, with all of these features, it’s remarkable what BYD has excluded. In particular, there’s no in-built GPS system, a strange system that flattens the folded backseat with the trunk, no frunk, nor is there any Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support.

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As pointed out to me by @reallyedbrown on Twitter, the bottom of the boot can be lifted up to be in line with the folded backseat. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Now, yes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support have been announced as updates coming this year, but it’s weird to not have them or a native GPS system. This means your GPS system would have to operate externally without the car screen until you get that OS update. A small criticism, one being addressed, but one worth noting.

It’s for these reasons that I would urge a buyer to check the car out before committing to the purchase. You may find something in the experience that annoys you just enough to sour an otherwise pleasant experience.

I love how this looks

One of our main criticisms of the Kia Niro S was that, although it was a comfortable size like a small SUV or a large hatchback, the backseats were quite cramped.

The BYD, fitting into the same category as a small SUV or large hatchback, feels terrific in the backseat. An openable roof makes the backseats feel even more spacious, but they’re just fine to sit in. There’s not an abundance of space, sure, but there’s absolutely enough for a family.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The interior of the car is also beautiful. A gorgeous black and dusty white two-tone focus with red trim colouring, it feels sporty and fast to sit in the BYD.

Aesthetically, the BYD just looks great. I don’t think the photos of the car online really do it justice: it looks incredible in person. Similar to the design of Kia or Nissan SUVs, BYD has found that great sweet spot between familiar car design and spacey, sci-fi EV design.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The only pet peeve I have on the design front is the licence plate positioning: it’s quite awkward-looking on top of the black mount, which is attached to the car. It doesn’t ruin the look, but it sticks out when you notice it.

The EV to have (but…)

BYD still has to prove itself in the Australian market. The value on offer from BYD is immense, but with little customer service experience in the country, people are right to be concerned about the newcomer.

But if all is well, then the BYD Atto 3 is the EV to have. I strongly believe this will disrupt the Australian electric car market, taking buyers away from other brands as the obvious value option, while also bringing in prospective EV buyers with smaller budgets.

Additionally, I would encourage you to research this quite a bit. I can’t give you all the answers you want, unfortunately, as I only got less than a day of driving in, focused entirely on inner-city roads. I’m not sure how the BYD Atto 3 would fair on longer drives.

I’d also keep an eye out for BYD’s update rolling out before the end of the year that will add Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support. Those features will increase the value of the BYD Atto 3 immensely. 

BYD has made a terrific first impression.

Want more Aussie car news? Here’s every EV we’ve reviewed in the last two years, all the EVs we can expect down under soon, and our guide to finding EV chargers across the country. Check out our dedicated Cars tab for more.

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