Electric vehicles have been gaining quite a bit of popularity this year and no other newcomer – apart from Tesla’s Model Y – has caused as much buzz, intrigue and excitement as the BYD Atto 3. I finally got to test drive in Sydney this week and this EV has me surprised in many ways.
I got to see the build quality, test the way it rides, check out the interior quirks, the overall package and, of course, compare the Atto 3 to the top dollar under $50,000.
It’s a bit of a game changer and not in the way we expect. Let’s start with the build quality of what is currently the most affordable EV in Australia.
Premium feel without sacrificing
For example, I’ve been looking forward to driving the Atto 3 for months and when I got the chance I wanted to do as thorough a review as possible for thousands of BYD customers in Australia who have yet to test this EV for themselves.
Starting with the build quality, which is of course so important to so many. I have a background in mechanical engineering and so I am somewhat obsessed with the build quality of cars. The first thing I generally try is the way the doors open and close. The thump of the door says a lot about the overall build quality and feel of the car.
European cars are known for their premium-sounding thump, so closing the BYD Atto 3-door took me by surprise. It sounded very much like a VW Golf or a Tiguan. It’s comparable and in some cases better than many new Japanese and Korean cars I’ve driven over the years.
Other areas I sometimes look at are under the hood and bottom panels to see welds and quality of the paint in these locations.
I found the quality of the BYD Atto 3 to be very premium, even in the special blue paint the car I was driving had.
In comparison, my red Fremont-built Tesla Model 3 has a few spots under panels where Tesla has used “thinner” paint that can be seen from the outside when you open the trunk or frunk. I didn’t notice that at all in the BYD.
Comfort not found in many ICE cars
Some of the photos and videos most of us have seen in recent months leading up to this EV arrival in Australia showed seats emphasizing comfort. Sitting in the car for the first time confirmed this.
These seats are very well designed and are quite soft. Something you would expect to find in premium ICE cars that are way above the price this car comes in for. There were some concerns about the quality of seats from owners in New Zealand but with the car I was driving there didn’t seem to be any issues.
With no transmission tunnel at the rear, it’s a lot easier for even taller people to stretch their legs on longer road trips, making it a very comfortable ride.
Headroom is also pretty good with the sunroof that was on the car I tested.
It really adds to the comfort level and makes it feel more spacious inside, which I know is something most SUV owners are looking for.
Inside Atto 3, the more spacious feel combined with the materials used makes it such a nice place to be where most owners will spend their time.
Now let’s take a look at how the BYD Atto 3 drives, where it gets really interesting.
Quite a comfortable ride for Australian roads
Getting in the car and seeing a screen behind the wheel of this EV was pretty fun. It had all the key stats you need on the road, such as driving mode, speed, range, regenerative braking levels, lane assistant, cruise control, time and outside temperature.
It really shows that BYD has thought about the driver and the most important things they would need if they were to move from an ICE vehicle to an EV.
The screen is just the right size because it gives you the right information without affecting the driver’s view. It’s a small angle, but I got used to it pretty quickly.
Like many modern cars, there is an on button next to the gear lever. It is easy to recognize and pressing it turns on the car. There is also a drive mode selector lock that prevents inadvertent shifting to neutral and reverse in drive mode.
When I got in the car, as with most EVs, I turned up the regenerative braking to get the full EV experience.
In the BYD Atto 3, the regenerative braking was pretty good, but it also takes some time to get used to when it comes out of an ICE car. Once you get used to it, it’s hard to go back to ICE vending machines that keep crawling towards a set of lights.
On the roads, the suspension felt just right for the conditions on our roads. Driving around Sydney and on the bumpy highways, it went pretty well.
It felt quite composed and was progressively more responsive in Sport mode with stiffer handlebars around the twisty roads in the Macarthur region.
There was one section where I felt the front tires slip, accelerate out of a roundabout and plant the foot on the ground. The traction control kicked in immediately and the Atto 3 gripped the road.
There has been a lot of discussion online about the tires the Atto 3 comes with. I didn’t see any problems with the tires, especially when I compare them to tires from ICE cars of a similar size at this price that are available in Australia. They did well on the streets of Sydney, on highways and around twisty high-speed roads.
Charging speed higher for longer
One big feature of this EV that no other EV under $60,000 has is the Blade Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery. These are some of the safest batteries out there.
The batteries are the power of BYD and with Tesla also receiving their Blade batteries soon, I was curious to see what they would look like in their own ground-up EV, the Atto 3.
I drove the car almost 165km from full to test charging at Ampol’s recent 180kW charger in Sydney. At this stage, they offer free charging until the end of August, so the power delivery is limited to about 60 kW.
Even with the limited charging speed and more than 50% charging status, the charging speed was constant.
It’s worth noting that the Atto 3 is capable of over 80kW DC charging speed, which I’m sure would easily hit on faster chargers.
Even at 80%, it had a comparable charging power of 44.5 kW before dropping to 32 kW at 90% charge status.
This was really good to see meaning the battery would charge fairly consistently and quickly to 90%.
The real benefits of this charging will be felt on weekend trips for thousands of lucky owners this year. On that note, I’m also happy to report that the way the BYD Atto 3’s battery charges up won’t ruin anyone’s weekend!
BYD Atto 3 changes the EV game in Australia
After a day of driving nearly 200km on city and country roads in New South Wales, I pondered what this EV means for Australian EV adoption and for the thousands of BYD Atto 3 customers who have been patiently waiting for their first EV.
SUVs accounted for more than 50% of car sales in Australia in 2021, so 1 in 2 cars sold was an SUV. The BYD Atto 3 meets that SUV box with quality construction, comfortable driving, technology, charging and much more.
Australians are ready for EVs, hence the thousands of orders on this EV. This EV delivers what a seasoned EV should and at a price very close to what people pay with ICE vehicles these days.
ICE vehicles like the Rav4 have over 18 months of waiting time and those owners will still have to visit a gas station and pay whatever the day’s fare.
I don’t know many people who are happy to pay for fuel, and driving this EV SUV means you won’t be. Thousands of BYD owners in Australia have a great EV to look forward to and say goodbye to paying for fuel.
Riz is the founder of car run based in Melbourne. He is a mechanical engineer who spent the first 7 years of his career working all over Australia building infrastructure before starting carloop. He has a passion for cars, especially EVs, and wants to help reduce transport emissions in Australia. He currently drives a red Tesla Model 3.
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