Car review: The best EV you’ve not heard of?

Car Review: The Best Ev You’ve Not Heard Of?
BYD Atto 3 is a mid-size electric crossover which slots more or less between the VW ID.3 and ID.4 in terms of size.
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Neil Briscoe

Do you know what I’ve always wanted to do?

Do tell…


I’ve… I’ve always… no, it’s too silly.

No, please. Tell me. I won’t judge.

Well, I’ve always wanted to… build my dreams.

Ah, well in that case I have good news. You can, now. Or at least, you can sub-contract out the building of your dreams to a company which will do it for you.


Tell me more…

Build Your Dreams — or BYD as we can henceforth call it — is one of China’s biggest car makers, having started as a battery maker. In fact, if you’re reading this on a phone or laptop, there’s quite a good chance that there’s a BYD battery in it.

So now BYD is making cars?

Has been for a while, actually. In fact, BYD makes all its own stuff — the car, the chassis, the battery, the electronics, the software. It even owns its own fleet of big ro-ro ships to send them to Europe, and more importantly Ireland.


Is BYD coming here?

It’s already here, launching in Ireland this week with the Atto 3 crossover, which will set you back €37,128 after grants for a basic one. More new models will follow in the Autumn, including the Dolphin five-door hatchback and the Seal saloon.

I’m sorry; Dolphin and Seal?

Oh yes, BYD likes its aquatic names — there’s a cheapy Seagull hatchback too, which costs less than the equivalent of €10,000 in China and yet has a 400km range. The Seal saloon is pretty serious too — it’s a Tesla Model 3 rival with Porsche styling and a 3.8 seconds 0-100km/h time.


BYD Atto 3 comes with one battery for the moment — BYD’s own ‘Blade’ battery with a 60kWh capacity — and a claimed range of 420km.

That’s not this, though?

No, this is the Atto 3, and it’s a mid-size electric crossover which slots more or less between the VW ID.3 and ID.4 in terms of size. It comes with one battery for the moment — BYD’s own ‘Blade’ battery with a 60kWh capacity — and a claimed range of 420km.

Why is it called an Atto? Is that a fish too?


No, this one is named after an attosecond, which is the smallest possible measurement of time. And the 3 is because it’s based on BYD’s 3.0-generation electric car chassis.

It doesn’t look very thrilling…

On the outside, no. It’s actually pretty bland, or if you’re feeling generous then it looks generically handsome (like one of those models in the photo that comes with a new picture frame). It’s a bit — make that a lot — more interesting inside. You get soft ‘pleather’ high-backed bucket seats, door pockets with guitar-like strings to keep things in place (you can even strum them), and a massive 12.8-inch or 15.6-inch touchscreen (depends on the version you’re buying) which swivels from a landscape to an upright portrait layout, and back again.

Why does it do that?

Dunno, but it’s good fun for a few minutes at least, and it’s handy to have the screen pointing up if you’re using the sat-nav. It’s fairly roomy too — good legroom and headroom in the back, and a decent 440-litre boot.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s… fine. It’s not exciting, but it’s smooth and mostly refined, apart from some shocking levels of wind noise when you get it above 100km/h. The battery range seems honest enough, although if you start thrashing it on the motorway it’ll probably plummet to around 300km, rather than the claimed 420km. It does get a standard heat-pump heating system which should help it hold onto range in the winter. The ride quality is very good, so it’s smooth over bumps, and the low-seat dashboard gives you great visibility in town.

How fast does it charge?

The Atto 3 charges fine at home — up to 11kW on AC power, but it’s slower if you’re trying to do a longer journey with top-ups. Just 88kW of charging speed on DC high-speed chargers.

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You don’t sound thrilled.

I’m not — it’s not that kind of car. Customers will probably love it though as it’s well-priced, practical, and pleasant enough to drive. Plus it comes with a good four-year warranty and while you’ve not heard of BYD, its Irish importer — Motor Distributors — has more than 80 years of experience in the Irish market, so there’s good backup.

Is it a dream worth building?

It’s more a sensible car worth buying, but dreamier models are coming. Wait for the Seal…

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