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Review: BYD Atto 3

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Review: BYD Atto 3

BYD is also not aiming for straight-line performance targets: the Atto 3 accelerates to 100 km/h in 7.2 seconds. Pleasant by today’s EV standards, but perfectly fast enough for a car like this. Remember that it must be a good quality family car, designed to fit into your daily life; too many EVs have the kind of rocket performance that your passengers, dog and groceries simply don’t stand for. The Atto 3’s acceleration is adequate, and we’re here for it.

Reach is of course much more important. BYD’s claim of 260 miles (WLTP) is 25 less than the Kia Niro EV and 23 less than the £45,000/$44,000 Tesla Model Y, but 11 ahead of the similarly priced Škoda Enyaq. Take driving style and temperature into account, and you can expect a real-world range closer to 220 miles. Not bad, but you’ll still long for faster charging every time you plug it in.

The brakes are fine, although the pedal is spongy, and the switch from regenerative braking to using discs and pads is well judged. There are two strengths of regeneration to choose from: via a toggle switch on the center console or by diving into the touchscreen, but neither is particularly strong and unfortunately single-pedal driving isn’t an option.

As this is a new car built to meet the latest European safety standards, the usual frustrations are all present and correct. You’ll be warned every time you exceed the speed limit, even if it’s just 3km/h, and because the road sign recognition system makes mistakes, you’ll sometimes be scolded by the car’s voice assistant if it has misread a sign. Bafflingly, the navigation screen and driver display sometimes disagree on the speed limit; other times they show no limit at all.

There’s no Tesla Autopilot-style hands-off driving, but the Atto 3 still has lane-keeping assist in addition to other driver assistance systems. Usually it provides a bit of gentle feedback when you wander over a lane marking, but during our 90-minute drive the car grabbed the wheel twice like a panicked driving instructor. The first time this happened was a real shock, as the steering wheel was pulled for no apparent reason, and as with these systems on almost all new cars, the initial intervention sowed a seed of doubt that never really goes away. As always, it is best to return these systems to their least invasive setting.

Taste of things to come

What do you think of the BYD Atto 3? The question might as well be: what should we make of the impending flood of electric cars being built by Chinese companies that are giants at home but unheard of in the West?

This is clearly not a car for car enthusiasts. And although it is not groundbreaking, the Atto 3 is perfectly suitable as an electric car. It has a nice, spacious and beautifully designed interior that comes standard with equipment that is often hidden in the options lists of more expensive German cars.

The touchscreen software needs some work, and permanent climate controls are a must in our book. Performance and range are both fine, and ride quality is decent, but we wish all that battery expertise had resulted in faster charging.

Ultimately, the Atto 3 does little to differentiate itself from what is quickly becoming a crowded segment of the EV market. It feels well made and represents good value for money, but while that gorgeous Mayfair showroom promises a lot, the unfamiliar emblem asks buyers to take a leap of faith.

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