BYD Atto 3 review, first drive - impressive real-world range tested
If you aren't fully in tune with the Indian automotive scene, the BYD Atto 3 may seem unfamiliar. But far from being an outlier, the Atto 3 has been a crucial cog in BYD becoming the world's largest EV maker. This electric SUV is the first of its models to be pitched as a global offering, coming to India after debuts in South-East Asia, Australia and Europe.
It's being assembled in India where BYD has had a long-standing presence and is its second passenger EV offering here after the e6 MPV also recently became available to private buyers.
BYD Atto 3 dimensions, exteriors
At 4,455mm long, 1,875mm wide and 1,615mm tall, the BYD Atto 3 is slightly larger than the MG ZS EV. There's a taut, compact look to the SUV and unlike the e6 that came before, there is quite some flair to the way the BYD Atto 3 looks. So you have some soft organic surfaces like on the bonnet, tempered by the sharp LED headlamps and the full-width light bar. There's no grille of course but the bumper with the ridged air dams again finds a nice balance with the simple overall shape.
The BYD Atto 3 is also quite proportionately stanced. This is apparent in profile with the quite sharp glass area which plays off with the silver scaled pattern on the C-pillar. The mild haunches over the wheels and the soft surfacing on the bodywork add to quite a muscular stance. The lesser silver highlights around the cladding also help cut down mass. The charge port on the right fender is a practical touch. Ground clearance is 175mm, not as much as ICE rivals, but useful. The typical EV aero-covers for the 18-inch wheels are also quite tasteful.
If anything, the BYD branding on the fenders and the big Build Your Dreams lettering at the rear could have been slightly toned down. But again the sharp full-width taillamps with the curved boot and the intricate bumper design here give the Atto 3 a good sense of width.
BYD Atto 3 interiors, features, space, practicality
Quite unlike the outside, the interiors of the BYD Atto 3 will cause debate. There's a starkly organic, humanoid design to the space here which BYD says has been themed after muscles and gym equipment! You then see some sense in the flowing dash top, the muscular centre section with some mechanical elements thrown in like the cylindrical AC vents. This unconventional design extends to the doors with the latch integrated into the speaker, the lever-like door pulls and the playable strings in the door pockets.
But look past these gimmicks and the Atto 3's cabin is quite well made. The dash materials are soft, there are no inconsistent panel gaps and the switches function with tactility, even down to the strange AC vents and door latch. The gear-shifter too, with its gym equipment-like handle, is easy to use on the move.
It's also a fairly ergonomic and functional space given the ground-up EV architecture. So the low dash height and the fairly slim pillars make for a good view out. The steering position is regular SUV fare and the seats, despite their single-piece design and heavy bolstering are quite comfortable. There's also a wide range of adjustments to these so finding a good seating position is not difficult.
The Atto 3's footwells are large and there's good storage too with a lower space below the floating centre tunnel for devices and charge ports and a large centre armrest cubby. If anything the stringed door pockets could have been larger and while you do get a bank of buttons to control the drive and regen modes, basic ADAS and climate functions. The temperature controls are within the touchscreen so can take some getting used to.
This 12.8-inch screen is the centre of attraction here. You may or may not like its rotating function, via a button on the steering wheel, but the screen itself is packed full of tech. It's essentially an Android tablet so you get Spotify and other google apps. With the driver's screen being a tiny one, most functions right from the voice assistant to the ADAS are controlled here. You even get an especially useful 360-degree camera which works even on the move with its 3D renders and a dashcam but the touch responses are good and the layout and sub-menus are logical enough. Android Auto/Apple Carplay is missing which is an inconvenience, although that will be integrated soon with an OTA update.
The small 5-inch screen in front of the driver gives out all the information you might need but its small size clutters this information. So the power and battery level gauges are tiny as is the ADAS graphic. There's also limited adjustability.
Rear-seat passengers will also be happy in the Atto 3. The floor isn't too high unlike most EVs and the bench, with its similarly contoured shape as the front seats, holds you in place well. There is good thigh support too while there is quite a bit of legroom and headroom, helped by the EV packaging. There are adequate charge ports but the door pockets are again relatively small.
The Atto 3 can be had in a single fully-loaded variant which gets heated and powered outer mirrors, a CN95 air filter, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, NFC unlock, powered front seats, one-touch function for all four windows and a powered boot-lid being the highlights.
With the placement of the battery electronics, there's no spare wheel which can be concerning for India but you get a sizeable 440 litres of space. The load lip is low too and the boot floor is flat and square with a small enclosed undertray compartment.
BYD Atto 3 real-world range, battery, charging
The tech and gimmicks aside, the BYD Atto 3 is quite a convincing EV. This is down to BYD's proprietary Blade battery tech. The Atto 3 uses the latest iteration of the technology which uses a lithium-ferrous-phosphate battery arranged in a manner to increase energy density while still being safe. BYD also happens to develop the complete componentry around this right from the lithium in the battery, its one battery management system to the architecture which has led to 89 per cent efficiency. A heat pump, as well as the Atto 3's 0.29 drag coefficient, are other factors.
In effect, the Atto3 with its 60.48 kWh battery pack gets very close to its 480 km NEDC and 521 km ARAI range figure. We put this to the test and found ourselves with an impressive 467 km of real-world range. The tech seems to work because there didn't seem as far a gap as we've experienced in the city(12.5 kWh/100 km) and highway(14.5 kWh/100 km) efficiencies, compared to other EVs we've range tested. Impressively, you can expect over 400 km of highway range from the Atto 3, so road trips aren't going to be anxious.
The Atto 3 can be at 80 kW from a DC fast charger in 50 mins from 5 to 80 per cent. Although AC charging is a bit long drawn with only 7 kW supported. This takes 9.5 to 10 hours so an 11 kW charging option could be a good addition.
BYD Atto 3 driving impressions
The BYD Atto 3's electric motor makes 204PS and 310 Nm. These are fairly useful figures and the EV is brisk with a claimed 0 to 100 kmph time of 7.3s. But the defining trait of the Atto 3 on the move seems to be to ease in first-time EV users. So the power builds in a progressive swell rather than the sharp rapid acceleration of some other electrics. There are three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Sport, which change throttle sensitivity but we found the default Normal to be the most natural. There are two further steering modes, but again the normal mode seems best suited to the car.
So with the great visibility out of Atto 3 and through the cameras, driving this SUV in traffic really is quite simple. The steering is not the lightest but has a nice, precise heft to it. So with the seamless electric torque, picking your way through out streets needs little effort. Although we do think BYD could have offered more than two regen modes. There's no one-pedal driving but the stronger regen mode seems a touch less aggressive for city driving. Some paddles to control this would have been nicer too.
As for the ride, the Atto 3 does fairly well over small ruts at slow speeds but the typical EV firmness shows up over larger broken spots. The suspension also handles these a touch noisily. But this fades away to an extent at highway speeds. Here, the performance doesn't peter off too much at the speeds you will do usually do and the Atto 3 feels solid and planted like you would expect of a car its price. Like in the city, the silence is quite calming although wind noise does creep up around the door sills here. The low mass also makes the Atto 3 fairly lithe, so it takes curves with progressive body movements and with a fair sense of control. Although, you will start to run wide if you push harder than usual. That said, the brakes are very well-tuned with a seamless transition from the regen to the friction brakes.
BYD Atto 3 ADAS, safety
The BYD Atto 3 also promises to be quite safe, with a five-star Global NCAP rating. You also get a fairly intuitive ADAS system to go with this. The car takes some time to detect lane markings and has a tendency to stick too close to the right lane marking, but other than this it works well enough. So the Atto 3 steers itself slightly jerky but correct movements on sweeping curves and loses or gains speeds with the adaptive cruise control quite naturally.
A useful touch is the hard buttons on the steering wheel to turn off the lane departure system and change the gap it maintains to the leading car. The car will even warn of passing cars when you open the door aside from the usual rear traffic braking.
Passive safety equipment includes eight airbags, traction control, an electronic parking brake, TPMS and hill-descent control.
BYD Atto 3 price, verdict
Ideally, the BYD Atto 3 should have been priced at Rs 30 lakh, given the relatively unknown BYD name in India. But even at Rs 33.90 lakh it costs, the Atto 3 feels like a good deal. Yes, you are buying into a new brand with some geo-political uncertainty and the interiors could have been less experimental. But you get impressive range, a vast list of features, smart looks and competent driving dynamics. A strong addition to India's EV landscape.
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