2022 BYD Atto 3 Extended Range review

BYD has arrived, with the first shipments of the Atto 3 selling out quickly. Is this electric SUV worthy of the hype?

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine

BYD has arrived, the first shipments of the Atto 3 selling out before dealerships even opened their doors. So is this electric SUV worthy of the hype? 

Here’s another new car brand for the local market, and another originating from China. The arrival of BYD is somewhat novel; it’s a car maker you’d never heard of and yet it has now sold hundreds of its Atto 3s before it has opened any dealerships. 

But then this is 2022 and crazy is the new normal. It was only a couple of years ago that most would have said “I’ll never buy a Chinese car” but in the case of BYD, that has quickly changed to “take my money now”. There’s been massive interest in BYD’s arrival because it sells ‘affordable’ electric vehicles, with pricing for the BYD Atto 3 starting at $52,990.
That’ll get you the standard 50kWh battery model, while the 60kWh Extended version is $57,990. The standard specification, which shames most European models costing twice as much, is the same for both models, the only difference being battery capacity. The 60kWh model has a claimed 420km range while the 50kWh model is pegged at 345km.

Despite not yet being ANCAP tested, the Atto 3 has been awarded a five-star Vehicle Safety Risk Rating by the Government. And so both models are eligible for the current full EV Clean Car Rebate of $8625. 

The Atto 3 is 4.4m long and has a single 150kW/310Nm motor powering the front axle. It rides on the firm’s ‘E platform 3.0’. 

Standard features include a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, a 12.8-inch touchscreen, a five-inch digital instrument panel, synthetic leather trim, a 360-degree view monitor, a smart key, and a wireless phone charger. CarPlay and Android Auto integration will become available later in the year via over-the-air updates. It’s a connected car, coming with 2GB of data included each month for two years. While that doesn’t mean much at present, there will be a raft of apps soon available for download. BYD is also developing an app so your smartphone can act as the master key. 

While the exterior looks fairly conventional (it’s dragon-inspired, hence the piercing eyes and the scales on the C pillar), the interior sure ain’t. It looks organic with its curves and contours. The build quality and materials used are genuinely impressive. The colour combination won’t be for everyone, and white seats just aren’t practical. But these ones are certainly comfy, electrically adjusted and heated too. Plenty of room in the rear as well and there’s 440L of boot space when you lower the two-tier floor. There’s the usual split folding and Isofix points for the kids’ seats. It’s practical then.
The touchscreen (whose party tricky is being able to swivel from landscape to portrait view) isn’t the master and commander of all functions. They’ve seen fit to add a few console-mounted buttons to make it easy to switch drive modes or change brake regen on the go, and there are a few frequently used ventilation controls. We like how the start button, gear lever and park brake are all grouped together for ease of use. 
BYD reckons the key selling point of the Atto 3 is its Blade battery technology. This uses lithium iron phosphate chemistry, claimed by BYD to be safer than conventional lithium-ion tech. Search for ‘blade battery nail test’ to see what they are on about. It’s said that while the energy density of the cobalt-free iron phosphate battery is lower than the more usual nickel manganese cobalt and nickel cobalt aluminum alternatives, it’s cheaper to make, more stable and safer, and has a longer cycle life. BYD says it can handle 5000 charging cycles before its state of health degrades below 80 per cent versus around 1300 charge cycles for other batteries. So it should outlast its six-year/180,000km battery pack warranty. The rest of the car has six-year/150,000km cover.  
As to how it goes, the ride is very agreeable. That probably has something to do with its multilink rear end and BYD’s head chassis tuner who used to work for Mercedes-Benz. This rolls over most bumps with composure, the suspension working away quietly too. It maintains that ride decorum at speed, rolling with the dips and dives without crashing over potholes. 

Of the drive modes, we’d leave it in Normal and be happy. Sport amps the delivery but brings with it too much wheel spin and torque steer. Eco might be handy should you be running low on charge. Normal therefore brings the balance. 

It’s not slow either, the 3 hitting 100km/h in the 7.5sec they say it will, while it gets the overtake done in 4.8sec, so it’s perfectly adequate. 

Dynamically speaking, it favours refinement over connection. It manages its weight competently, all 1750kg of it, though there is a bias towards comfort over ultimate control. The steering feel is MIA, and it’s therefore difficult to judge if you’re nearing the limits of tyre adhesion. This wears Batman-branded tyres and while the Dark Knight himself is full of resolve, this rubber surrenders easily when pushed around. It’s more of an issue on a wet road where the feel for the grip just isn’t there, though the ESP will help out when the understeer arrives. 
Atto 3 is a handy commuter, the steering light and the turning circle tight. The brake regeneration is on the light side, even in its ‘High’ setting and so there is no facility for one-pedal driving. Its action is more prevalent as speeds rise and does slow you effectively but you’ll need to use the brake pedal to come to a halt.
While the driveline is whir-free, tyre- and wind-generated noise can permeate the interior, the former worst on coarse chip surfaces. The A pillars are thick but otherwise the outward vision is good and the reverse camera, complete with 360 degree imaging, gives a clear view thanks to the big, hi-res screen. The safety systems aren’t too bothersome; the lane keeping is well calibrated, and so too the active cruise. The forward collision warning picks up too many parked cars in side streets however. 

People still ask about the ultimate range which is a stupid question. It all depends on how, when and where you drive. How about its efficiency? That’s a much better question, grasshopper. In stop-start city driving, the consumption graph was tracking in the 15kWh/100km range. Motorway travel can see it trend toward the higher teens, and in full test mode, seeing what she can do, this spiked into the low 20s. 

BYD includes a three-pin charger with the car, something they call an emergency charger, as they are encouraging buyers to use their rebate money to purchase a 7kW wallbox to enable better AC charging (the on-board charger is rated at 6.6kW). That’ll facilitate charging rates around three times faster than the emergency charger, so think overnight rather than all day. The three-pin plug took 12hr at 8A/1.2kW to bring the battery to full again from 70 per cent.  

BYD NZ is developing a tow bar solution for its newbie, designed and tested here with a 750kg max rating. In reality, it’s something to attach your bike carrier to. You also get a vehicle-to-load adapter as standard (or you will do when they source one to NZ safety standards, expected in October) delivering 3.3kW of power. Handy for those who like camping, with the capacity to boil a kettle and cook your toast at the same time. 

The BYD Atto 3 impressed us given the price and potential range. We reckon you’d get over the odd interior and enjoy the refinement and practicality of the Atto 3, while the spec sheet is comprehensive too. 

And they reckon if you place an order now, they’ll be able to deliver it before Christmas. So we can’t really see a reason why you should strike this off the shopping list.  

ModelBYD Atto 3

Extended Range
Clean Car DiscountDiscount – $8625
Motorsingle, 150kW/310Nm
Range420km (WLTP)
Drivetrainsingle-speed auto, FWD
Energy Use15.6kWh/100km
C02 Output0g/km
80-120km/h4.82sec (135m)
Stability systemsABS, ESP, TV

Luggage capacity440-1340L
Tow rating750kg
Service intervals12 months, 20,000km
Warranty6yrs, 150,000km
ANCAP ratingnot yet rated
Weight1750kg (claimed)

This article was originally published on autocar.co.nz

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine - autocar.co.nz

Kyle has been reviewing cars since starting at NZ Autocar magazine in 2003 and has been editor since 2009. In that time he’s become an expert on what makes for a good vehicle while also gaining insights into the local automotive industry.