BYD Atto 3 Review: First Drive

By Shivank Bhatt | on December 12, 2022 Follow us on Autox Google News

The Atto 3 isn't just another new cutting-edge EV from China – it's a statement that BYD is here to stay.

Electric vehicles are such a rage these days that every second week we have a new EV arriving on our shores with the promise of changing the world. The BYD Atto 3 is one of the latest entrants to make such a promise. It’s an all-new EV from a virtually unknown carmaker and, at Rs 34 lakh (ex-showroom), it isn’t a cheap thrill in any way.

So, is the Atto 3 just another run-of-the-mill EV with tall promises or can it really hit it big? We sampled this suave-looking SUV in Chennai to find the truth behind it.  

What is BYD?

Before we get on with the actual review, it’s important to know what BYD is all about. BYD or Build Your Dreams is one of China’s biggest manufacturers – from batteries, mobile phones, solar panels, buses, and forklifts to now EVs, they are experts in all things electrics and more. In fact, with a global EV market share of nearly 20% in the third quarter of 2022, BYD is the current market leader in the EV space, ahead of Tesla and Volkswagen. All in all, BYD is not just another manufacturer, especially in terms of developing, manufacturing and selling EVs.

All Sharped Up

BYD Atto 3 Design

The Atto 3 is a handsome EV. BYD says its design follows the company’s Dragon Face 3.0 philosophy, which uses a mix of sharp, sporty, and strong lines. It certainly looks that way – the pointy front end with sharp LED headlamps, a rakish roofline, prominent shoulder lines, large 18-inch wheels along with muscular haunches, and a coupe-like rear end featuring one-piece LED taillight strip give it a sporty and purposeful stance. Plus, measuring around 4.5 metres, it’s the same size as the Audi Q3. And with short overhangs at both ends, it’s got a chic road presence.

However, an SUV, it is not. The Atto 3 is more of a crossover or a jacked-up hatchback. In fact, at 175mm, its ground clearance is lower than a sedan like the Skoda Slavia. Is it a bad thing? Not for me, personally. To my eyes, it has a stylish, sublime, and contemporary design, which is far better than the cheesy or over-the-top stuff that you’d usually expect from a Chinese automaker. I also have to say that its paint quality is reminiscent of more expensive premium vehicles, which is to say that in bright shades, like Parkour Red and Surf Blue, it looks stunning.

Inside the cabin, it gets even better, for the Atto 3’s cabin is an exquisite place to be. There’s nothing conventional about this interior. Be it the fluidic dashboard design, dumbbell-shaped AC vents, or the large 12.8-inch rotatable touchscreen, the cabin’s got an avant-garde vibe to it. BYD says that the interior has a ‘rhythmic’ theme and is inspired by fitness and music. Elements like textured finish on the dashboard, speaker-mounted door latches, an aeroplane-inspired gear-lever, a three-spoke steering wheel with aluminium finish, sport seats with integrated headrests, and guitar-strings on door pockets come together to give the cabin a rich and upmarket feel. In fact, the quality levels and fit-and-finish, in general, are top-notch – better than many entry-level luxury cars, if I have to be brutally honest!

Complaints? The seats aren’t ventilated, which is something you’ll miss at this price. Similarly, the driver’s seat is soft, cushy, and comfortable, but it’s narrow and you’ll find it to be small if you’re generously proportioned. The plastics in the lower half of the cabin are of average quality, which is in total contrast to the soft and uber-premium material in the upper section, so when your hand runs over the glovebox compartment, you can immediately tell the difference in quality. There are two USB ports – Type A & C –  tucked under the centre console, and they’re nigh on impossible to access from the driver’s side. The driver display is an all-digital affair, featuring a 5-inch screen. It’s a little small compared to the massive infotainment screen, so when you switch between the two, you might end up squinting as your eyes take some time to adjust to the small font of some of the readouts.

BYD Atto 3 interior

Features-wise, the Atto 3 is loaded to the gills, and then some. The infotainment system packs an inbuilt camera with a 360-degree view, which can also be used to capture pictures/videos on the go. The screen’s touch response is brilliant, showing that BYD knows a thing or two about making smartphones. That said, the camera quality could have been better – for instance, it’s not as good as the Hyundai Tucson’s, which is priced similarly. Among other features, the Atto 3 gets powered front seats, heated ORVMs, a wireless phone charger, an in-built air purifier, ambient lighting, a large panoramic sunroof, a telescopic steering wheel, and more creature comforts. You also get an NFC card to lock/unlock the car, although I don’t see any real purpose of it since the car gets keyless entry as standard. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay weren’t available on the units we tested, but BYD assured us that they’ll be available in customer vehicles when deliveries begin in January 2023.

Level 2 ADAS, featuring a total of six radars, is available with the Atto 3 as standard. Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Sport Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, etc. are also part of the kit. A total of seven airbags are standard, and in terms of crash-test ratings, the Atto 3 has scored a full 5 stars in the Euro-NCAP crash tests.

For backbenchers, there’s ample space – three adults can sit quite comfortably, thanks to a flat floor and wide seat squab. The large panoramic roof gives the cabin an airy feel, elevating the sense of space and adding to the overall premium feel. There are two USB ports and air-con vents. What can be of little concern for taller passengers is the low seating/high floor – since the battery pack sits underneath it – as it results in a knees-up seating position with inadequate under-thigh support. Over long journeys, this can be discomforting. And if you’re travelling far, you'll find the boot space of 440 litres to be just adequate. Not to mention, the lack of a spare wheel is also something that you’ll have to be wary of. There’s a puncture kit offered, though.

A Cut Above

BYD Atto 3 18

The Atto 3 features BYD’s blade batteries, which are touted to be the safest in the business. Not only that, thanks to its ‘cell-to-pack’ packaging, it eliminates the need to assemble cells within separate modules in a battery pack. In a blade battery, the cells can be arranged directly in an array instead of being stacked in different modules. This is made possible owing to the thin and long dimensions of each cell (96cm x 9cm x 135cm) as compared to conventional cells. Thanks to this technology, the blade battery offers better space utilisation (over 50%) as compared to regular battery packs. This results in an overall higher energy density. It's a game-changing technology for sure – so much so that industry giants like Tesla and Toyota are already queuing up to use blade batteries in their products.

The India-spec Atto 3 gets a 60.48kWh blade battery pack, which powers a permanent synchronous magnet motor mounted at the front wheels and is rated at 150kW/201bhp and 310Nm. Now, these are respectable numbers for an EV, and it’s evident as soon as you take the wheel. The Atto 3 can clock 0 – 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, which puts it in the same territory as the petrol-powered Q3. However, the performance isn’t snappy or instantaneous – instead, there’s a linear progression in the way it builds momentum. You won’t get pinned back to your seat here. The turn of speed is urgent but not brutal, which is the case with most EVs these days.

There are three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – and they do vary the power delivery, albeit not dramatically. I also have to say that the throttle response is very well-calibrated in each of the modes, for it there’s no sudden jerk even when you mash the A-pedal to the floor.  

The drivetrain’s refinement is exemplary overall, although you do hear the motor’s drone at parking speeds. On the whole, the Atto 3’s NVH levels are class-leading – almost as good as EVs double its price!

Standard and High are the two modes for brake regen, but neither is as aggressive as we’ve come to expect from EVs. Even in ‘High’, the retardation is rather gradual than violent. Another un-EV thing about this BYD is the brake pedal feel. Unlike other EVs, where pressing the brake pedal feels like stomping on damp wood, the Atto 3’s stop pedal has a crisp progression and offers great feedback. The braking performance is adequate, too, as the Atto 3’s 1,750kgs bulk is brought to a halt without any drama, even in wet conditions. The Atlas tyres it comes shod with do struggle for grip at times, although the Atto 3’s traction control takes care of that rather effectually.  

On Firm Ground

With everything going well for the Atto 3 in virtually all departments, you might question if all of that – the design, features, and battery tech underneath – is compensating for a below-average driving experience. However, that is not the case – far from it, in fact. The Atto 3 is shockingly great to drive. I, personally, wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it turned out to be. First off, its ride quality is simply stellar. The suspension has hints of firmness but the ride is never unsettled or jittery. Even at low speeds, it soaks up road imperfections without any fuss or unwanted clunks. It’s got a big car-like feel. As the speed rises, the ride gets even better, and it takes everything in its stride without breaking a sweat. At triple-digit speeds, it’s sublime and surefooted too. The steering has a German car-like heft, and while it’s not exactly dripping with feel, it’s quite precise. Handling is more or less neutral for an EV of this shape, weight, and size. There’s considerable body roll if you turn into a corner too hot. But if drive it like a normal person, you’ll find that there is nothing really to complain about.

As for its range, BYD says the Atto 3 can go up to 480 – 520 kilometres on a single charge, so realistically, 400km or thereabouts should be possible in the real world. Using a 7kW AC home charger, the battery pack can be juiced up fully in just shy of 10 hours. A DC fast public charger (80kW) will take 50 minutes to charge it from 0 to 80%. BYD is offering 8 years/160,000km and 8 years/150,000km warranty on the battery and motor, respectively.

Verdict

BYD Atto 3 Splash

If you put BYD’s relatively short history in the Indian market aside and start reviewing the Atto 3 purely based on what it brings to the table, there’s hardly any room to complain or crib about. Sure, it may seem a little pricey compared to other EVs like the Hyundai Kona and MG ZS EV, but it feels a step or two ahead of those products in every department. In fact, in terms of the overall quality, driving experience, and feature list, it can even put some entry-level luxury SUVs to shame. The only thing that BYD needs to work on is the dealer network, which they say is already in progress. They will have 24 outlets across the country by the end of this year, which will grow to 53 by the end of 2023.

All told, the Atto 3 turned out to be more impressive than I imagined. In fact, BYD could very well be the next big thing in the EV space in India. And, going by their solid start with the Atto 3, you can rest assured that they are here to stay.    

  • BYD Atto 3

Motor: Single (PSM) 

Battery: 60.48kWh Lithium-ion

Transmission: Single-Speed / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 201bhp

Torque: 310Nm

Range: 521kms (claimed)

Price: ₹33.99 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)

X-Factor:  A premium, well-built, and feature-laden EV that drives as well as it looks.  

Pros           
• Driving dynamics 
• Quality 
• Features

Cons
• Price
• Still an unknown brand

Also read,

BYD Atto 3 EV launched at Rs 33.99 lakh 

BYD e6, Track Test

Tags: BYD BYD Atto 3

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