On the road

0-100: BYD dreams big

The BYD Atto 3 landed with a splash in late 2022 and has quickly become one of Australia’s most popular and affordable electric vehicles.

Establishing a new automotive brand in the competitive Australian market is not for the faint-hearted. The long list of brands that have tried and failed here include Infiniti (twice), Seat, Tata (also twice) and Dodge.

So, for little-known Chinese brand BYD to not only establish itself but quickly become Australia’s second-bestselling EV brand behind Tesla, with a single model, is worthy of high praise indeed.

In its crowded Chinese home market BYD (Build Your Dreams) is well established and ranks as that country’s largest automaker. But until late 2022 most Aussies had never heard of BYD or the mid-sized Atto 3 SUV.

Like Tesla, BYD utilises an online sales model so it’s helpful the only choices are paint colour, and whether you want the base 50kWh or larger 60kWh battery. We’re driving the larger battery version here, which costs $3000 more and delivers an extra 75km of range for a claimed 420km (WLTP).

Stylistically, the Atto 3 is a handsomely designed five-seat SUV, with design flourishes including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and an LED strip running the width of the bonnet.

While the exterior design is reasonably restrained, it’s a different story inside, where a combination of soft-touch dash material, wavy shapes in the dash and doors, chunky industrial-like door grips, and uniquely shaped air vents create a distinctive look.

The seats are clad in attractive two-tone synthetic leather, and there’s a flat-bottom steering wheel, a dumbbell-like gear selector, and generous storage in the centre console, glove box and door bins.

A steering column-mounted 5.0-inch digital screen acts as the main instrument panel, while a larger 12.8-inch central display screen houses most vehicle functions, including radio, temperature, navigation and more.

For a party trick, at the touch of a button this central screen can be changed from portrait to landscape orientation.

Despite its price, the Atto 3’s standard features would give some luxury cars a run for their money, including an excellent 360-degree camera system, voice control, Over the Air software updates, panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, wireless phone charger and heated electric front seats. There’s also standard safety equipment including seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and more.

Out on the road the Atto 3 doesn’t get off the mark as quickly as some EVs we’ve driven, but once rolling there’s a muscular surge of near-silent acceleration that makes for comfortable highway cruising and overtaking.

The suspension favours comfort over dynamics so the ride is pleasant but the handling not as sharp as some rivals, although perfectly safe and predictable.

With decent performance and driving dynamics, excellent technology, generous features, and a roomy, practical interior, it’s easy to see why the Atto 3 has established such a keen following in its short time on the Australian market.

The specs

Make/model: 2023 BYD Atto 3 Extended Range

Body style: Five-door medium SUV

Retail price: $51,011 (MRLP)

Seating: 5 seats

Energy consumption: 16kWh/100km

Safety rating: 5 Star ANCAP Rating (2022)

Motor: Single electric motor (150kW/310Nm)

Battery: 60kWh

Range: 420km (WLTP)

Transmission: Single speed reduction gear

Drive type: Front-wheel drive

0-100km/h: 7.3 secs (estimate)

Visit the BYD website for more.