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BYD is a new Chinese brand in the UK, but what's the Atto 3 like?
Panoramic sunroof, 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, taillights and DRLs, vegan leather trim.
Active, Comfort, Design
Although you might not have heard of BYD, it's the latest Chinese electric car manufacturer. The company already has representation in the UK, with its tie-up producing electric buses with Alexander Dennis bodies for the past 10 years, hundreds of which are pounding the streets of London.
We were told the Atto 3, would be the first of a range of EVs to be offered to UK fleets - but it has yet to decide which will be suitable. The Atto 3 is a C-segment SUV, built on BYD's newest electric platform, the E-platform 3.0. A scalable 400 or 800V platform, it could be front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or even all-wheel drive.
Considering what this platform is capable of, the fact the Atto 3 is front-wheel drive, has 400V and a 60kWh battery, seems unambitious. The 'blade battery,' as BYD call it, might not be the biggest, but what is clever is that it uses cell-to-pack technology, where the cells of the battery are in the main case rather than separated modules. BYD tells us it is a safer battery pack, more durable when it comes to high-temperature rapid charging and thin enough for the best space utilisation.
Other clever Atto 3 features include the world's first mass-produced 8-in-1 electric powertrain and a high-efficiency heat pump. The 8-in-1 powertrain integrates the vehicle control unit, battery management system, power distribution unit, drive motor, motor controller, transmission, DC-DC and on-board charger. The result of such deep integration is a claimed 89% system efficiency.
Outside, considering the technology, the Atto 3's styling is best described as generic. It is not unattractive, but it just doesn't stand out against class rivals, with many styling features influenced by them.
At the front, there's what BYD calls its "Dragon Face" design signature, with the slim LED headlights and light bar grille likened to a dragon's face. At the side, there's a curvy roofline, aluminium trim on the C-pillar, some surface detailing and standard 18in wheels.
There is another full-width LED rear light bar at the back and a smaller, high-set rear window.
The interior of the Atto 3 is a complete contrast to its exterior. The BYD's oddly concaved two-tone dashboard design has a lighter-coloured textured lower half, and unusual 'free-weight-style' air vents. The dashboard highlight is the electric rotary touchscreen, here in largest 15.6in size. There's also a smaller 5in screen behind the steering wheel for the instruments. The touchscreen is designed to operate like an Apple iPhone. It works well, but its party piece is the fact the feature can be changed from horizontal to vertical operation at the touch of a button.
Elsewhere, there is a high centre console, and more gym-inspired touches, such as the kettlebell-style gear selector and the barbell-style door handles. We're not sure what the guitar-string-like door pockets are influenced by.
A Spotify subscription is included in the price, but it's a shame there's no special stereo to match. Overall quality is good, but some of the detailing disappoints.
The front seats themselves, are one-piece sports items, finished in vegan leather. The driving position and seats are impressively comfortable.
Rear space is decent, and even with the standard glass sunroof, the tallest have just enough head room. Considering all the interior space, the 440-litre boot seems disappointingly small - but it can be extended to 1,338 litres with the rear seat folded down.
The Atto 3 is offered with a choice of three equipment grades, with the entry-level Active priced at £36,490 and available from the second quarter. Its 0-62mph acceleration takes just 7.3 seconds with a 260-mile range. All models in the range are well-equipped and the charging speeds are good, with a 10-80% DC charge on a 150kW charger taking 44 minutes.
On the road, it's the torque (310Nm) that impresses first. The acceleration levels drop off however, as you get closer to the national speed limit. You wish for more brake feel when slowing down, too. Handling-wise, the Atto 3 steers confidently, feeling lighter and a tidy handler in corners with generally good grip. It rides competently too, although there is some secondary wallow at speed. With a choice of three driving modes, 'Sport' is the only one you'll notice, with changes sharpening the throttle response.
Is the Atto 3 a serious EV rival to established opposition? The BYD looks good value for money, drives well, the quality is good, and it has a spacious and interesting interior. But will the 260-mile range be enough?