The Chinese carmaker and EV specialist’s first SUV in India is loaded with features and is curiously endearing if quirky.
BYD or Build Your Dreams is not your regular, everyday Chinese EV maker. Deeply invested in the EV universe technologically, financially and intellectually, it is a company that sits comfortably at the cutting edge of electric car tech. It produces what is widely considered to be the safest and most technologically advanced lithium-ion battery in the world; the Blade. This is no mean feat. Even Tesla, a company that prides itself on its own battery tech, is likely to use BYD’s Blade cells for its Model Y produced in Germany. And it’s also among the largest producers of lithium-ion batteries in the world. So BYD clearly is no tech lightweight.
The company is also no stranger to India. Here for the last 15 years, the company has been working in the areas of mobile components, solar panels, battery energy storage, electric buses, trucks and forklifts, and chargers. BYD today also has around 20 dealers across major cities in India and this, the Atto 3, is its second car to go on sale here.
2022 BYD Atto 3: exterior design
Chinese carmakers are infamous for giving their cars odd-sounding and sometimes downright hilarious names. Not here. Sure, the name Atto sounds unusual, especially for a car that has no engine and no combustion or Otto cycle. But no, the name Atto comes from the word attosecond, the smallest fraction of a second you can currently measure. Pretty neat.
The Atto 3 doesn’t look like a bluff SUV, but has more crossover-ish cues.
Also intriguing is the design. First impressions of the Atto 3 in the flesh are of a muscular form that sits somewhere between a sporty SUV and a crossover. What’s also evident is that Chinese car designers have come a long way from the extremely derived designs of earlier cars. The Atto 3, in fact, has a character all its own and it starts with a flat, sporty nose and a band of chrome that links the headlights.
Also cool are the blue elements in the lamps, and the faux fog-light section gives the nose some much-needed width and visual weight. BYD calls its design language ‘Dragon Face 3.0’ and yeah, that nose does look quite reptilian. It certainly isn’t a big, square and bluff SUV, that’s for sure. And the tight-fitting roofline and nicely executed muscular flanks gel nicely with the design. In addition, the back of the car is nicely rounded off in a muscular manner with linked tail-lights that look very attractive.
‘Build Your Dreams’ lettering is quite Porsche-like.
Underneath the light bar, emblazoned in chrome is the company name Build Your Dreams. This may not be to everyone’s liking, but what it does is give the car loads of individuality, and you can’t confuse it with anything else. The rear also gets a sporty spoiler and the ‘C’ pillar gets an interesting metallic fish-scale-like effect. Also appropriately chosen are the alloys, and the unique five-spoke design works well too.
Fish-scale-like metallic effect is neat, adds visual drama to Atto 3.
While the Atto 3 doesn’t look very large in the flesh, due to the compact and tight proportions, it measures 4,455mm in length and has a 2,720mm wheelbase. This actually makes it larger than rivals like the MG ZS EV (4,323 mm) and the Hyundai Kona (4,180mm).
2022 BYD Atto 3: platform, battery, range
The Atto 3 is also built on BYD’s new e-Platform 3.0. This boasts of many technical advantages, apart from those associated with the Blade cell. The platform, for example, gets an eight-in-one electric powertrain where the drive motor, inverter, transmission, onboard charger, battery management system, power distribution unit and vehicle control unit are all packaged together.
No frunk under the bonnet, only an assortment of components.
The motor has a high efficiency of 97.5 percent, BYD’s Operating System decouples the otherwise multi-layered hardware and software system and integrates it for better performance, and the 800V system gets a power boost option. In addition, the blade cells are installed in a honeycomb structure that enhances battery strength and forms a structural member of the chassis.
The Atto 3 has a 60.48kWh battery pack that, according to ARAI, delivers a healthy driving range of 521km. On an 80kW DC fast charger, the Atto 3 can go from 0 to 80 percent in 50 minutes. BYD for a limited time will provide customers a 7kW AC home charger, along with a 3kW AC portable charging box for charging external electrical appliances.
No frunk under the bonnet, only an assortment of components.
The front-wheel-drive Atto 3 is powered by a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor that produces 204hp and 310Nm. This gives it a claimed 0-100kph time of 7.3sec and that’s despite the 1,750kg kerb weight. The SUV gets disc brakes all around, all independent suspension and 18-inch alloys with 215-section and 55-profile tyres.
BYD Blade Battery
BYD is the global leader when it comes to lithium-ion phosphate (LFP) batteries. Its best LFP battery is known as the Blade battery. This is because of how it is constructed and the way the cells are stacked together. LFP technology offers a 50 percent improvement in volumetric cell density and there’s no traditional cooling system, which saves space. What has made the Blade battery famous is that it has passed the most demanding battery test in the EV industry yet. One of them is known as the nail penetration test, which is conducted by pushing a long nail right through the battery – and where the Blade battery remained stable.
When a short circuit was simulated, the Blade battery neither emitted smoke nor caught fire, and its surface temperature only reached 60degC. At this temperature, it is near-impossible for the battery to have thermal runaway or uncontrolled burning. Under the same conditions, a regular lithium-ion battery would have exceeded 500degC, according to the company, making it burn violently. Cars powered by the Blade battery are thus expected to be a lot safer even if the batteries are severely damaged. The Blade battery also passed other extreme tests when it was burnt, crushed, bent and even heated in a 300degC furnace. The battery was even overcharged by 260 percent. None of these tests resulted in a fire or explosion.
2022 BYD Atto 3: interiors and features
The first word that comes to mind when you open the Atto 3’s door is funky. And it is, seriously funky! Can’t imagine some of the wilder features making it past a German or Japanese design committee. They’d just be too outlandish. BYD, however, has to be commended for taking a brave pill. Or several. Thing is, after the initial shock, some of it works. The bass guitar strings on the door pads are still way over the top and the white soft-foam-like ‘duvet’ (for lack of a better word) that runs across the dash is unnecessary and will be fiendishly difficult to keep clean. The vents look like the grille on a 1940 Plymouth’s radio.
The design of the Atto 3’s cabin is both shocking and endearing at the same time.
Still, many bits work well. The wave that runs across the dash is interesting, the blued ‘leather’ looks and feels great and the aircraft throttle-like gear selector is cool. Even the spaceship-like steering wheel and the quirky door latches, sat atop the LED-lined speakers function superbly and are cool. The black plastic buttons on the steering wheel and those that surround the gear selector, however, aren’t well built, and the plastics lower down on the dash are not built to the same standards as the rest of the cabin either.
Quirky ‘guitar strings’ are way over the top, hold bottles in place.
The large, 12.8-inch touchscreen, however, rotates at the touch of a button, which is a neat party trick. But it does look suspended in the middle of nowhere and some of the menus are a straight lift from Tesla. Still, there are features on it that are cool. The built-in dash cam, for one, is a feature all cars should get, it’s a great addition, and the 360-degree camera is clear and even gives you a ghost image of the car you can peer through. There’s no wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the small screen above the steering isn’t really practical as you have to peer at the small numbers and search for them constantly.
The 12.8-inch screen flips to portrait orientation at the touch of a button.
The build of the cabin, however, is impressive. It is robustly screwed together and the insides feel built to last. This is especially true of bits like the wide centre console and the top of the dash. The large sporty bucket seats do feel a bit oversized for the width of the cabin, but have a quality feel, are wide, support your thighs and back, and finding a comfortable driving position is easy. Middle back support could have been better though and the seat seems narrow for some large individuals.
The build in general is solid and quality levels are quite good in most places.
The long wheelbase also means there’s a fair amount of space in the rear. The cabin also feels airy due to the large sunroof, and legroom and shoulder room are also good. The flat floor adds to the feeling of spaciousness; this is a born-electric platform, after all. You are sat low, however, possibly due to the battery under the floor, and that takes away from comfort a bit. You do get vents at the rear as well as USB slots, and climbing in and out of the back is easy. The Atto 3 has a boot capacity of 440 litres, and the cube-like enclosure is quite practical. You only get a puncture repair kit and no spare, and that is a bit impractical in our conditions.
Battery under the floor means seat is placed low; big front seats block view out.
The Atto 3 is well equipped too. It gets all-LED lighting, a powered tailgate, a wireless phone charger, powered front driver and passenger seats and multi-coloured ambient lighting. There’s a voice assistant and Spotify app installed on the screen and in terms of safety, the Atto 3 gets a 360-degree camera, ABS, ESC, traction control, hill descent control and as many as seven airbags, including a centre airbag for the driver. It also boasts ADAS features such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and front and rear collision warning.
2022 BYD Atto 3: performance, ride, handling
Out on the road, the BYD Atto 3 feels silent, well insulated and rides comfortably. The suspension feels pliant over rough patches and regular bumps, and the Atto 3 rides in a comfortable and relaxed manner. Larger potholes do upset its composure and there is some amount of thudding, but ride quality overall is good. The Atto 3 also feels stable at speed and what drivers will appreciate is that it responds well to small moves of the steering wheel.
Seat comfort is good and the driving position is nice and relaxed.
Driving the Atto 3 in a relaxed manner is also very satisfying. Putting my foot down on the accelerator gently elicits an appropriately measured response and this makes it a fuss-free EV to drive in start-stop traffic. There’s, however, always plenty of torque under your right foot, and what’s nice is that responses aren’t exaggerated or sudden. The Atto 3 dishes out a much larger slug of torque when I push down harder, and now performance is much stronger and very energetic. It, however, still doesn’t have a big spike in performance and acceleration remains quite linear and well-mannered even at higher speeds. The Atto 3 is quick though and does 0-100kph in a claimed 7.3sec.
What also makes the Atto 3 pleasing to drive is that the controls are effort-free to use. The steering is easy to twirl and has just the right amount of weight, the accelerator is nicely sprung and while the feel from the brake pedal isn’t great, you don’t have to pay undue attention to it either.
The suspension and drive is more comfort than performance oriented.
The Atto 3 isn’t really set-up to take the best advantage of corners. While carrying a good amount of speed is all very well, it doesn’t enjoy being driven any harder. You, in fact, need to drive the Atto 3 in a relatively relaxed manner to enjoy it. Drive a bit harder, and it rolls quite a bit; and then, since there’s not much weight over the front wheels, the steering feels aloof and inconsistent. The Atto 3 also gets driver modes and adjustable regen, but both don’t seem very effective and it’s difficult to tell the difference between the various settings.
2022 BYD Atto 3: price, verdict
The BYD Atto 3 has a lot going for it. It’s smooth to drive, comfortable to sit in, has a cool-looking, funky cabin, gets a large, well-configured touchscreen and comes packed with a fair amount of safety and tech features. The Atto 3 also has sufficient performance, it has a supple ride and comes with plenty of driver-assistance tech. Then it gets one of the best and safest batteries around, BYD’s own Blade, and a very healthy 521km of range; expect at least 400km in the real world.
The Atto 3, however, at Rs 33.9 lakh is expensive. Its rivals deliver almost the same amount of electric car for considerably less, and that could limit appeal. Still, if smooth, refined driving manners are what you are looking for, if you like its sense of individual style, the Atto 3 could be the EV you are looking for. It isn’t for everybody, but neither is standing out in a crowd, and BYD’s Atto 3 will clearly do that.