We get behind the wheel of what could be a game-changer for electric cars in Australia, the 2022 BYD Atto 3.





What we love
  • That impressive rotating central infotainment display
  • Unique interior treatment stands apart from other EVs
  • Spacious second row

What we don’t
  • The driving experience has some small foibles
  • The tyres certainly didn’t help
  • We’ll have to wait for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Introduction

Another day, another new electric car for the Australian market. But with the 2022 BYD Atto 3, it’s a different story. Because this isn’t just a new EV, it’s a whole new brand for our market.

BYD stands for ‘Build Your Dreams’, an interesting anecdote for the massive Chinese company that has a history of building batteries, and is now building cars.

And the first BYD that will land in Australia is the Atto 3, a medium-sized SUV that measures 4455mm long and 1875mm wide. It has room for five on-board, and will come with a starting price of $44,790 before on-road costs.



The final price of the Atto 3 will vary according to the state you’re going to buy and register the vehicle, but this will be one of the lowest-priced electric cars on the Australian market.

And it’s the first of many, according the BYD importers, EVDirect. There is expected to be a hatchback, large SUV, sedan and van, eventually making their way to Australia.

The car we have here isn’t an Australian-delivered right-hand drive model – those will get to the country in the middle of the year.



Instead, we’ve got an evaluation vehicle from BYD. It’s a Chinese market model, complete with Chinese writing, badges and logos.

Plus, it’s left-hand drive. But armed with special permission and a trade plate, we’ve been able to test-drive this 2022 BYD Atto 3 on Aussie roads.

While options will likely be short, we’ve got the extended-range box ticked on this test car. This takes the claimed driving range of the BYD Atto 3 from 320km to 420km, according to WLTP testing. This extended range option, which grows the battery from 50kWh to 60kWh, seems to be a good option for those who want the surety of that extra driving range, at $3000.



The MG ZS EV will likely hold onto the crown of ‘cheapest electric car in Australia’ for now (in most states), but the Atto 3 brings the advantage of more overall size, as well as some extra power from its electric motor.

Other options around the $50,000 mark include the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai’s Ioniq and Kona, as well as the Mini Cooper SE.

The Tesla Model 3 is a more expensive proposition, as well as newer entrants like the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5. Currently, the Tesla Model 3 is the best-selling electric car in Australia.

Key details 2022 BYD Atto 3
Price (MSRP) From $44,381 before on-road costs
Price as tested $47,381 before on-road costs
Rivals Nissan Leaf | MG ZS EV | Hyundai Ioniq

While the steering wheel of this BYD Atto 3 is on the wrong side for Australia, the basic layout and specifications will remain largely the same. And overall, it’s quite a different and impressive interior design.

While many recent newcomers have gone with a more derivative-based design that mimics and mirrors existing options, I have to applaud this interior for stepping in its own direction. It’s probably not to everyone’s taste, but you’re definitely not going to confuse the interior of an Atto 3 with anything else.

Some of the more interesting points to discuss: the door handles, mounted atop a speaker that surprisingly work well. There are red elastic cords that play a tune, as well as contain the door card contents. The air vents are an interesting design as well, which I can’t remember seeing on another car.

Thankfully, the Atto 3 retains a less zany approach to everyday storage. There is room underneath the centre console and shifter for a small handbag, and you’ll find twin USB points and a 12V power outlet down here as well. There is a wireless charging pad up top, and a couple of cupholders behind the shifter.

The central storage bin is well sized, covered with the same leather-like material you’ll find on door cards and across the dashboard. The design is quite minimalist, with low-slung air vents tidying up an otherwise empty dash (save for that massive screen). It’s a curved and flowing design overall, in comparison to the angular and trapezoidal elements that seem quite popular these days.

An interesting point here: our test car had the charging point for a karaoke microphone in the centre console, something of a standard addition for the Chinese market. Hopefully such a thing comes to Australia, so I can try out Wanted Dead or Alive while crawling through bad Sydney traffic.



The other major material here is a foam-like plastic, something like an open-pore neoprene. It’s designed to resemble a muscle, bulging with tendons and fibres, and certainly adds to the unique ambience inside the Atto 3. We noted a small amount of dirt transfer on this part of the interior, but it seemed to clean down easily with a damp cloth.

In the second row, the size and design of the Atto 3 yields big benefits. Firstly, it is big. Considering this car is a little shorter than a Toyota RAV4, the amount of legroom and toe room is impressive. Seats – covered in the same materials as the front – are comfortable, but headroom isn’t in the same abundant supply. There was enough headroom for me, but taller adults would likely rub their head (or hair) against the lid. Blame the sunroof perhaps, which extends all the way back to behind the second row occupants.

Because the Atto 3 is a ground-up EV design, the floor in the second row is completely flat. It’s a great benefit overall, especially if you’re loading three adults into the rear.

Other elements worth noting: air vents, twin USB points, map pockets in the seat backs, and the same red elastic rope over the door card storage. Kids will love this, I’m sure. But parents probably wont, and I wonder how well the elastic will hold up to the sustained abuse of plucking fingers.

The boot measures in a 434 litres, according to BYD. Although, it’s currently unclear what method the Chinese brand took to arrive at this number. General observations of mine says it’s a decent size, without being massive.

In its largest configuration, the floor sits low-down above the goo kit. You can shift the floor upwards, almost level with the lip of the boot. In this spot, size is reduced quite dramatically, but those who want to fit in a proper spare wheel – even full-sized, potentially – will have this option.



2022 BYD Atto 3
Seats Five
Boot volume 434L seats up / 1330L seats folded
Length 4455mm
Width 1875mm
Height 1615mm
Wheelbase 2720mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

Here’s where the party starts – or party tricks at least, to impress your friends. Firstly, the infotainment display is massive at 12.8 inches. Plus, it can rotate between portrait and landscape orientation, depending on user preferences. Life would likely go on without such a feature, but it is pretty cool.

This infotainment system doesn’t use straight Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity – at least initially – for smartphone mirroring. Instead, it uses a ‘D-Link’ third party app for such things. BYD tells us it is looking to implement straight mirroring in the future however, and is hoping to have it sorted out by the end of the year. This could be a simple software update for exisiting users as well, without any required hardware changes.

The operating system otherwise uses an interface similar to a smartphone, with the ability to connect to the internet and download apps for general usage. There’s digital radio listed as a feature for Australian-delivered vehicles, along with an impressive 360-degree camera system. This has a wide variety of three-dimensional and viewing positions to choose from, as well as keeping an eye on what’s happening underneath the Atto 3.

The system also has a built-in DVR recorder – or dashcam – for general usage. For many who want to use such a thing, having an integrated solution already sorted out would be of great benefit.

Instead of a traditional instrument binnacle located on the dashboard, the BYD Atto 3 uses a smaller digital display mounted on the steering column. It works well, with basic readouts like driving range, energy usage and speed readily available. Users can cycle through some additional information as well, like tyre pressure monitoring and average energy consumption.

Safety & Technology

Being a new model both in Australia and China, we don’t know absolutely everything about the BYD Atto 3 from a safety perspective. It’s yet to be tested by the Australian crash safety authority ANCAP, but there is a fair amount of standard safety equipment listed by EVDirect – the company responsible for importing the BYD into Australia.



Adaptive cruise control, seven airbags (including a driver’s far-side, aka centre airbag), front collision warning, rear collision warning, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and rear cross-traffic braking as well as autonomous emergency braking.

We noted couple of false alarms on the forward collision warning during our time with the car, driving along narrow streets choked with parked vehicles, but otherwise, these more advanced bits of safety equipment seem unobtrusive.

For the full picture on safety, we’ll need to wait for the Australian-delivered vehicle to properly land. And we’ll also need the input of an official crash-testing authority, whether that comes from the Australian (ANCAP) or more global (Euro NCAP) side of things.

Value for Money

While the Atto 3 won’t be able to beat the MG ZS EV on straight asking price, it does have the advantage of being a larger vehicle. It’s closer to medium-sized, where the ZS EV is classed as a small SUV.

Standard equipment seems to be quite generous as well, with only one specification level to choose from. This gets things like a panoramic sunroof, a big (rotating) 12.8-inch infotainment display, leather-like seating materials and electric adjustment for the front seats. Other details like a wireless phone charger and an electric tailgate shows that this is a relatively high-specced model.

And while the Atto 3 doesn’t have the same 100kW charging capability of some competitors, 80kW is still a solid number. We’re imagining most will use a 7kW wall charger at home most of the time, but the ability to replenish most of the battery’s capacity in 30 minutes with a faster DC charger will be useful.



However, with the caveat that the exact specification of the final Australian model will need to be interrogated, before we have more of a clear picture of value.

One thing worth noting here: our test car had some spiffy-looking plastic covers over the top of the wheels, but Australian-delivered models will get 18-inch alloys.

At a glance 2022 BYD Atto 3
Warranty Seven years / unlimited km
Battery warranty Seven years / 160,000km
Battery type BYD ‘Blade’ lithium-ion phosphate
Battery capacity 50.1kWh (standard range) / 60.4kWh (extended range)
Driving range (WLTP) 320km (standard range) / 420km (extended range)

The first challenge in doing this review was getting my head around left-hand driving. It takes some getting used to when you’re in the right country, but took some initial concentration to do on Australian roads.

Visibility is certainly hampered when you’re on the wrong side of the car, and it takes some time to nail your lane positioning. But once I acclimatised, the Atto 3 proved quite comfortable and easy to operate.

Suspension – using MacPherson struts up-front and a multi-link setup at the rear – is tuned for soft, wafting comfort. And for a town-based electric SUV, this suits the brief nicely.

Rougher, more potholed and corrugated roads can see the body bounce and jiggle around a little bit, suggesting that more damping control could be useful. We also noticed when loaded with five adults and a bootload of camera gear, the lack of damping became more conspicuous.



Steering – fully electric, of course – is also tuned for light, easy control. It’s not exactly full of ‘feel’ and ‘feedback’ like some might want from a driver’s car, but the tune is fast to respond to steering inputs. Once again, it’s easy to live with and suits the modus operandi of the Atto 3.

Performance from the 150kW/310Nm electric motor is typical of an electric vehicle: silent, responsive, and surprisingly brisk. Heavy throttle take-offs clearly ask too much of the Chaoyang tyres fitted to this Atto 3, which quickly squealed as they lost grip to the ground. Traction control was quick to respond, but while foot remained buried, the problem simply jumped from wheel to wheel.

BYD claims that the 0-100km/h sprint time would be around seven seconds.

We also got the chance to drive the Atto 3 during a relatively heavy Sydney downpour, which didn’t reflect well on the tyres either. They felt noticeably skittish through corners.

Rolling acceleration is more elegant, and effective. And it left me pondering how much improvement could be gained from a different set of tyres. There is a chance you might lose some efficiency with opting for a grippier tyre, but it also might be worth it.

Key details 2022 BYD Atto 3
Engine Single electric motor
Power 150kW
Torque 3210Nm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission Single-speed automatic
Power to weight ratio 85.7kW/t
Weight 1750kg

Conclusion

We’re not going to dive into a proper verdict just yet, because of obvious reasons. However, first impressions of this 2022 BYD Atto 3 are positive. Build quality seems to be good, although we will know more about this when we get our hands on a right-hand drive model.



While both right- and left-hand drive vehicles come from the same factory in Shenzhen, China, Australian-delivered right-hook models will come off their own production line.

The interior of the Atto 3 walks to the beat of its own drum, and has the right mix of space and practicality for everyday usage.

One thing we weren’t able to get a grasp on was the true driving range of the Atto 3, and this is something we will be keen to test at the next opportunity. BYD claims either 320 or 420 kilometres, depending on the size of the battery, which puts it right in the mix of obvious competitors.

New entrants to Australia have often had a hard time of breaking ground and establishing themselves, but BYD seems quite confident in finding success. The proof will only be in the pudding of course, but initial impressions of the 2022 BYD Atto 3 are good.

Provided that BYD can keep the build quality as good as this test car, and the driving range checks out, then this well-proportioned electric car could be great option for many Australians.

Sam Purcell

Sam Purcell has been writing about cars, four-wheel driving and camping since 2013, and obsessed with anything that goes brum-brum longer than he can remember. Sam joined the team at CarAdvice/Drive as the off-road Editor in 2018, after cutting his teeth at Unsealed 4X4 and Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.

Read more about Sam Purcell

Posted by WordPress Guru