BYD Atto 3 review: a fresh spin on the family EV formula
The BYD Atto 3 is a quirky but compelling electric family SUV with a comfortable and well-appointed cabin that allows it to stand out from the pre-established competition
- High-quality interior
- Comfortable ride
- Accurate range figure
- Gimmicks may wear off over time
- Not the most fun to drive
- Unknown name
|Wallbox charge time
|Rapid charge time
|8hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)
|29mins (30-80%, 88kW)
BYD Atto 3 verdict
Packed to the brim with party tricks, the BYD Atto 3 may, at first, seem a bit all show and no go. However, once the novelty wears off, you’ll find that the Atto 3 is actually a competent and compelling electric family SUV, with a strong and accurate range figure. Complete with a catherine wheel of a central touchscreen and musical door panels, BYD has outfitted the Atto 3 with a surprisingly luxurious interior for the price, which puts rival Volkswagen to shame. Also offered with a decent four-year warranty, the BYD Atto 3 is one of the strongest new competitors in the small electric SUV market and should be near the top of your shortlist, despite its relatively unknown badge.
Range details, specs and alternatives
The BYD Atto 3 is the first in a line of EVs from Chinese brand BYD (‘Build Your Dreams’) and the larger sibling to the newer BYD Dolphin supermini. Cringeworthy name aside, while the manufacturer is relatively unknown in this part of the world, BYD sold over 1.8 million cars in 2022 – mostly back in its home nation – and is supposedly responsible for supplying around 20% of the world’s smartphone batteries.
This being the case, the BYD Atto 3 seems to have a strong foundation on which to build upon. With the Chinese brand knowing exactly what attracts big sales numbers at the moment, the Atto 3 is an electric family SUV that’s comparable in size to petrol-powered models such as the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. However, priced at just over £36,000, it’s also competition for many other mainstream electric cars such as the Volkswagen ID.4 and Kia Niro EV, as well as the less-expensive MG ZS EV.
While BYD sells several versions of the Atto 3 in places such as Australia, we only get the larger 60.5kWh battery version here in the UK. Utilising BYD’s patented ‘blade’ design, the Atto 3’s battery provides a range of up to 260 miles on the WLTP combined test cycle. Paired with a 201bhp electric motor, the Atto 3 gets from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds.
With only one battery and electric motor setup to choose from, the biggest dilemma facing buyers (aside from deciding whether or not they can stomach driving around in a car emblazoned with ‘BUILD YOUR DREAMS’ on the bootlid) will be choosing from one of the three trim levels.
The Active trim kicks off the range and despite being the entry point into the Atto 3 lineup, comes highly equipped as standard with a 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen, LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof and a full suite of safety and driver assistance systems.
Stepping up to the Comfort model adds an 11kW on-board charger for faster AC charging speeds, while the range-topping Design adds a larger 15.6-inch centre screen, a powered bootlid and an air purification system. All three are on sale now, with prices starting from just over £37,000, which is in-line with rivals such as the Jeep Avenger and Peugeot E-2008.
Range, battery size & charging
|Wallbox charge time
|Rapid charge time
|8hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)
|29mins (30-80%, 88kW)
Buyers should take electric car range figures with a pinch of salt, as several conditions such as the weather, temperature, condition of the battery and the speed you’re travelling, can all impact your level of charge.
While Atto 3’s 260-mile range is behind the 280 miles possible in the Renault Megane E-Tech, we weren’t ever able to get as close to that car’s headline figure during our tests, returning only around 230 miles on a single charge. However, thanks to BYD’s expert knowledge when it comes to lithium-ion battery construction and the addition of an energy-efficient heat pump, we were able to get within 10 miles of the Atto 3’s claimed range throughout our time with the car – even in freezing conditions.
You can charge the BYD Atto 3’s 60.5kWh battery at speeds of up to 88kW when connected to a 100kW rapid public charger; this is behind the 135kW speeds possible in the Cupra Born, but is slightly better than what’s you’ll get from a Kia Niro EV. Regardless, it allows you to top-up from 30-80% in around half an hour, while charging at a home 7.4kW home wallbox will take around eight hours. If you’re really desperate, using a standard three-pin plug will charge the Atto 3 in just over 24 hours – but this will likely be a last resort for most owners.
Running costs & insurance
Electric cars are typically more expensive to buy and insure than their petrol and diesel counterparts. However, lower running costs mean the upfront premium can be offset to make them an affordable low-emissions alternative.
The BYD Atto 3 is no different as, thanks to its electric powertrain, it’s exempt from paying road tax (VED) until 2025, as well as things like the London Congestion Charge, and the city’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). Plugging into a home wallbox is often much cheaper than filling up at a petrol station, too; although, if you find yourself doing longer journeys frequently, you’ll discover that making use of public rapid chargers can be much more expensive.
BYD offers the Atto 3 with a four-year/70,000-mile warranty, while its ‘blade’ battery is covered separately for eight years and 120,000 miles – whichever comes first. This is more generous than what’s offered by the likes of Volkswagen, although Renault offers its cars with a five-year warranty, and Kia and MG give seven years of cover.
Unfortunately, the BYD Atto 3’s insurance premiums do offset its other lower running costs somewhat; all versions sit in the pretty lofty insurance group 38, which is significantly higher (more than 10 groups) than the equivalent Jeep Avenger. If you’re considering a Tesla, this will cost you even more to cover than the BYD, so neither of them is probably the best choice for high-risk drivers or those without a decent no-claims bonus.
Performance, motor & drive
As soon as you grip the Atto 3’s rather small steering wheel and get out onto the road, you’ll quickly discover that BYD has spent most of its time making its electric SUV ‘fun’ in other areas – something we’ll discuss later. For now, we’ll just say that the Atto 3’s 201bhp electric motor offers satisfactory, if not particularly stand-out performance, providing the same instantaneous ‘get-up-and-go’ as most electric powertrains.
In normal driving, a supple suspension setup means the BYD Atto 3 glides over most bumps and potholes, with very few disturbances in the cabin. Unfortunately, the drawback of this is that the Atto 3 tends to suffer from quite a bit of body lean on a twisty road; partner this with relatively light and vague steering and the Chinese family SUV offers very little in terms of driving engagement.
It’s worth noting, though, that a sporty drive isn’t usually high on the shopping list of family SUV buyers and the Atto 3 succeeds in providing an effortless and comfortable driving experience around town – somewhere most cars will inevitably spend the majority of their time.
The BYD Atto 3 doesn’t offer full one-pedal driving. However, you can choose from one of two brake regeneration modes which, even in the highest setting, feels smoother and less abrupt than the systems in some rivals.
Interior, dashboard & infotainment
While the BYD Atto 3’s exterior will likely fly under the radar, the Chinese electric SUV’s interior boasts a real wow-factor. There’s a distinctive two-tone colour scheme and almost every surface you touch feels of high quality. Everything centres around a large and very responsive touchscreen – similar to that found in the Tesla Model Y. This comes in two sizes and is loaded with features including Spotify and sat nav built-in – although you have to use a cable if you wish to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Remember that ‘fun’ we mentioned earlier? Well, one of the many tricks up the Atto 3’s sleeve is the ability to rotate the touchscreen electronically, allowing you to customise the look and feel of the infotainment system. While this is certainly novel and helps the cabin feel even more futuristic than it already does, we expect most owners to find a setup that suits them, before leaving it well alone.
This is not all, as the gear selector and door handles are all designed to look like free weights, possibly as a reminder that you’ve been putting off going to the gym for a while. The strings on the door pockets can also be strummed like a set of guitar strings, although unless you’re a practising musician, we think most buyers would prefer a more traditional cubbyhole to prevent smaller items from falling out.
Boot space, seating & practicality
|Boot volume (seats up/down)
As mentioned, the BYD Atto 3 is roughly the same size as a Nissan Qashqai but, thanks to clever packaging, it offers more passenger space than its petrol-powered competitor. A flat floor means three people should be able sit abreast in the rear with good head and legroom – although your knees do tend to sit higher than your waistline, meaning sitting in the back of the Atto 3 could get slightly uncomfortable on longer journeys.
While the Atto 3’s 440-litre boot is smaller than what is offered by many petrol-powered family SUVs, it manages to keep pace with similarly-priced electric family cars such as the Renault Megane E-Tech and only lags slightly behind the 470 litres offered by the MG ZS EV. The Atto 3’s boot should be plenty big enough for most families, and enough for short trips away, or the weekly shop – there’s even storage under the boot floor for the charging cables. Fold the rear seats down and there’s sufficient space to carry larger items; although the more-expensive Skoda Enyaq is a better option if you’re looking for an electric load-lugger.
Reliability & safety rating
BYD is an unknown quantity in the UK when it comes to reliability, so it’s hard to say whether the Atto 3 will be dependable. What we can say, however, is that it comes with a strong warranty – a display of the manufacturer’s confidence in its product. Electric cars also have fewer moving parts than their petrol-powered siblings, so there should, in theory, be less to go wrong.
The BYD Atto 3 was recently awarded a five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP. This is thanks in large part to the wide array of safety systems that come as standard, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring and an automatic speed limiter.