Friday, 03 February 2023 12:55

Take a closer look!

Written by  Mark Daniel
BYD has seen a meteoric rise in the production of its EVs, which is now rapidly nearing 3 million vehicles produced since 2003. BYD has seen a meteoric rise in the production of its EVs, which is now rapidly nearing 3 million vehicles produced since 2003.

While electric cars are never very far from the news, the Tesla brand and its CEO Elon Musk are the ones who fill the headlines.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the lesser known brand of BYD (Build Your Dreams) is seeing a meteoric rise in the production of EVs. Despite the fact the company only formed in 2003 it is now rapidly nearing 3 million vehicles produced.

While you could argue that the New Zealand market is dominated by utes and SUV’s, the practicality of living in rural NZ usually means a second car is a must, for doing the school run or popping into town.

So, given the current cost of fuel – which will only climb higher as our city-focused government re-applies taxes – would it be out of place to consider the electric alternative?

BYD’s ATTO 3, which arrived in NZ during 2022 out of nowhere and sold hundreds of units before any dealerships were even announced, certainly makes a compelling case.

BYD has already produced far more vehicles than the aforementioned Tesla, and the ATTO 3 certainly makes an attractive proposition. With a list price of $52,990 for the 50kWh version, $57,990 for the 60kWh version, each attracts a government clean car subsidy of $8,625. The only difference between them is battery capacity, said to offer ranges of 345 and 420km respectively.

Outwardly the 4.4m long ATTO3 won’t win any beauty pageant. It is best described as conventional, as is the norm for most boxy SUVs. By contrast, the interior is certainly not conventional, with sweeping curves, Dan Dare sci-fi controls and guitar-stringed door pockets. It’s very much a Vegemite reaction: you’ll either love it or hate it. Interestingly, the materials and build quality will put a lot of the so-called Euro premium marques to shame. However, as the TV advert says, “but wait, there’s more”.

Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, a 12.8-inch central touchscreen and a 5-inch digital instrument display. There is also a 360 degree surround camera, faux leather trim, smart key and for those looking to connect with the world beyond the farm, and 2Gb of free data per month for two years.

Featuring a single 150kW motor driving the front axle, the company notes that its ‘Blade’ battery technology – using lithium-iron-phosphate – is much safer than other battery formats. It is good for 5,000 charging cycles before capacity drops to 80%, compared to the 1,300 cycles typical of other batteries. BYD’s confidence in the set-up means the company offers a 6-year, 180,000km warranty.

Driving the vehicle, you’re ensconced in a bright airy cabin, planted on electrically adjusted and heated seats that are very comfortable. There is also plenty of room in the rear seats, which are split folding, with a 440l boot at the back.

The large central touchscreen can be positioned in a portrait of landscape aspect and combines with switches and dials. A central position between the seats brings together the key start, drive lever and park brake controls, but elsewhere the controls seem a little haphazard.

You have a choice of Normal, ECO or Sport modes, each being adequate. Acceleration off the mark sees 100km/h coming up in around 7.5 seconds. Ride quality is good, with the suspension remaining composed in all road conditions and comfortable at high speeds. On the negative front, the steering feel is best described as a little woolly with very little feedback from the tyres. Likewise, the forward collision warning system seems to be a little too sensitive for NZ conditions, getting a little ‘spooked’ by parked cars.

Finally, that old chestnut of range anxiety can be largely forgotten. Using the ATTO as a run-around, consumption appears to be 15kW/100km, so easily 3 or 4 days. In this tester’s experience, when the battery dropped from 82% to 40%, plugging into a single- phase socket in the garage brought things back to 85% in around 11 hours.

Our recommendation is a firm “take a closer look”.

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