BYD Atto 3 | The Green Lane
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BYD Atto 3 | The Green Lane

Check out this quirky electric SUV

Build Your Dreams: Never heard of the Chinese car company? You will soon. Motoring editor Jeremy Taylor and sustainable fashion expert Jessica Saunders drive the electric Atto 3.

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Car Review: BYD Atto 3

Road shot of cobalt blue BYD Atto 3

JT – It’s likely you’ve travelled in a BYD before but never realised it.

JS – I think I’d remember! Is it related to the Jaguar i-Pace?

Not quite but I see the similarities. BYD manufactures London’s fleet of electric buses and, believe it or not, builds more electric cars than anybody else in the world. The first model to arrive in the UK recently was the Atto 3 we’re testing but the Dolphin city car and Seal saloon are also here now.

Shame they couldn’t find an aquatic name for the Atto – and I’m really not sure about the ‘Build Your Dreams’ badge splattered across the boot.

Yes, BYD claims to have taken on board customer reaction to the naff badge and will no longer attach it. However, that was six months ago and our car still has it! So, according to my friend Ben, who runs an Atto in New Zealand, all you need is some dental floss and a hairdryer to gently unstick the lettering nightmare.

'Build Your Dreams' logo on the boot of a blue BYD Atto 3.

You read it here first – although I note there are actually blog posts and YouTube videos offering similar practical advice. Do we like the Atto – it looks like another bland, SUV-shaped crossover car to me?

Well, here’s the thing. While it costs roughly the same as the more desirable and better-known Volvo EX30, or the excellent Hyundai Kona Electric we also tested recently, the BYD is really well equipped, offers great value, plus a spacious interior and some quirky features to boot.

Do let me explain the guitar string door pockets that passengers can actually play, as well as the giant, rotating information screen. The exterior may look like a dozen other SUVs but the interior is a giggle.

The three-string pockets are just so brilliant you have to admire the designer who ‘plucked’ up the courage to present that idea to his bosses in China. Somehow, it made it to production and now passengers can master a Stones’ riff on the journey to a supermarket.

Guitar string door pockets in the BYD Atto 3

Can you imagine VW or Mercedes doing anything that visionary? The touchscreen also rotates from portrait to landscape, depending on how you like to view your 12.8-inch screen, while the driver’s instrument binnacle is replaced with a small, digital screen.

The rest of the interior is a little ‘out there’ too – an aircraft-style lever to shift into drive mode, as well as the oddball door handles. It’s bold, unconventional and won’t be to everybody’s taste but at least BYD does DBD – dare to be different.

The Atto’s also comfortable, although the ride is a little soft, with some wallowing on sharper corners. The shape of the seats is also a little strange. Overall, the BYD is better for shorter journeys, rather than big trips. 

And there’s a decent-sized boot, the five-star NCAP safety rating and a battery that can cover up to 260 miles, or 220 miles in real-world driving conditions. Which brings us to price. The Atto ranges from around £37,000 up to £40,000.

That does sound expensive, until you consider the high levels of equipment, then it looks like a bargain. No doubt BYD will be stealing sales from the MG 4 EV and the Smart #1 before too long too…

Interior shot of BYD Atto 3, with large touchscreen display and cream leather seats.

DISCOVER

Discover more about the BYD Atto 3 at byd.com

Jessica Saunders is Director of Programmes at London College of Fashion, studying for a PhD in sustainable e-textile design.