BYD Atto 3: Impressive Chinese electric family crossover will give rivals nightmares

Firm’s first European offering seems like a tempting buy for Irish families looking for a crossover for under €40,000

BYD Atto 3
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Year: 2023
Fuel: Electric
Verdict: Impressive EV family crossover, but for BYD the best has yet to come

Of all the Chinese car brands landing on our shores of late, BYD is the one to give European car executives sleepless nights.

Not that new Atto 3 is the greatest car on four wheels. Nor is it the best electric car on the market right now. But the strength of the company behind it should make rivals shudder.

BYD stands for Build Your Dreams, yet another cringingly awful moniker from the market departments of Chinese auto giants. But behind the cheesy name is a company, partly owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, ready to take on European rivals on their home turf.

What should really worry them is that BYD is a battery company that is now building cars, taking on rivals that frequently buy in batteries modules. It doesn’t take a business studies Leaving Cert student to spot the advantages BYD may have over rivals as the world moves to electric vehicles.


BYD claims to be the world’s leading producer of rechargeable batteries and owns the complete supply chain layout from mineral battery cells to battery packs.

European car executives seem to believe that legacy and local loyalty will see off the threat from Chinese brands. That and the usual quasi-jingoism against newcomer brands from outside Europe. If that’s the basis for their defence, then shareholders should be really worried.

As the model chosen to introduce the brand to Irish buyers, the Atto 3 certainly isn’t the most exciting. BYD has the Seal saloon due this autumn, which is a Tesla Model 3 rival that could have pitched the brand right into the premium EV mix.

Instead, they opted for something staid: a regular family crossover. Head over heart, it is the sensible choice, for this is where the volume sales are at in Ireland right now. But it would have been nice to see them put their best foot forward.


That said, the Atto 3 has a lot to offer. Exterior styling is a typical crossover – though the rear does have certain styling cues reminiscent of premium German brands.

Inside, the Atto 3 is a bit of a marvel. When you consider how other Asian brands first arrived on the Irish market, this is certainly no bargain basement offering. BYD has delivered a family car with a build quality to worry any European rival.

The styling touches are sometimes a little over the top, but they can be forgiven when you compare it to the drab offerings of many European rivals. A real effort has been put into making it an exciting and fun place to be. There are plenty of ways to please your inner child, like the gear selector that could have been taken straight from a Boeing and the massive 15.6-inch touchscreen that swivels from landscape to portrait as you wish.


It’s not just a gimmick either; the software running on the system is impressively quick and given the ongoing ridicule faced by Volkswagen over its user interface, BYD gives its German EV rivals a bit of a masterclass.

In terms of space, this crossover comes in along the lines of the MG5 or ID.3. It’s marginally smaller than the Skoda Enyaq but a step up from the likes of the Peugeot e-2008. With ample legroom in the back and a decent boot, it’s suited to life as a five-seater family transporter.

Behind the wheel, the Atto could be more engaging; it’s yet another EV crossover that feels like you are riding on the car’s chassis rather than in it, but the ride and handling are never a cause for concern. The usual variety of modes are offered – from Eco to Sport – but you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference between them.

It’s as nippy from a standing start as you’d want in a family car, as easy to drive as anyone could expect, it can take on Irish back roads without any issues and it’s a comfortable cruiser. Boxes ticked all across the way.

Unsurprisingly, BYD’s battery is a bit of a star. Billed as the “blade” battery, it forgoes the multi-module format of rivals and instead opts for just one big continuous battery that it claims is cleaner than that of some rivals, using no hard-to-mine cobalt.

With its 60kWh capacity it promises a range of 420km and during our time testing it offered realistic distances of just under 400km. Charging speeds don’t match some rivals, however, with a max 7kW on AC power and on the faster DC charges it can only take a maximum of 88kW. That means you will likely opt for overnight home-charging, which takes just under 10 hours from 0 to 100 per cent.


With a competitive range, smart tech and a stylish interior, there’s more good news on the price, which currently starts at €37,128 (including grants and VRT rebate) for the basic Active model, and even the top-spec Design version is a reasonable €38,964.

The Atto 3 seems like a tempting buy for the many Irish buyers who are looking for a family crossover coming in at under €40,000.

And it’s just the first foray of an industrial giant. Along with the Tesla-rivalling Seal saloon, BYD will also introduce its Dolphin hatchback this year, followed on next year with a BMW 5 Series rival, the Han.

In China it has launched two off-shoot sub-brands so far this year and added thousands of software engineers to beef up its capabilities in autonomous driving. Of the 600,000 employees already working for it, an estimated 50,000 are engineers.

Comparisons have been made between how the Chinese are entering the market and the way the Japanese and then the Koreans arrived. That’s true for many of the Chinese brands, but not BYD.

This is no Asian minnow: BYD is a behemoth. It carries enough clout to cause major concern among the likes of Toyota and VW. The Atto 3 is merely the prologue to the first act.

BYD Atto 3 Design: the lowdown

Power: A 204hp electric motor driving the front wheels and putting out 310Nm of torque, all powered by 60kWh battery.

Electric consumption: 15.6kWh/100km (WLTP).

Electric range: 420km (WLTP)

0-100km/h: 7.3sec.

Price: €38,964 as tested (after grants); Atto 3 starts at €37,128

Verdict: Impressive EV family crossover, but for BYD the best has yet to come.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times