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In-depth reviews

BYD Dolphin review - our favourite new car

“Don’t write the Dolphin off just because it’s cheap – this is an extraordinarily talented small electric car”

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • One of the cheapest EVs on sale
  • Good technology
  • Strong efficiency

Cons

  • Entry models not available until 2024
  • Boot not the biggest
  • Intrusive safety aids

Verdict - Is the BYD Dolphin a good car?

We were promised an onslaught of cheap EVs when the Chinese manufacturers first announced their presence in Europe, and the BYD Dolphin is one of the first to truly fit that format. Don’t be dissuaded by its low list price or the unknown name – BYD is a big brand in its home country and the Dolphin is a talented all-rounder, backed up by a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. There’s space for four, a good range, plenty of equipment and an agreeable driving experience. The biggest bargains are yet to come (the smaller 45kWh battery is due early 2024), but at just over £30k, the mid-to-high-spec Comfort could really shake up the lower end of the electric-car market. So much so in fact, that we've named it our Carbuyer Car of the Year for 2024.

BYD Dolphin models, specs and alternatives

Many manufacturers kick off by launching a flashy ‘First Edition’ spec, and while it’s true that BYD will start sales with the bigger battery, longer-range Dolphin, the maker has already committed to cheaper versions – confirming these cars will arrive early in 2024.

 Best Small Electric Car: BYD DolphinCarbuyer Best Car Awards 2024 - the winners

So for now, the lineup comprises only Comfort and Design trims – the former coming in at a smidge over £30,000. While that’s a few hundred pounds more than when prices were first announced in the spring, it still allows BYD to undercut its myriad European rivals. In short, this is one of the cheapest electric cars you can buy.

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Both the Comfort and Design models get a 201bhp motor and a 60kWh battery, which should be capable of up to 265 miles on a charge. These models get the fastest 88kW charging, too, for a 30-80% top-up in less than half an hour.
Comfort cars get heated front seats, a six-speaker stereo and front parking sensors, which we think makes it the pick of the range. Design bolsters the spec sheet with tri-colour 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass and wireless phone charging. Unless you want that glass roof, we’d stick with the cheaper of the two big-battery cars.

As mentioned, from Q1 next year, BYD will also offer a pair of more affordable models – starting from just over £26,000. Active cars get a 45kWh battery and up to 211 miles of range, mated to a 93bhp motor. These cars feature a 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen, electrically-adjustable vegan seats, 16-inch wheels and a 360-degree surround-view camera.

Boost builds on this with a more powerful 174bhp motor, bigger wheels, and an advanced rear suspension system, which should help ride comfort. Boost costs around £1,000 more than Active.

The Dolphin is only available as a five-door hatchback, and joins the existing Atto 3 electric SUV in the brand’s recently-launched UK lineup. We’ve also driven the brand’s four-door saloon – badged BYD Seal – which is due in UK showrooms towards the end of 2023, while the maker has confirmed the larger Seal U SUV will also arrive in time.

Trim levels

Power options

  • Active
  • Boost
  • Comfort
  • Design
  • 45kWh, 93bhp
  • 45kWh, 174bhp
  • 60kWh, 201bhp

BYD Dolphin alternatives

The lower end of the EV market is hotting up, with more and more models due over the coming years. Despite being a little longer than a Ford Fiesta – a car you can no longer buy new – the BYD Dolphin’s rivals span everything from electric city cars to family hatchbacks and small SUVs.

 Electric family cars

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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