The BYD Atto 3 is coming to the UK by the end of the year

Chinese firm BYD is expanding into Europe and intends to have its Atto 3 model ready to order before the end of 2022

  • Order books open by the end of 2022
  • Atto 3 will be the smallest of a future BYD lineup
  • Set to rival the Volkswagen ID.3 and MG4

Chinese electric car firm BYD has stated it will bring the Atto 3 model to Europe this year with order books for UK buyers set to open before the end of 2022. The Atto 3 will be the smallest vehicle in a future lineup of cars, and the crossover’s closest rivals will be the Volkswagen ID.3 and MG4.

The Atto 3 gets the firm's new EV architecture, named e-Platform 3.0, to boost its competitiveness as other European manufacturers race ahead with plans for their own EV models of similar size. A single front-mounted motor has 201bhp for 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds.

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Two battery options will be offered: 48kWh and 60kWh, with the larger battery having a claimed WLTP range of up to 261 miles. Charging time is 29 minutes from 30-80% at a maximum charging speed of 88kW. 

Compared with the VW ID.3 the Atto 3 is 200mm longer but has a shorter wheelbase. Boot space is 400 litres or 1,338 litres with the rear seats folded.

Both the front and rear lighting feature a swooping design, and the conventional space for a grille is replaced by contrasting silver trim, with a small vent above it. Inside there’s a focus on technology, with a 12.8-inch screen that can swivel from portrait to landscape mode. However, unlike the ID.3, there doesn’t appear to be an over reliance on the screen, with several buttons and dials visible for controlling temperature and stereo volume.

Pricing and specification is yet to be confirmed for the UK although Brian Yang, assistant general manager for Europe, has said BYD is benchmarking itself against the Volkswagen ID range as well as Hyundai and Kia’s new EV models.

The Atto 3 will be the only vehicle from BYD for the UK market for now, although Yang added that this is not likely to last long, and the firm intends to expand the range next year. This will likely include a saloon and larger SUV that are already planned for mainland Europe, but will take slightly longer to reach UK shores.

BYD may be familiar to some people in the UK, as the firm has previously released commercial vehicles that have made it to UK roads; however the Atto 3 will be its first passenger vehicle in the UK. The firm started trading in 1995 as a battery manufacturer, and a European division was created just three years later in 1998.

BYD Atto 3 first drive

The Atto3 has a single motor driving the front wheels, producing 201bhp – a similar level of power to the Volkswagen ID.3 and MG4. It’s enough for a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds, which should be plenty quick enough for most buyers.

It uses BYD’s latest ‘blade’ battery technology, with long strips of cells running the length of the car, that are claimed to save weight and space. In the UK, we’re likely to only get the bigger of the two batteries; the 60kWh version should return a range of 261 miles between charges. 

An efficient heat pump is also standard, which should help prevent a severe loss of range in cold weather. Recharging speeds look to be adequate rather than blistering, with 88kW DC charging said to take the battery from 30-80% capacity in 29 minutes.

We’ve only driven the Atto 3 around an airfield so far, but it already showed the car has the potential to perform well in the UK. The accelerator feels easy to judge, with a linear response that’s likely to suit drivers making the switch from a petrol, diesel or hybrid car. It isn’t overly sensitive like some EVs, which can make them feel nervous to drive.

While it’s also notoriously difficult to calibrate an EV’s regenerative braking and mechanical brakes to feel smooth as you slow down and come to a stop, BYD appears to have nailed it. The pedal doesn’t feel artificial or spongy while braking, and there are two levels of resistance to choose from.

The steering also has two strengths – Normal and Sport – but this is perhaps the one control that still needs some work. While the level of weight changes as you’d expect, the steering feels rather vague and slow to respond in both modes. 

Up to the 50mph we managed on the test track, the chassis felt like it majored on comfort over outright handling, so we expect it to provide a fairly smooth ride on British roads. Body roll didn’t feel too excessive, but it’s unlikely to be as sporty as rivals like the Mazda MX-30. Refinement may also be slightly down on some European rivals, with a bit of motor whine under acceleration and wind rush from the side mirrors over 40mph.

Another Atto 3 strong point is likely to be its interior, which is neatly finished and more daring than you might expect from a fledgling brand. There are soft-touch materials, red piping for the seats, and a 15.6-inch infotainment screen that can rotate between portrait and landscape modes. This could turn out to be a bit of a gimmick, but BYD reckons portrait suits navigation, while landscape is better for enjoying media – perhaps while you wait for the car to charge. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are expected, although they could arrive in the form of an over-the-air update shortly after launch.

Given the 3’s relatively small size, its SUV shape means there’s enough room inside for five six-foot adults, with plenty of headroom even when the standard panoramic roof is taken into account. Boot capacity is also competitive at 440 litres, with up to 1,338 litres of space when the back seats are folded down.

Looking for an electric car on a budget, check out ten best cheapest electric cars, or if you want a larger electric vehicle read our ten best electric SUVs.

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