Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k

Sanjay · Jan 20, 2023 08:00 PM

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 01

When BYD shot to prominence at the height of Covid-19 in 2020 for being one of the world's largest producer of masks – a feat they achieved in just one short month – they did so with grit and a keen pulse on the market.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 02

From this F3...

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 03

...to this, today's BYD is very different from the uninspiring days of old

The slog and zeal isn't something the Shenzhen-based carmaker shies away from. You and I probably laughed at their weird copycat cars of a decade ago; today they're one of the, if not the world's largest producer of electric vehicles.

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Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 01

A large slice of that comes from the small car category, and the BYD Atto 3 has been invaluable, wrestling sales and awards from 'legacy' brands in hundreds of countries worldwide.

Obviously they're doing something correct, and in Malaysia's melting pot EV market – do they have the right recipe to strike it big?

BYD Atto 3 Extended EV Specs in Malaysia
Price RM 167,800
Powertrain Single-motor FWD
Battery Capacity 60.48 kWh
Charging 6.6 kW AC, 80 kW DC
Power & Torque 204 PS / 310 Nm
0-100 km/h 7.3 seconds, as tested
Origin CBU, China

 

Design: Cool, if a little anonymous

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 02

Not every EV has to look like something off The Jetsons and that's completely OK. It all depends on what roles they play, and as the Atto 3 is BYD's first truly global model, maintaining an easily-likeable look is a smart move.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 03

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 04

After all, the man who penned it, Wolfgang Egger, knows a thing or two about design. He used to ply his trade at Alfa Romeo, coming up with the 159, 147, and the 8C Competizione, and when's the last time you've heard someone complain about how an Alfa looks?

 

Also read: Owner Review: My sensual, attractive Bella – 2011 Alfa Romeo 159 2.2 JTS Selespeed

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 05

Credit where its due, BYD hasn't got him to refer too much to his past catalogue (unlike a certain Chinese EV brand with Porsches), so the Atto 3 has got enough of its own identity.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 06

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 07

Cue soft lines, lightbars up front and back, and match it to a modernised-yet-conventional SUV profile, it makes for a good looking little car that people will at least give a second glance.

Also, note that it's got conventional door handles. Good for those who don't trust the reliability of electric door handles post-crash.

 

Also read: ICE cars have 4x higher fire risk than EVs but fire fighters say EV fires are more dangerous, here's why

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 08

The Atto 3 measures between a Proton X50 and X70, and judging distances in one is closer to the latter than a larger car. The slim body and short overhangs make it a city slicker; plus the electric seats and tilt-and-telescopic adjustable steering wheel allows just about anyone to get comfortable behind the tiller.

Interior: Funky but we rather they work on the basics first

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 09

It seems to be a trend that Chinese cars tend to overdo one part or the other, and the bit of overkill with the Atto 3 is its cabin. We get the impression that BYD tried a bit too hard combining ideas for it, rather than keeping to a focus.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 10

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 11

Undeniably, that results in a properly funky interior. From the flowy lines to the...(strummable!) guitar strings gating the cubby space by the doors, it'll leave a nice teal-on-white imprint on your mind that'll make it hard to go back to the humdrum black interiors in a majority of ICE SUVs.

 

Also read: 1 month since launch, 500 units of BYD Atto 3 are on their way to Malaysia

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 12

Only buttons for the air-cond are the on/off, and auto switches. A second volume scroller isn't necessary, better if that adjusted fan speed instead

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 13

These vents don't blow to your face, you need to rely on the ones bookending the dashboard for that. Qi wireless charger is only available on Extended variant

We won't use that reasoning to justify the squirrelling of the air-cond controls into the screen however. Some things are best left to tactile buttons and knobs, simply because they're easier to use. Adjusting the fan speed and temperatures should never be a multi-menu affair yet here we are.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 14

At least when you do have to use the 12.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, it's a breeze. Swish about it however you like and the slick tablet won't miss a step. About that rotating mechanism though...

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 15

Err...little more than a gimmick, we say. In our time with it, we found leaving it in landscape mode is better for just about everything anyway, and we reckon you'd find the same. Not to mention the bigger problem: portrait mode blocks a significant portion of the driver's view too.

Much like the ambient lighting. You can customise it, and if you'd like you can even make it ape your nearest disco! Shame we don't get the optional karaoke mic accessory here, otherwise we'll run K-bars out of business.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 16

Digressions aside the screen itself is a joy to use. Navigating the submenus are simple enough; if at times hamstrung by weird mistranslations – not sure what you mean by warm tip there, but no thank you...

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 17

Lighting effects make for a cool ambiance

On that front though, we hope future updates will patch things over, as they have before (a prior version of the software seen at the car's launch misspelled descent as decent, no such errors are in our test unit). What's more, new features come in them – Android Auto is confirmed to appear OTA, so that's nice.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 18

Wireless Apple CarPlay comes as standard, and joy of joys, uses the entire screen with crisp resolution.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 19

For all the maxi that's the infotainment screen, the instrument cluster is no bigger than your phone. Not sure what the rationale is behind this, as it is it looks like it just belongs on a bike, and consequently it's hard to read because there's so much going on at any one time.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 20

Flat-bottomed steering wheel, plus peep the wiper stalk on the left

Another positive we'd like point out is the extra mile BYD went to move the signal stalk to the right. A lot of carmakers who predominantly sell cars in left-hand drive markets usually don't go this far, and we appreciate this attention to local needs.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 21

Cost-saving measures are not too obvious, but the cheap-feeling steering wheel buttons betray that. Voice command is leagues behind even Proton's

In summary, once you realise that the brief is aesthetics over all-out utility, then perhaps you'll understand the interior better.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 22

Seatback pockets are a nice touch. Cubby by the USB ports aren't sticky, so watch it when you take those turns

Take cubby spaces for instance – the Atto 3 isn't giving you loads of them, with small cupholder  and medium-size spaces along the centre console – so being creative with your loose items is a skill to master.

 

Also read: Touchscreen infotainment distracts more than assists, research suggests

 

Space and practicality: Spacious cabin

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 23

What's not a gimmick is the space the BYD Atto 3 offers. Maybe it'll come to no surprise, but know that it brushes the Hyundai Kona Electric – which sits squarely in the Atto 3's price space – aside when it comes to seating.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 24

The lack of a super sloping roof means there's one tennis ball's worth of headroom. Legroom is three tennis balls' worth. Pretty spacious, but how occupants sit at the back is another job well done here.

Also read: Review: Hyundai Kona Electric e-Plus – Is it time to get an EV?

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 25

In a lot of BEVs, sitting at the back is uncomfortable because the floor-mounted battery 'pushes' your knees upwards, resulting in a somewhat squat-like position.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 26

That's not a problem at all in the Atto 3. Your legs can lie comfortably flat, and as a bonus it's possible to stretch them all the way under the front seats as well. Awesome.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 27

Plus, the inclusion of an expansive sunroof also helps to make the cabin airier, if that's your jive.

Also read: First impressions of the Ora Good Cat EV in Malaysia, launching this month

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 28

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 29

Boot volume is a heady 440 litres; larger than the X50 and HR-V, and equalling the Corolla Cross. Flatten the rear seats and you have 1,340 litres. Loading height and boot aperture are friendly to most heavy items.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 30

If you intend to make an Atto 3 one for the family, rest assured it excels in the space and practicality department.

Driving and comfort: Numb drive, comfortable though

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 31

Searing acceleration? Yup. Silent? For the most part. Ride and handling? Not bad.

Probably the same summary you've read about with other EVs, but that's the truth, the Atto 3 isn't anything special. Its mission, which it accomplishes, isn't to give you a drive to hoo-ha about; it's here is to take you from one point to another as gently as it can.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 32

No frunk here

Figures for you here: front-mounted (FWD) electric motor with 204 PS/310 Nm, and a tested 0-100 km/h time of 7.3 seconds. More than enough for the job order, with the usual instantaneous burst of acceleration supplying enough shove to outfox petrol cars and pip them through traffic.

Also read: Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 33

BYD Atto 3 0-100 km/h time (top), 100-0 km/h (below)

On the flipside, weak brake regeneration hampers the driving experience. Never mind single-pedal driving (which, disappointingly, it omits), a stronger regen tune than as it is now – borderline indescernible even on 'High' – would be better appreciated, if only to not waste all that energy we aren't recapturing.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 34

Positives are more apparent in the ride quality. For one, it's great that an SUV that carries a 60.48 kWh battery on the floor can be this pleasant to sit in.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 35

Multi-link suspension at the back

A big part of the supple ride is the well-tuned multi-link suspension, and we'll give BYD's bespoke electric platform some credit too. Most of the road ruts and irregularities you come across daily are nicely silkened, isolating occupants from the jolts and shocks expansion joints and cats' eyes could normally cause.

Good thing is that long haul drives feel solid and well-planted, but don't expect it to be whisper-quiet. The silence will be broken by rather distracting 'whoosh' noises centring by the side mirrors.

Also read: Review: Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric – Better as an EV?

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 36

But know that its 1,750 kg kerb weight and vague electric steering inhibits any form of sporting performance. The Atto 3 makes it clear it does not like quick direction changes, as you will feel the car sloshing about as you pitch it into noodly switchbacks.

This owes a lot to the car's atrocious tyres too. These Atlas Batman (ugh) A51s just aren't up to the task of handling the Atto 3's instant torque and weight; there's a worrying amount of wheelspin when you step on the accelerator urgently, and it squeals at the slightest show of pressure.

Also read: Confused by EV terms? Here's everything you need to know

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 37

It's a shame that something this simple is handicapping the otherwise well-sorted car. It's an issue that can be easily addressed by prospective owners (and you should), but it'd be better if it's taken care of by the distributors themselves...

ADAS: Nervous in traffic

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 38

We like that BYD's DiPilot suite of advanced driver aids (ADAS) has a bunch of features, but if you were pampered by Honda Sensing and Toyota Safety Sense, then err...don't expect the same quality. It's a mixed bag of some good points, while some are bad.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 39

Camera in the daytime is great, clear enough to read number plates

Full marks goes to the cameras. We might as well have just shot our TikTok videos on this because the quality in both low- and clear lighting are stellar. It's 360-degrees too, and if you so choose you can have it turn the side cameras on as you indicate.

Also read: CNY drive home: Do this to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a pile-up crash

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 40

Low-light performance is fantastic. Note see-through mode on the right

And, this side of a million-Ringgit Land Rover, we haven't seen a car that offers a transparent view of the terrain below. Not that you'd use the Atto 3 for overlanding but it's a nice touch.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 41

The bad is the calibration of the adaptive cruise control, and ancilliaries like the blind spot monitor. It's hyperactive and jumpy; it goes bonkers when motorcycles whizz beside you during a traffic jam. 

This happens because it senses that these vehicles are 'imminently colliding' with you. What happens then, as I found out during one of those morning Jalan Kuching crawls, is that every few seconds a warning will show on the speedometer. Then the hazards will flash. Which brings a clicky noise every few seconds. Annoying.

Energy consumption: 18.9 kWh/100 km

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 42

For our energy consumption test, we took the Atto 3 on a 240 km route, mixed between highways and the city. In that journey, it used up 66% of the battery, and the onboard computer read that there was 163 km of range left.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 43

Charging at Tenaga Switchgear, one of the few free DC chargers in Klang Valley. Up to 120 kW DC is offered

Topping it up to full needed 45.3 kWh over an hour. This translates to an energy efficiency figure of 18.9 kWh/100 km.

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 44

Stick one end to the car's charging port and you can now have karaoke in the jungle!

Side note: the Atto 3 Extended supports up to 7 kW AC (Type 2) charging, and up to 80 kW DC (CCS2) charging. It's also the first EV below RM 200k to support vehicle-to-load (V2L); enough to power small household devices or a makeshift glamping night out.

Also read: Go off-grid with the Ioniq 5 at the Hotel Hyundai, the world's first EV-powered hotel

Aftersales and warranty

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 45

BYD's warranty package is quite comprehensive, par for the course of a brand out to build trust in a new market. Here's what they offer:

  • 6-year/150,000 km vehicle warranty
  • 8-year/160,000 km battery warranty
  • 8-year/150,000 km warranty for the drive unit (motor, motor controller, DC assembly, high voltage electric control assembly)

 

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 46

Comparable is GWM's five-year/150,000 km vehicle warranty and 8-year/180,000 km battery warranty for the Ora Good Cat. Hyundai backs the Kona Electric with a 8-year/160k km battery warranty, but a lacklustre 2-year/50k km vehicle warranty.

Verdict: Well-studied model, will earn its fans

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 47

Between this and the scooters, KL's roads are increasingly electric

It can't be denied that the BYD Atto 3 remains a relatively expensive proposition when compared to similarly-sized petrol SUVs. Yet it's probably the most complete sub-RM 200k EV SUV you can get – and that's a good shove towards price parity.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 48

Don't discount the BYD Atto 3's charms of presenting the buyer with the 'full EV experience'. EV customers value the futurisms – OTA updates, an encapsulating phone app, and yes, even gimmicky things like an NFC reader and a flippin' screen – and the Atto 3 satiates that itch.

Not many officially-distributed EVs, even some priced well above RM 250k, offer you those.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 49

And for prospective customers not too caught up in the technobabble, you'll still net decent space and comfort, fair performance and range, as well as charging times that aren't immediate turn offs.

Review: BYD Atto 3 - Not without its pains, but it's probably the most complete EV SUV for RM 170k 50

True, you'll feel about as much fun piloting this as mashing buttons on your pantry's microwave oven. But like its strong sales start shows, the BYD Atto 3 presents a compelling option to anyone who'd like to try daily driving an EV without making too many compromises.

Also read: 7 EV SUVs launching in Malaysia in 2023: Toyota bZ4X, Smart #1, VW ID.4, and more

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Sanjay

Senior Writer

With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.

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