It’s crazy to think that it has already been a year since BYD introduced the Atto 3 in the Indian market. After all, the Atto 3 is still a rare sight on Indian roads, and when it is seen, it turns heads like nobody’s business. In fact, the BYD brand itself is still unknown to most Indians, despite being the world’s largest EV manufacturer, but the Atto 3 aims to change that. It has a long list of features and a very strong spec sheet too, but these two lists are also accompanied by a price tag of ₹33.99 lakh (Ex-showroom India).
When you are shelling out such an amount for any car, you would want it to be an all-rounder. You would want it to be your primary car which you can take anywhere, without fuss. And after a year of being in the Indian market, one question still remains unanswered: Can the BYD Atto 3 be the primary car in your garage?
To find the answer to this, we took the BYD Atto 3 for a drive from Gurgaon to the Neemrana Fort and back, encountering a mix of urban and highway driving on our way. How does it feel to be in the car for long durations? Does the battery deliver enough range for a whole day of driving? Is the performance adequate over long distances? All of that and more in our comprehensive review below.
Two tugs on the drive mode selector toggle (to put the car in Sport mode), floor the throttle, and the Atto 3 pulls like it forgot that it weighs over 1.7 tonnes! The 201 bhp and 310 Nm powertrain is not necessarily a heavy hitter, but the instantaneous torque makes all the difference when you want to make a quick dash. In fact, the motor keeps pulling hard until you cross 120 km/h, and even after that the performance doesn’t dip drastically, but instead it tapers off smoothly. The exterior and interior design and the hard acceleration fools you into thinking that the Atto 3 is a sporty crossover SUV, but that is not entirely the case. In fact, the Atto 3 drives a lot like a family crossover that has a lot of power to spare. And that leads me to believe that the Atto 3 is in fact, confused!
And that tendency is seen most in the handling. The chassis feels inviting, as if it is ready for you to push the car in a corner. Do that, and the Atto 3 will go through it without hesitation, like it is a hatchback. On the flip side, the steering gets two modes to change its weight, but the weight feels artificial, and the steering, disconnected. The soft suspension does tend to float a bit, and at high speeds it does not inspire the most confidence. The 215/55 R18 Atlas A51 tyres are also its weak point, and if you were to get the Atto 3, I’d urge you to upgrade to a grippier set. The Atto 3 does a great job of being a family crossover, if not driven spiritedly. But then, why does it have such sporty interiors if it was meant to be a comfy family crossover SUV?
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The Atto 3’s suspension setup is soft, and it rounds off bumps and potholes well while you are pondering at city speeds. There is a bit of lateral movement, but it’s not unnerving. What I noticed over the long highway runs was that it deals with undulations even better at high speeds. You don’t really have to slow down for sudden dips or expansion joints, and the Atto 3 stays level throughout. Speaking of comfort, the rear seats are the place to be in the car. The cushioning is soft enough to make you comfortable, but not too soft to bother you even after six hours of being in the car. The cabin is also wide enough to comfortably accommodate three adults, and the flat bench and floor helps the cause. The battery pack’s placement in the floor does mean that you sit slightly knees up, but there’s more than enough leg room to stretch out and be comfortable still. Head room is also adequate, and all three rear passengers get individual headrests and 3-point seatbelts.
Seating however is not as comfortable at the front. While the seats have great bolstering and cushioning, the lumbar support feels a tad bit off. The highly bolstered seats also don’t fit passengers of all sizes perfectly. The range of seat adjustability on the other hand is brilliant, and it is very easy to find your ideal seating position. The seats do miss out on ventilation though, which should have been included at this price point.
For most buyers, the long list of criteria for the ideal primary car starts with the design, and BYD has got it spot on! At first glance, the Atto 3 looks unique and stands out from the crowd. And the more time you spend with it, the more you start to appreciate the natural curves of the car. BYD calls its design language ‘Dragon Face 3.0’, and while that name might be a stretch, the Atto 3 does have a reptile-esque face. Adding to this theme are brushed chrome inserts all the way back on the C-Pillars of the car, which have a scaled texture.
The chiselled yet flowing facia of the Atto 3 is sleek, and despite the absence of a grille or an air-dam, the front still looks natural. The sleek LED headlights that get small blue inserts look beautiful, and so do the intricately designed 5-spoke wheels which reduce drag. The design seamlessly flows into the back, which has connected wraparound tail lights. Interestingly though, instead of just a logo, the rear gets the full form of BYD — Build Your Dreams — written in block letters. BYD has done this to imprint the brand image into the minds of the Indian audience. But if I were to buy this car, I would get rid of the badging right away. The five available colour options are also very beautiful, and each of them has a very interesting ring to it.
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Being a year old now, I had seen the Atto 3’s interiors in many photos and videos, and the quirky looks never really appealed to me. But things are much different in person. Yes, it is still a very polarising interior design, but it is beautiful nonetheless. The whole of the interior is finished in dark-blue and off-white finishes, and it gets red stitching throughout. I would have preferred if either the blue bits were black, or the red stitching was white, because the three colours don’t really blend as well as I’d like. BYD says that the interior design is inspired by ‘Gym and Music’. Why? Now that’s food for thought. The dashboard and door panels get off-white coloured inserts, which are sculpted to look like muscles. However, they are finished in a spongy soft touch material, and will be extremely hard to keep clean. There are chrome-shod AC vents that are supposed to replicate dumb-bells, the gear selector looks like a kettle-bell, the long door handles look like a lateral pull-down machine’s bar, and the finishing on the centre armrest for the front passengers is reminiscent of a treadmill. So the gym inspiration is clear.
As for the ‘Music’ bit, BYD has added certain other elements to the cabin. The tweeters in all doors for example, are not camouflaged, but instead stick out and house an interesting door lever. Then there are strings to hold water bottles in door pockets, and are supposed to replicate bass guitar strings. But they are finished in red, and not a silver or copper colour that you’d see on guitars. The strings also generate a sound if you pluck them, so if you have kids in your car, you’d best hope they don’t notice this. Speaking of annoying sounds, the Atto 3 has a rather strange tune that plays when you put on the turn indicators or hazard lights, instead of the usual clicks you’d hear in any other car. I wish there was some setting where I could change it, because it gets annoying after a while and would make you want to use the indicators less, which is counterproductive.
The Atto 3 also gets plenty of storage spaces on the inside. All doors get large pockets that can house 1 litre bottles, the glove box is big, and there is also a large storage space under the front armrest. There’s also a storage space under the centre console which could be used to stow a handbag, and rear passengers also get dedicated spaces to put their phones in the seat pockets. and at 440 litres, the Atto 3’s boot space is also large enough to accommodate enough luggage for your weekend trips.
Apart from the quirky bits — which cover almost everything — the interior has a rather sporty theme. The seats — with their fixed headrests — appear like they were lifted off a performance car, so does the centre console with the array of shortcut buttons. The steering wheel — sans some uber premium level materials — would not look out of place in a hypercar. And it also gets customisable ambient lighting which looks beautiful in the dark. But despite all the visual drama throughout the cabin, there’s one rather ‘normal’ element which still stands out — the 12.8 inch touchscreen infotainment display, which rotates!
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Despite having one of the most radical looking interiors of any car on sale in India, the attention is drawn towards the infotainment screen. And for good measure, because not only is the screen one of the largest in the segment, but it also rotates! Press a button and you can turn the 12.8 inch display from landscape to portrait, giving you the versatility of choosing how you want your information to be displayed. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are built-in too, but you can’t use either in portrait mode. There is an expanse of other features that the screen packs too. You can customise a slew of settings from the display, and it also has built-in navigation, as well as Spotify. The infotainment screen is paired with an 8-speaker audio system, and for a car that has an interior theme of ‘Gym and Music’, it sounds a tad underwhelming.
The display twins with a tiny five inch digital instrument cluster which has no analog dials to support it. The display looks like it has been lifted off of a motorcycle, and a larger screen here would have definitely furnished a better experience. Wireless phone charging, an NFC card key, 360 degree parking camera, electrically operated tailgate, panoramic sunroof, and a heap of other features are also packed into the Atto 3.
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Safety is one of the key areas where the Atto 3 excels. Apart from being equipped with what’s regarded as the safest battery pack in the world, the Atto 3 also packs a bunch of safety features. It gets a 5-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and level-2 ADAS suite which includes features such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, door open warning, lane departure warning and prevention, as well as adaptive headlights.
I did get to test out some of the ADAS features, and while it’s good to have them, I found them a bit intrusive for Indian road conditions. I came across a piece of tyre tube that was lying on the highway, and was a few metres away from the car. When the car’s ADAS detected it, it braked sharply and veered itself away in order to avoid it. While it was pretty clever of the car to do so, it wouldn’t have been the safest option if the traffic was heavier. I’d prefer to just turn the active collision avoidance systems off. Other safety features include seven airbags, 360-degree camera, ABS, ESC, traction control, hill descent control, and seat belt reminders for front as well as rear passengers.
BYD is the leader in Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery tech globally, and the Atto 3 gets BYD’s best LFP battery yet — the ‘Blade’. The battery gets its name from the design of its cells, which look like blades. While getting into its details will probably require an article of its own, the battery pack is tested to be the safest EV battery in the world, passing tough tests like nail penetration, induced short circuits, and many more. In fact, it also passed tests where the battery was put in a 300o Celsius furnace.
The battery pack in the Atto 3 has a capacity of 60.48 kWh, and it can be charged from 0% to 80% in 50 minutes on a 50 kW DC fast charger. Charging it to full at home on an AC charger would take about 10 hours, and a full charge returns an ARAI certified range of 521 km. I drove the car in a variety of driving styles and conditions, and the average consumption varied between 15 to 20 kWh per 100 km. So if driven mindfully, you can easily extract 400 kms on a single charge, which should be enough for most intercity drives. Plus, the evolving charging infrastructure and brisk charging speeds will help you extend the range even further.
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To be the primary car in a garage, an SUV has to tick many boxes, and checking those as an EV is no mean feat. Not only should it handle the urban conditions well, but it should also have great highway cruising abilities, luggage, and people carrying capacity, and a very strong range figure. It should also handle rough roads well, and be entertaining to drive in twisties. And the BYD Atto 3 ticks most of these boxes. It is comfortable for the most part, the suspension soaks up everything you throw at it, and it can handle a set of corners well too. Yes, a better set of tyres could have helped the Atto 3’s cause, but that is an upgrade you can do post purchase too. Mash the throttle in Sport mode and the acceleration is rapid enough to put a smile on your face. On top of that, the Atto 3 can be charged from flat to 80% in just 50 minutes. A real world range of over 400 kms should also allow it to do intercity trips with just a little planning. All of these factors add up to make the Atto 3 a very good deal, and it surely packs enough to be your primary car, despite being an EV.
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