BYD Atto 3 makes debut in Malaysia sparkling with quirky appeal. What’s inside? Lisa Kuok found it’s full of surprises
The BYD Atto 3 is the latest China-made electric car to arrive in Malaysia. The current influx and sale of electric vehicles is due to the tax exempt status of EVs. It’s until December 31, 2023 for fully-imported (CBU) EVs, and December 31, 2025 for locally-assembled (CKD) EVs. The tax benefit reduces the price of EVs to make them considerably more affordable and closer in price to petrol and diesel vehicles of similar size and capacity.
The BYD car brand may be new to Malaysia but BYD isn’t a new arrival in the auto-sphere. In 2021, BYD was the fourth largest plug-in electric vehicle (both Battery EV and Plug-in Hybrid EV) company and fourth largest Battery EV company in the world, with 9.1% and 7% global market share respectively in 2021. There is also an electric battery division, FinDreams Battery which is the world’s third largest producer of electric vehicle batteries. FinDreams’s global market share in the first half of 2022 was 12%. These are credentials to give confidence in the BYD marque and the Atto 3.
At RM149,800 for the 410km Standard Range and RM167,800 for the 480km Extended Range, the Atto 3 is the most affordable EV currently available in Malaysia. The range for the Standard and the Extended are 410km and 480km respectively which is the going range for EVs in Malaysia. With a household AC charger, it takes 10 hours.
The exterior is sleek and stylish with in-vogue design cues such as slit-like LED headlights with detailed light pattern design and a horizontal light-bar connecting the rear lamps. There is BYD on a metal plate on the bonnet and “Build Your Dreams” across the tailgate. There is also a textured metal plate at the C-pillar which makes the Atto 3 more visually interesting. The Atto 3 doesn’t try to look like a copy of a more established brand. The SUV that would turn heads for good looks first before the onlooker wondered about marque.
The Atto 3’s safety features include seven air bags, 360º view monitor, ABS brakes, electronic stability, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, hill descend control, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop and g0, autonomous emergency braking, front collision warning, rear collision warning, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring and door opening warning. This may not be the final list of autonomous safety features because there was speculation that there is also Lane Keep Assist and Lane Follow Assist.
The interior is quirky, at odds with the exterior that is almost plain in comparison – and not necessarily in a bad way. The guitar, acoustic and electric, was the inspiration for the cabin. After all, designers need to pluck their ideas from somewhere and music instruments are as good for inspiration. The door handles are curved around the rear speakers like a decoration around the sound hole for an acoustic guitar. Metal strip, like frets, edge the air vent. There are also taut, tuned strings, only three though, strung horizontally across the door pockets complete with whammy bar. The strings in front have a different tone from the ones on the rear doors. Bored, sitting in traffic? You can strum on your own or collaborate with your passengers, form a string quartet and give a new meaning to traffic jam.
The cabin is rich with colour, texture, and varied materials. Despite four-colour upholstery – dark blue, black, grey and red piping, ribbed covering on the centre console storage compartment cover and perforations on the smooth synthetic leather seats, it’s not chaotic or ugly. Rather, it feels well put-together and looks harmonious. Most of the buttons to control features are grouped together, either at the gear console or on the steering wheel. The infotainment system and instrument cluster have separate monitors, set apart, adding to the uncluttered feel. The infotainment monitor, located in the middle of the dashboard, is a generous 12.9-inches. It rotates so the display can horizontal or vertical. Meanwhile, the instrument cluster is considerably smaller at just five inches but it’s colour and the information is easy to read.
A very useful features in the Atto 3 is its Vehicle to Load (VTOL) mobile power station function which makes the car a super powerbank. The Atto 3 is able to support up to 3.3 kWh of gadgets and appliances. Other features in the Atto 3 are voice assistant, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, panoramic sunroof, follow me home headlights, adaptive front lights, ambient lit door handles, satellite navigation, and a flat card-style key. In addition, the Standard has six speakers and PM 2.5. air filter. Meanwhile, the Extended has wireless phone charging, Dirac HD Sound with eight speakers, electric tailgate and two air filters, CN95 and PM 2.5.
The last thing I expected during our test drive was the sound. Since EVs are silent, manufacturers now give them a sound so pedestrians can hear them coming. The Atto 3 sound was faint and sounded like the tinkling call of an ice cream truck. It started soon after I took my foot off the brake and stopped when I stopped. I couldn’t shake off the phantom ice cream van. Not at 100km/h in the rain during the braking test nor while swerving around cones at 70km/h for the handling test. The tinkling was coming from within the cabin, not outside, the sound track changing in volume and pitch in response to pedal input. With no time to explore the car’s settings, I hope there’s a library of alternatives or an option to mute.
The Atto 3 is around the size of the Honda HR-V and is quick and powerful. The stability and traction controls are very effective, from experience. The Atto 3 handled well in the rain with stability and reassuring control, despite not having all-wheel drive. It is also well-equipped with safety features. The left-hand drive version has Euro NCAP Five-Star rating. However, the guitar-themed door pockets may be polarising. If it irks you, gaze upon the beauty of the 12.9-inch infotainment screen instead.
|BYD Atto 3 Standard Range||BYD Atto 3 Extended Range|
|Engine||Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor||Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor|