Cars > Driven

BYD Atto 3 Premium: The beginning of the electric crossover era

Will this build your electric car dreams?

This is the kind of EV that the masses will be eyeing. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The BYD Atto 3 exemplifies how good Chinese cars can get when style, build quality, and performance are combined into one surprisingly affordable package.

But for most people to even experience this, they should rid themselves of their Sinophobia and give this car a chance. Electric vehicles are considered the “great reset” in automotive history, basically leveling the playing field.

Hence, one can begin to see how this P1,798,000 electric compact crossover is a tantalizing option for people looking to upgrade from their ICE-powered vehicles to their very first EV.

It may look tame, but it doesn't resemble anything on the market today. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Chinese vehicles tend to get a lot of flak for how they usually are “inspired” by other vehicles in terms of aesthetics, but the same can’t be said for this vehicle inside and out.

It doesn’t resemble anything on the market currently, and it has a rather understated look that doesn’t scream “I’m an electric car!” at first glance.

It has large, fake grilles, a patterned C-pillar garnish, roof rails, and two stylish LED lightbars front and back. The front lights also have interesting blue accents in them.

The 18-inch, two-tone aero wheels are shod by Atlas Batman A51 tires (215/55). These are relatively chunky and provide a decent 150mm of ground clearance.

The cabin can give a bit of a visual overload when you’re looking at it for the first time. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Step inside and one of the most eccentric cabins on the market today will greet you.

Admittedly, I didn’t know what to look at when I first saw the interior in person. Was it the four-hue color scheme with ambient lighting? The wavy dashboard? The interesting door pulls or the cylindrical climate vents? The confusing shifter that resembles an aircraft throttle quadrant?

As sci-fi as this cabin looks, you will need to spend time getting used to it. I found that the layout made sense after 15 minutes of monkeying around, going “Ooh, what does this button do?”

Fun fact: The door pockets have these three strings to hold things in. They work fine in that aspect, but their main gimmick is that they each play a note when you pluck or strum them, like a bass guitar.

Because it's an EV, it benefits from a generous amount of space for the passenger cell. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The front seats are both power-operated and lack any form of heating/cooling, but only have four ways of adjustment.

Visibility is good with a high seating position, but the seats aren’t comfortable for long drives as they lack lumbar and thigh supports, and the fixed headrest pushes your head forward. The plastic of the center front vents protrudes to where I would normally rest my knee, and can get slightly irritating.

But if you’re a rear passenger, the seats are plush and wide. They don’t have additional adjustments, but amenities are taken care of. Rear climate vents, USB-A and Type C charging ports, and a large panoramic sunroof make the cabin feel airier at the expense of headroom.

There's a lot of storage spaces, too. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Cargo space is excellent in general. There’s a cavernous storage space underneath the center armrest and more under the center console where you’ll find the front USB ports (A and C) and a 12V socket.

With the 60/40-split seat backs in place, up to 555L of cargo space is available (1,338L with the seats down). The tailgate is manually operated.

You can configure the rear cargo bay in multiple ways. With the false floor in its uppermost position, you can get a flat load floor for when you have to load long items, or hide the included charging cable bag and load cover underneath with room to spare. You can also load taller items (assuming you ditch the load cover) at the back. Underneath it all, there’s a fix-a-flat kit.

Moving the fix-a-flat kit to the front or having a small storage bin would have been nice. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

But a real waste of space is what’s underneath the hood. Pop it open, and you have access to the front electric motor, the fuse box, and various fluid reservoirs.

This makes it easier to access maintenance-wise, but the unoccupied area above is deep enough to fit a backpack or the included bag for the charging cable snugly. A shame they didn’t put a storage compartment in here.

We have some concerns about how long this moving screen would last in the long run, but it is cool. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

There’s a large 12.8-inch center touchscreen that dwarfs the absolutely tiny five-inch driver’s display.

Press a curiously labeled button on the steering wheel (or the bottom of the screen), and the entire thing physically rotates. Even with the presence of some physical controls in the center console, most of the essential controls are buried within the infotainment.

Other things to note: It has eight good-sounding speakers from Dirac, a wireless charger, a built-in drive recorder camera, a very responsive implementation of an Android user interface (with some translation oddities here and there), and built-in navigation.

It has features that some other cars don't even have as standard. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Or you can use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latter is wireless (sorry, iPhone users) and is a rarity. It’s buggy though, so be sure to just use it wired up via the USB-A port.

It also has a decent amount of advanced driver-assistance systems. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and warning, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and a fancy 360° camera with various modes. They all work well, but I find the lane-keeping system a little too intrusive at times.

It's a capable city vehicle that can go a little further on a single charge. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Propelling the Atto 3 is a single front electric motor rated at 150kW (201hp) and 310Nm. The proprietary Blade battery (LFP) in this long-range variant is rated at 60.48kWh, and has a maximum range of up to 480km.

My average consumption figure is 7.35km/kWh (13.6kWh/100km), and after a grueling day of crawling in weekend SLEX traffic, running errands around Alabang, and shooting the car, I arrived back home in Makati with 72% (from 93%) and an estimated 352km of range left.

Charging is handled by the CCS2 port on the right side. It supports rapid charging (30-60 minutes), but usual charging times from an AC charger will take around seven to eight hours from 10% to 80%. It also supports Vehicle-to-Load functionality to be able to power appliances and anything else that you can plug into the car.

Better tires would do wonders to the NVH and the handling. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Typical of an EV, there’s the thrill of flooring it from a dead stop thanks to the instant torque. You will get the front tires to chirp, so have a light foot when moving forward.

The steering feel is on the lighter side even in Sport mode, but the car can confidently handle itself despite the comfort-tuned suspension that does a great job of ironing out bumps and potholes.

The brakes are grabby regardless of drive mode, and the tire noise is bad at highway speeds, but that’s amplified by how quiet the ride is.

Only time will tell just how much BYD will develop under its new distributor. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

As we mentioned before, this car comes with a free 7kW home charger alongside the included 220V wall charger. Consider the six-year vehicle warranty; the eight-year warranty for the battery, the control unit, and the motor; and the backing of one of the largest conglomerates in the country (AC Motors under Ayala), and things are starting to look in favor of the car.

But also, it’s still too early to see how well the new distributor will handle the automaker. But the BYD Atto 3 makes for a very compelling first EV with a practical form factor. For its asking price, can you really complain about what this entire package offers?


EngineSingle permanent magnet electric motor
TransmissionSingle-speed reduction gear
Dimensions4,455mm x 1,875mm x 1,615mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideAll-around solid package. Excellent range for the price.
DownsideEccentric interior and uncomfortable seats. Loud budget tires.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.