Electric dreams | 

China’s all-electric BYD crossover arrives in Ireland with prices starting at €37,128

It may be new to the Irish market but ambitious Chinese car company BYD has been around for decades and is now even bigger than Tesla

The new BYD (Build Your Dreams) electric vehicle has arrived in Ireland

The Atto 3 will be the first of many BYD cars to be sold here

The interior of the new BYD electric vehicle

Daragh Keany

​As soon as I posted some pics of these cars from the European launch this week I was instantly inundated with queries.

Predominantly it was from car fans wanting to know what the hell they were.

Launching a car brand in a struggling market is a brave move but the thing about BYD is that they already have 20 years of legacy behind them. They are only new to us.

They have over 600,000 employees (69,000 of whom work solely in R&D) and sell in 40 different markets across six continents.

Last year they overtook Tesla as the largest selling EV manufacturer on the planet. Yep – they have two decades of trial and error meaning when they gather the European motor press in Barcelona and tell you their plans for the coming years you listen.

In fact, we were hanging on their every word because, unlike a lot of car companies, they didn’t bore us with too much mundane and obvious detail.

They just gave us the headline making sound bites and then let us drive three of their upcoming models to figure out the hype ourselves. So…what were those sound bites?

The Atto 3 will be the first of many BYD cars to be sold here

Let’s get the elephants out of the room straight away. First of all, yes it is a Chinese company. It is time to get over that and move on. We have Ora already with their Funky Cat and the likes of MG and Maxus are both owned by Chinese motor conglomerate SAIC.

China has been making our TVs and phones and hospital equipment for decades so now we need to accept they are making our cars too.

Secondly what is with that name? It is not a word (as in ‘bid’ or ‘bide’), but rather it is an acronym and stands for Build Your Dreams. I’m not even lying. Okay, so it sounds childish and gimmicky, but it is the foundation of what this multi-billion euro company stands for.

There are hugely ambitious plans for nine different models to land in Europe over the next couple of years and at least five or six of them will be in Ireland. Each and every one of them will be fully electric and each of them will have premium levels of finishes.

The model names will fall under the company’s two umbrella mantras – sea life and dynasty. So, expect Han and Tang in the ‘dynasty’ section while the likes of Dolphin, Seagull and Seal spring up in the ‘sealife’ naming convention.

Ironically – later this summer we will hopefully be getting a huge delivery of BYD Seal’s which will disrupt the C-Segment, or should that be sea-segment?

Long before that though we will have the Atto 3 which will be launched next week here in Ireland and will offer car buyers yet another option if they are looking at a full-electric mid-sized crossover.

The interior of the new BYD electric vehicle

One of the biggest USPs here is their unique battery technology called Blade Batteries which comes with enhanced safety, optimised strength, longer range and a longer life cycle. They are not relying on third-party suppliers jostling for market share. If they want more they just make them. Simple.

The Atto 3 has a proposed range of up to 420km and the impressive car will be available from three dealers (two in Dublin and one in Cork initially) that are linked to the MSL group which also means that they will be imported by Mercedes’ current importer MDL.

I fully acknowledge that this doesn’t matter to most of you. But I am telling you because it offers further context to the fact that BYD is not a flash-in-the-pan car company looking to just come in and disrupt as much as possible. They are very serious. And having now driven three different models (Atto 3, Seal and Dolphin) I can confirm they are very good also.

They will also be available in only two trim lines and approximately five colour options meaning the limited choice and abundance in supply you can expect that initial reluctance to jump into a new brand will be nullified by the fact that they are here right now and available to drive off the forecourts right away.

The levels of tech in these cars is incredible. The infotainment system is easy to navigate and there are a few gimmicks that will blow your mind. The rotating touchscreen is my favourite and the fin-shaped interior door handles on the Dophin is a clever nod to its namesake.

The Seal can travel from 0-100km/hr in 3.8seconds

The finish on all the materials is gorgeous to with some of the comfiest seats we have sat in in a long time.

While some of our testing was in a controlled environment, we got a really good feel for how the Dolphin and Seal can brake and corner. There was also an exhilarating speed test too that proved how the Seal can go from 0-100km/hr in 3.8seconds.

The company is so proud of it they badged it 3.8. Again, I’m not even lying.

There is a sense of fun here that you would normally associate with the likes of a Tesla, which has worked on every market it has entered so far. Random sound bite…they are the leading selling car for the first three months of 2023 in Israel. Not just the leading EV; the leading car.

And while I fully acknowledge that I only had these cars for a few hours in the mountains of Barcelona, the overall context and initial impressions lead me to believe that the EV revolution is only just beginning.

Traditional car companies who offer EV powertrain options will have a few sleepless nights in the coming years as BYD continues to introduce more models. As long as they get their pricing right they will be around for a long time to come.

Model Variants

The ATTO 3 range consists of three model variants: Models with ‘Comfort’ and ‘Design’ trim levels followed by an ‘Active’ model variant – all part of the Phase One scheduling of BYD’s launch into the Irish market.

ATTO 3 Pricing

Taking account of its high level of standard specification, its many innovative features, and its extensive range of high-tech elements, the ATTO 3 is introduced at what its distributor says is ‘an appealingly-competitive price level’ beginning from €37,128 rising to €38,964 for the range-topping ‘Design’ model

Expect full week-long test reviews in the coming months.

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