The BYD Atto 3 was launched in Australia last quarter of last year. At that time, I spoke with Caleb Gittins, who told me that ordering his car was like placing a takeaway order online — it was that easy. He recently informed me that the car is due for its complimentary 5000 km service, and so I asked him what it has been like driving the Atto 3 in Australia.
The Atto 3 is a significant addition to the electric vehicle offerings in Australia and is currently the highest selling non-Tesla in this country.
Caleb tells me the service went well. I am looking forward to understanding what needs to be done for an Atto 3 at a 5000 km service visit. Just checking everything over, I guess? The car was serviced by Eagers at Albion in Brisbane. Eagers also attended to the BYD safety recall. Somehow, the factory carpeted over the anchor point for the child seats. Although the Atto 3 has over-the-air update capability, Eagers needed to install updated software.
Caleb is loving the car. He charges at home. He sometimes has to commute over 300 km to work in the rural city of Toowoomba — about a 300 km round trip — but that’s not a problem in the Atto 3 with its stated range of 480 km. (Though, Caleb tells me it is closer to 420 km in real life.) Toowoomba is up on the top of the Great Dividing Range, but despite the hill climb, he still arrives home with 25% charge left in his battery. The drive is made easier with adaptive cruise control and lane keeping enabled.
He is looking forward to Android Auto coming out soon to integrate his car and phone more closely. BYD is in the process of adapting its software to suit Android Auto.
I asked about reactions to the car from co-workers and friends. He said he gets a lot of comments about the interior — it’s quite unique, especially the door handles and the banjo strings. He has given a lot of test drives. Whenever he parks, strangers come up to him and ask him what it is. He is thinking of taking off the “Build Your Dreams” that labels the car across the back. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he says. After leading the way, Caleb is now seeing a few BYDs in his home suburb in the north of Brisbane.
One interested commentator has been Caleb’s postie. “You’ve got two Teslas now?” he asks. (Caleb’s housemate drives a Model 3.) “No. It’s a BYD.” Of course, an explanation had to follow. They also had installed an extra wall charger. They now have one in the garage and one outside. “I save hundreds of dollars on petrol, so I don’t mind spending extra for the charger. It’s more convenient,” he tells me.
Caleb says he has been educating people and the overall reaction is positive. Many people don’t realise that it’s electric.
Since Caleb’s housemate owns a Model 3 and I know that they discuss their cars, I couldn’t resist asking for a comparison. The two cars live side by side. What is better about each? The Tesla Model 3 does not have a 360-degree camera, vehicle to load, a retractable sunroof, or Android Auto. However, the Tesla has automatic wipers, the car can be controlled with an app, and it has driver profiles. Apparently, BYD has a car app in other countries, it just hasn’t gotten to Australia yet.
I asked about the BYD support groups on Facebook — pages that I use for research frequently. He says he checks in occasionally and can answer the simple questions for newbies. Caleb recently brought his car to an Association of Independent Retirees gathering to discuss EVs and show the participants some samples. I observed that he is more than capable of demonstrating his car.
Thank you for sharing, Caleb. We’ll catch up at 10,000 km perhaps.
My enquiries on Facebook, on the BYD discussion page, encouraged Xingyu Qiu to share his story.
“I have been an owner since November 2022 and have driven over 7000 km in my BYD Atto 3.
The top 5 pluses I have found are:
- Relatively quiet for the price class. Much better than a Tesla Model 3/Y.
- Very compliant ride on well sealed/paved/maintained roads.
- Very bright LED headlights with good reach.
- Availability of low auto regenerative braking on accelerator lift off means it feels like a normal car. It’s also far smoother to operate and also more efficient than a high auto regenerative braking.
- Very efficient drive. Yes it is only a front mounted 150 kW motor, and despite weighing nearly 2 tons, I am managing 12.8-14 kWh/100 km and I’m a fairly engaged driver.
Top 5 minuses:
- Handling. The tyres are objectively bad. Its braking performance is likely one of if not the worst in its price/size segment. I swapped out the Batman tyres ASAP, to Bridgestone Turanzas and every metric (including quietness) has improved.
- Suspension. On sealed/flat roads it cannot get any better for this segment of vehicle. As soon as you hit repeated undulations (say, on a highway), the lack of control in the suspension is extremely obvious. The car bounces up and down way more than any other compact SUV would. This is clearly tuned for low/medium speed urban environments with well maintained roads.
- Headlights do not project wide enough. They could have added a fixed cornering light, but it is about 20° narrower than a CX-30 Astina/CX-5 Akera matrix LED headlights.
- The beeps and bongs are overly sensitive, especially the lane centering assist system. Resting your hand on the wheel is not enough, you need to give it active input every 5–10 seconds or the car will think you’re not holding the wheel. This becomes a big issue on very straight roads where input is literally not required.
- Front parking sensors are very poorly designed. There is only one sensor for each of the front corners, and none directly forward facing. This means only when you get super close to something in front of you, does the corner sensors start going off.”
BYD is introducing two new models this year and I expect that they will climb the sales charts just as quickly as the Atto 3 has. Just like in China, BYD will be Tesla’s main competition in Australia.
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