ENTER THE DRAGON!
FIRsT it was Japan in the 1960s and 70s. Then came Korea in the 1990s and 2000s. Now China is shaking up the UK and european car market with new, affordable and fully stocked family cars, particularly electric. Newest kid on the block is now China’s BYD — arguably the biggest global car company you’ve never heard of. But trust me, you will. And it’ll cause sleepless nights for established rivals such as volkswagen.
I’ve just been driving BYD’s smart and perky new Atto 3 electric family SUV, launched in the UK this week with first deliveries from Wednesday.
And it really is a case of ‘enter the dragon’. For the ‘face’ of the new car — and others in the range set to follow — is deliberately modelled on that of a Chinese dragon.
The initials BYD stand, rather selfconsciously, for ‘Build Your Dreams’, which is emblazoned across the rear hatchback. But it’s not just a car company. It’s a huge industrial conglomerate, set up in 1995, which now builds everything from buses to trains, has a turnover of more than £51 billion and employs more than 600,000.
Originally a rechargeable battery company, it produces its own microchips, so it’s largely unaffected by parts supply issues affecting rivals.
Built around a new, third-generation powertrain, and pitched as a premium model, the stylish new five-seater zero-emission Atto 3 crossover’s front-wheel drive electric motor is powered by a 60.48kWh ‘blade’ battery offering more power in a smaller package. It claims a 260-mile range and 20 per cent greater thermal efficiency in winter.
It accelerates nippily from rest to 62mph in a spirited 7.2 seconds. It’s most fun and engaging in ‘ sport’ mode, but there’s also ‘normal’ for cruising, ‘economy’ to save power and ‘snow’ for weather like this week’s. Top speed is 99 mph.
It has a sporty and roomy interior with ‘vegan leather’ trim and heated electrically adjustable front seats.
There are three trim levels: priced from £36,490 to the toprange model, from £38,990.