BYD Atto 3, 2023 – Yet another new owner story

I have had a 2014 Nissan Leaf for 5 years, and it is possibly the most sensible car I’ve ever had. Quick, handles pretty well due to the low centre of gravity, big enough for the family and ‘stuff’, and it ‘just works’. A no brainer that has saved us heaps, and never had any serious issue. I’ve had plenty of V6 Commodores, and a couple of other classics which are great for their respective purposes, but never the best allrounder.

Demented frog is probably a bit harsh. Nissan should be commended for the work they started have done 10+ years ago to make the practical EV mainstream.

As a techo nerd and car guy, it was a great combination and of course the main reason… it paid for itself 100% in about 2 years. There is the ‘environmental thing’ too, and I highly believe in sustainability, but that is a bonus. The only real disadvantages were that it looks a bit like a demented frog, and the range is not great (although perfect for 90% of our local travel… and exceptional for every day to work and back).

Our 2006 people mover has also been great (Turbo Mazda MPV), but the clearcoat was starting to peel and we decided rather than trying to tidy it up it was time to upgrade. Our experiences with the current EV meant we really wanted an EV to replace this too.

Must… tow… caravan. Not too heavy really, but I don’t really want to exceed weight limits specified on a new vehicle.

Now one thing we did need was a tow vehicle for our caravan. The MPV was great for this… the torque was similar to a Commodore SV6 (which I previously had for a work car… when company cars were still a thing), it was solid (read: heavy) and size was like a van (for my regular home reno trips to Bunnings). It also seated 8 which was useful on holidays when we went with extended family, or school trips.

So what to buy? We probably took about 4-6 months to decide. We started looking at decent towing specs (A great reference is James’ evdb). We possibly could have gone with a Tesla model Y, or a Kia EV6. Neither of us are really a huge fan of the minimalistic nature (and commonality) of the Teslas, along with the ‘walled garden’ approach they seem to have with servicing etc.

We seriously looked at the EV6, and took one for a test drive. I’ve driven friends’ Teslas too. Other contenders we looked at were the SsangYong Korando e-Motion but specs didn’t really add up for us in a few places, the Polestar and LDV eT60 too but this would be my wife’s daily driver though, and she preferred the SUV styles.

Eventually we discounted overall towing performance and looked at lower cost options. We only tow the caravan a few times per year, so instead I bought something for this that I had wanted for a while… a ’90s American truck. We had 5 cars, so what’s one more right? (thanks to our neighbour who now has this in her driveway).

It was about that time the Atto 3 started to become popular and a small dealership opened at our local shopping centre.

I think this was a great idea, just a small showroom in our local mall for a couple of Attos, and some people who could explain it to you. There were one or two outside that you could take for a test drive. I think we went for 4 visits, and just one test drive.
Remember these English translations on a lot of 90s Japanese cars? I love this beautiful planet earth!

To be honest, we decided against it completely straight out of the gate after seeing the big “Build Your Dreams” badging on the back. It may have well said ‘Happy Fun Car” or something akin to those interesting Japanese to English “at one with nature” translated stickers on 90s SUVs. “Research” (ok, a facebook group) showed me that the badge is easy enough to remove so we added it back on the list.

We seriously considered (and got close to buying) a slightly used Hyundai Kona from a hamilton dealer. It was similar price, and my Wife had driven one many times as they were her company’s pool car. The extended range version seemed to have the best range of anything for that price, plenty of features and the look was pretty “non-controversial”. It was also in that mat grey we both liked.

More and more research (groups, youtube, articles, blogs) over a few months showed that the BYD stacked up exceptionally well for us, for the price. Technology, cost, range, even an acceptable towing capability (for our other ‘smaller’ caravan, and trips with a trailer). I had joined a bunch of EV facebook groups for various models and checked out the comments and any perceived issues. Also, the inevitable “Tesla vs everything else” wars, just to see if we really shouldn’t be discounting them. I think if the model Y was a little cheaper, that may have swung me (possibly not my wife though)

So, some first thoughts about the car and the handover we got. We picked the car up and got a decent handover from the dealer.

Colour Choice:

We ended up purchasing in March 2023, and put the deposit down a white… but a few days later changed to the Red. This helped with timing as they had red in stock (it is the least popular colour… or ‘rarest’ as I like to say) and we obtained it in less than 2 weeks. (Anything non-white was an added $1k cost). It was great driving in to the pickup location and seeing just how few red ones there were. Many many whites (I still quite like that offwhite pearl ‘Ski White’, but so many models are using it now). The grey is too dark, and blue is common for other brands too. If they had that ‘matt grey’ that is common (Audis, Kia Stinger etc we might have considered it). Colour is so personal though. Note that if Black had been available AND I had a say in the matter (I really didn’t), I’d have bought that.

Our red one at the BYD pickup location.

Handover

To be honest, the handover guy told me I probably knew more about it than he did. Actually, if I had had the Handover list from the NZ Facebook Atto users group that would have been more of a help – I didn’t know it existed (you can click here to get it, but you’ll need to join the group first). I did find one from the Australian group because of a YouTube video, and this did help. I had however read enough from the forums, groups and websites to know what sort of things to look for and had my own bullet points. The handover explanations were really more for my Wife, and I tried not to stick my nose in too much (adding small details or questions I had when needed). The handover guy did get a little defensive when I mentioned things like ‘sideloading apps’ (which is obviously to be expected) and didn’t really dwell on the BYD app at all which is disappointing, he just said there were problems logging in at the moment so I am left to set that up myself (which as of 2 days later isn’t resolved).

Issues with the car from collection
The only major thing we found was that the wireless charging doesn’t work. It didn’t work for my Wife’s phone and the handover guy tried his phone too (no go). He said everything was tested, but this is definitely a fault. A couple of days on and I’ll be messaging them (he said ‘they will send a technician’, but I’ll see if that really means ‘bring your car in and lose it for 2 days’). I didn’t climb underneath (well we did look at the jacking points) but apart from a slight greasy print on the cream passenger faux leather trim, and a spot or two of pollen on the paint, everything was nice and shiny and working that we could see. Probably a few more things to check over time.

Also, on the way home I was fiddling with the meus and managed to put the car in to ‘transport mode’ which was when driving on the highway at rush-hour, so not a good look and a pretty scary experience at the time (it drops you down to about 10km/hr max!). BYD dealers are supposed to deactivate this option once delivered, but they forgot. You need a PIN to deactivate it, and a phone call and some online research fixed it.

When we got home we noticed a small chip out of the boot lid. This could have been touched up, but the dealer said they would have the boot lid fully painted. It ended up twice in the body shop for this, as the first paint job was slightly too dark. They told me the colour code they obtained was wrong. We still don’t think it is perfect, but most people tell us it looks the same so that’s what counts! Some touchup pait would probably have been fine.

Family fun on Pickup
I appreciate that they went to a bit of effort to do the ‘handover thing’ (car covered in a big sheet which they pulled back). We have a 12 year old daughter and she definitely appreciated it (for the tiktok). I’ve had new cars before, but only for company cars and really the handover has been a bit meh… grab the keys and learn as you go. There was even a little box of ‘BYD merch’ in the boot which we weren’t expecting.

Extras, and things I wish we’d known

Red, with black top, pillars and ‘blackout’ options, with aftermarket paint.

When we got to the pickup, I saw a few of the ‘blacked out’ versions. I had seen (in photos) a white with black top and pillars, and really liked it, but didn’t consider it for the Red. I also didn’t realise it was a thing that you could order (apparently it is done locally by the dealers). We quite liked it and would have possibly added it in to the purchase. We ordered floor mats (the most expensive set of mats I’ve ever purchased) which are nice, but nothing else.

I’ve already bought a few bits and pieces from China, and we are arranging a removeable towbar with a local installer. The price for a dealer installed bar is close to double, and our laws in NZ mean that they can’t discriminate if we choose a properly engineered and installed aftermarket model. We like the idea of having frunk space (not really an option yet, but there will likely be aftermarket options in the near future), and didn’t bother with mudguards at this stage (not much mud in suburbia, and my 4WD truck will suffice for anything more testing).

Future Addendums

I put in a dashcam, front and rear

I updated our driveway charging setup

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