BYD Dolphin

byd dolphin review 2023 001 cornering front
Chinese giant’s latest EV brings decent tech and practicality but will need value on its side to make a big impression in the UK

They were thinking of calling it Atto 2. That would have made sense, right? After all, this small(ish), 4.29m-long pure-electric hatchback sits beneath the BYD Atto 3 family crossover that arrived a mere few weeks ago in the UK as the Chinese brand’s first official UK model. But no. At some point, some people sat around a table and decided that the brand adamantly wants to be “fun and interesting”, according to one senior executive. So Dolphin it is. D’you know what? I get that. There may even be a generational aspect here, where younger drivers who aren’t rooted in traditional car culture and established brand loyalty could well look at BYD’s apparently random naming policy and think that it has an appealing, fresh eclectic-ness.  Consider all those other weird car names that now seem utterly normal. Ford Puma, anyone? Are mountain lions less odd than marine mammals? Probably not. Even the Volkswagen Golf is actually a really odd car name, if you think about it. So perhaps the Dolphin – and the BYD Seal saloon that will follow it later in 2023 – will become so popular that the weirdness of the name will just rub off over years of use. Atto 2 is just boring, anyway. I’d rather take the Dolphin to work.    Either way, this little electric car has a lot going for it by any objective measure. Size-wise, it splits the difference between traditional B- and C-segment hatches, being a touch longer than the Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208 but not quite as big as the Volkswagen ID 3. Beneath the body – which is also styled quite differently from other BYD products and has a hint of Hyundai i20 meets Proton Savvy, but not in an unpleasant way – sits the e-Platform 3.0 with a 60kWh lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) ‘Blade’ battery nestled within it. This is a cobalt-free battery that has its cells arranged in strips along the length of the car, rather than in the more traditional cylindrical or cuboid cells. It’s good for an official WLTP range of up to 265 miles. A smaller battery will be added to the range after the initial launch this summer to create a more affordable model with a likely 190-ish miles of official range. A 201bhp electric motor sends power to the front wheels and delivers more than sprightly enough acceleration right up to motorway speeds. Our brief test drive of a European-spec, pre-production car took place on track, where it’s evident that body roll is heavy, but it’s also progressive enough not to be alarming. Ride comfort is much harder to comment on, given the limited test conditions, but certainly on the 17in tyres it felt soft enough that we’d be more worried about potentially floppy body control than bump absorption. We’ll report back to you on that when we’ve driven the Dolphin more extensively in the UK. We’re hoping that the Ling Long Comfort Master tyres (no, really) on our test car are perhaps going to be supplanted by the Bridgestone tyres that BYD also uses, but that detail isn’t confirmed yet for the UK.  Handling is fit for purpose but nothing special. You can choose from Sport, Normal and Eco drive modes, which alter the steering weight and throttle response. Normal is very light and feels rather vague, while Sport gives a better sense of confidence in what the front end is doing – artificial as that impression is. Even so, the Dolphin does feel confident and predictable through sweeping bends and low-speed direction changes, albeit with nowhere near the more incisive and enjoyable responses of the MG 4 and Peugeot e-208. We’d like to see a tighter turning circle on the Dolphin, mind, and faster steering response to make it a touch wieldier in urban situations. Again, the Peugeot e-208 (never mind shorter-range urban specialists like the Honda E and Mini Electric) will get you out of a tight spot more easily. Similarly, better brake feel would help to make the Dolphin a smoother drive. Inside, the Dolphin is rather more conventional than the Atto 3’s whacky cabin design and is much more on a par with what you get in rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa-e and MG 4. The e-208 has a classier finish, but the Dolphin still looks smart and generally feels well finished, other than some rather scratchy, shiny plastics that are particularly noticeable around the window switches. The driving position is fine and has a good range movement on the electrically adjusted seats that, we’re told, will be standard on every Dolphin.There’s no doubting the Dolphin’s tech chops, either. A 12.6in touchscreen is the focal point and can be swivelled to portrait or landscape modes to better suit your nav, media or whatever else you’re prodding at in the screen’s various functions. Below it sits a protruding tray that’s begging for you to slide your phone in there, although the wireless charging cubby in the centre armrest – which sits above an exposed lower storage area – is likely to be more useful.The Dolphin is impressive when it comes to passenger space. A six-footer can sit behind a similarly tall driver in relative comfort, which is impressive for a modestly sized hatchback and is testament to the benefits of being able to put the wheels at the far extremities of a car’s platform. A 345-litre boot is also decent size and has a variable-height floor that can also section off some useful cable storage. It is a lot smaller than the boot in the MG 4 – predictably, since the MG is bigger yet similarly priced to the Dolphin.So should you take the plunge (sorry, couldn’t resist) and order a Dolphin? Well, it does have much going for it in that it promises to be better equipped as standard than most rivals, the touchscreen is easier to use than plenty of alternative systems, and the passenger space is very impressive. On the basis of this early drive, the Dolphin is absolutely whelming to drive – nothing special, nothing terrible – but we will have to revisit to spend more time in the car. Other ownership aspects, including the fact that BYD can typically deliver a car within a matter of weeks of ordering, will sway plenty of buyers. For now, this latest BYD offering seems like a very capable small EV, but still one that will need to rely on some keen financial deals if it’s to gain real momentum in the UK. 
Source: Autocar

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