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Enter the Dragon! China’s BYD shaking up the UK and European car market with new and affordable family cars like the Atto 3, says RAY MASSEY

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 self-consciously, 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.

Smart and affordable: The Atto 3 family SUV from Chinese car giant BYD Smart and affordable: The Atto 3 family SUV from Chinese car giant BYD

Smart and affordable: The Atto 3 family SUV from Chinese car giant BYD

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, with some EV rivals said to lose around a third of their official range when British temperatures drop.

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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.

There are three trim levels: priced from £36,490 to the top-range model, from £38,990.

Riding on 18 inch alloy wheels, the Atto 3 is so smooth and easy to drive that hitting the posted speed limit can come at you faster than you think, but a voice-control in-car nanny warns you if that happens, and the speed limit symbol on the screen flashes a visual alert.

There are also two regenerative braking settings, the stronger being my preference as it means less work on the actual brakes.

It has a sporty and roomy interior with ‘vegan leather’ trim and heated electrically adjustable front seats, a practical 440 litre boot expanding to 1,338 litres with the rear seats down, and a large panoramic glass roof.

Ray was driving BYD's smart and perky new Atto 3 electric family SUV, launched in the UK this week with first deliveries from Wednesday Ray was driving BYD's smart and perky new Atto 3 electric family SUV, launched in the UK this week with first deliveries from Wednesday

Ray was driving BYD’s smart and perky new Atto 3 electric family SUV, launched in the UK this week with first deliveries from Wednesday

The new five-seater zero-emission Atto 3 crossover's front-wheel drive electric motor is powered by a 60.48kWh 'blade' battery The new five-seater zero-emission Atto 3 crossover's front-wheel drive electric motor is powered by a 60.48kWh 'blade' battery

The new five-seater zero-emission Atto 3 crossover’s front-wheel drive electric motor is powered by a 60.48kWh ‘blade’ battery

It claims a 260-mile range and 20 per cent greater thermal efficiency in winter It claims a 260-mile range and 20 per cent greater thermal efficiency in winter

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 accelerates nippily from rest to 62mph in a spirited 7.2 seconds

It accelerates nippily from rest to 62mph in a spirited 7.2 seconds

It has a sporty and roomy interior with 'vegan leather' trim and heated electrically adjustable front seats It has a sporty and roomy interior with 'vegan leather' trim and heated electrically adjustable front seats

It has a sporty and roomy interior with ‘vegan leather’ trim and heated electrically adjustable front seats

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 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

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

The initials BYD stand, rather self-consciously, for 'Build Your Dreams', which is emblazoned across the rear hatchback The initials BYD stand, rather self-consciously, for 'Build Your Dreams', which is emblazoned across the rear hatchback

The initials BYD stand, rather self-consciously, for ‘Build Your Dreams’, which is emblazoned across the rear hatchback

‹ Slide me ›

There are three trim levels: priced from £36,490 to the top-range model, from £38,990

There are three trim levels: Active from £36,490, Comfort from £36,990 and top of the range Design – which I was driving and which arrives later in Spring, from £38,990.

Packed with safety technology, it scored a maximum 5-stars in the EuroNCAP crash tests.

Safety and driver assistance features include: forward and rear collision warning; cross traffic alert; automatic emergency braking; emergency lane keeping and lane change assist; hill descent control; blind spot detection; electronic stability programme (ESP) and traffic sign recognition.

Other features include a rotating electric touchscreen (15.6 inches on Design trim, 12.9 inch on other models); panoramic sunroof; ‘vegan leather’ trim; heated front seats; and an electric tailgate.

There are a few gimmicks: the Tesla-style dashboard touch-screen can rotate from horizontal to vertical; the dashboard and centre console controls take their design inspiration from a hi-tech gym with bar-bell style door handles, a kettle-bell style gear selector and air vents designed to look like free weights; and the door cubbyholes include strings designed to remind you of a guitar. But frankly it’s good enough without the gimmicks.

There are five exterior colours: surfing blue, skiing white, climbing grey, parkour red, and exploring green.

Starting in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Milton Keynes, BYD’s UK dealership network already includes Pendragon, Lookers, Arnold Clarke and LSH Auto Holdings and is set to increase from up to 30 showrooms by the end of the year to up to 100 by the end of 2025.

More details at: bydeurope.com/

Will it fit in my garage? BYD Atto 3 

Built: Shenzhen, China

On sale: now

First deliveries: from Wednesday March 15

Model variants and prices

Active: £36,490

Comfort: £36,990

Design: £38,990

Length: 4455mm

Width: 1875mm

Width (with mirrors): 2050mm

Height: 1615mm

Wheelbase: 2720mm

Kerb weight: 1750kg

Gross vehicle weight: 2160kg

Drive: Front wheel drive

Battery: 60.48kWh BYD Blade

Power: 150kW / 204 horse power

Battery weight: 420kg

0 to 62mph: 7.2 seconds

Top speed: 99mph

Electric range: 260 miles

Consumption: 3.98 miles per kWh

CO2 emissions: Zero

Four drive modes: Sport, Normal, Economy and Snow

Wheels: 18 inch alloy

Boot space: Rear seats in place: 440 litres; Rear seats folded: 1,338 litres

Charging times

7kW domestic AC wall charger: 9 hours 42 minutes; 11 kW AC 3-phase charger: 6 hours 30 minutes

DC 150kW charger: 10% to 80%: 44 minutes; 30% to 80%: 29 minutes; 0 to 100%: 80 minutes

EuroNCAP crash test: Top 5-star rating

Five-star crash test rating for Mazda’s new MX-30

Mazda’s new MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV plug-in hybrid SUV has earned a maximum five-star rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests (euroncap.com/en ).

It scored 91 per cent for protecting adults, 87 per cent for protecting child occupants and 68 per cent for protecting vulnerable road users such as pedestrians. 

It also achieved maximum points in lateral impact tests, as well as full marks for crash test based on six and ten-year-olds, for both frontal and side impact.

Safety first: Mazda's new MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV plug-in hybrid SUV has earned a maximum five-star rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests Safety first: Mazda's new MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV plug-in hybrid SUV has earned a maximum five-star rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests

Safety first: Mazda’s new MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV plug-in hybrid SUV has earned a maximum five-star rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests

It now matches the top score achieved by its fully-electric MX-30 e-Skyactiv EV variant, tested in 2020.

Mazda said: ‘Both MX-30 derivatives score impressively in all four Euro NCAP test categories.’

Revealed at the Brussels Motor Show in January, order books for R-EV plug-in hybrid are open now for first deliveries summer. Prices from £31,250.

Motorists unsure of appropriate action if car slides 

With millions of motorists facing icy, snowbound roads this week, new research conducted by Halfords shows that 69 per cent of UK drivers don’t know what to do if their vehicle slides in icy conditions.

And only one in three is confident they’d know what to do if their vehicle began to skid on a slippery road. Adding to the concern is that more than a quarter (26 per cent) don’t know if their vehicle is rear-wheel, front-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Snow joke: Only one in three is confident they'd know what to do if their vehicle began to skid on a slippery road Snow joke: Only one in three is confident they'd know what to do if their vehicle began to skid on a slippery road

Snow joke: Only one in three is confident they’d know what to do if their vehicle began to skid on a slippery road

Halfords notes: ‘What drivers need to do if their vehicle slides is fundamentally different in a front versus a rear wheel-drive car. That means many could end up doing the exact opposite of what they should do if they did begin to lose control.’

It adds: ‘Rear wheel-drive vehicles — common in premium brands such as BMWs and Mercedes — are far more likely to lose control in icy conditions.’

More details at: www.halfords.com/tyres/advice/driving-on-ice.html 

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