Typically, several months elapse between the time a manufacturer introduces a new vehicle and its test drive by the press. But not at BYD. The Chinese company arrives in Europe with three exclusively electric models: a large Han sedan, a seven-seater Tang family SUV and an Atto 3 compact SUV. He invited us to Holland, close to his European headquarters, to discover the upcoming range and try it out in preview.
BYD: pronounce “bi-yes-di in English, for Build Your Dreams, or Build Your Dreams… Does that name mean anything to you? Normal. The manufacturer is still unknown in Europe, even though it has been established for a year in Norway. BYD attempted a breakthrough in France with the establishment of an electric bus factory near Beauvais (60) in 2017, but to no avail. However, the company has been number one in China for nine years and number one worldwide in the first half of 2022 with over 600,000 copies sold.
Far from being a newcomer, BYD was founded in 1995 and therefore has 27 years of experience, initially in vehicle batteries. Since 2005, the brand sells its own models (passenger vehicles, buses, forklifts, etc.). Very quickly, the brand launched into electrification. The first rechargeable hybrid dates from 2008, and the vehicles are now all electrified (PHEV or electric). The brand employs 290,000 people worldwide, in 30 industrial units.
Tang and Han, two premium models for the image
The Han sedan and the Tang 7-seater SUV are a little big for our countries, and they shouldn’t be very successful here, but in other markets. Based on the same platform, these models share cutting-edge performance. The two electric motors (one on each axle) develop a combined power of 380 kW (517 hp) and make them all-wheel drive models. The Han sedan (5 m long) is close to a Tesla Model S, and has an 85.4 kWh LFP battery. This allows you to benefit from 521 km of autonomy depending on the brand. Charging power is 120 kW, while the Tang stops at 110 kW. Smaller at 4.87 m in length, the 7-seater SUV contains an 86.4 kWh battery that would offer approximately 400 km of range according to BYD. Both models stop at 180 km/h. The exercise from 0 to 100 km/h is reached in 4.6 s for the SUV and 3.9 s for the sedan.
On board, the Tang and Han (names of Chinese dynasties) are reminiscent of the Mercedes universe, particularly in terms of the storm doors and the central console, which have identical closed storage. The adjustments are well made, and the use of good quality leather, quilted and colored, evokes the premium universe. The large 15-inch touchscreen, common to all three models, is rotatable and allows you to switch from landscape to portrait. More gadget than anything else, but it had to be thought through. Space on board is generous, especially in the rear, with an ultra-flat floor for the Han sedan and ample central armrest. In the Tang, the seven passengers will also be well accommodated, thanks to real seats in the last row rather than folding seats. Despite everything, the trunk volume is quite set back: 410 liters for the Han only (and without a tailgate), against 235 to 940 liters depending on the Tang configuration, and up to 1,655 liters when the seats are folded down.
Atto 3, the most European
The BYD Atto 3, close to a 4.46m long Peugeot 3008, appears to have a longer career ahead in France. It has a relatively classic SUV look on the outside, which can also be compared to the Lion SUV for the shape of the headlights and shield. There are some styling details, like a gray stamped aluminum side panel or a strip of lights on the rear that recalls the Cupra and Seat production, for example. On board, the atmosphere is much more original. We feel like the designers have abandoned it, with eccentricities like a clamshell panel, new door handles placed on the speakers, three-blade air vents, or even storage pockets made of red strings like a guitar. The set is qualitative, with clean fits and chic materials (leather, aluminum) even if the color combination (blue, black, cream, red stitching) is not always the most pleasing to the eye.
Underneath the relatively sober outer dress is an original platform, which incorporates a very thin battery called Blade, with a capacity of 60 kWh. According to BYD, it would offer a autonomy of about 420 km, while fast charging capability is 88 kW. The Atto 3, presented in a 150 kW (204 hp) single-engine drive version (at the front), offers less impressive performance than the Han and Tang. But they remain fairly honest with a 0-100 km/h shot in 7.3 s and a top speed limited to 160 km/h.
And drive, how is it?
After introducing us to the three models, BYD put us behind the wheel of the latter at a former military airfield in The Hague, the Netherlands. A 4.5 km track was set up for the occasion, with two acceleration zones and curves materialized by some Lübeck cones. Not enough to have a definitive opinion on the three cars, but rather a way to quickly find out how they perform and meet European standards. As for style, Tang and Han stand out in their panties with precise steering (but a little sticky in places) and an excellent level of comfort. This one is even better on the sedan, which uses active suspensions. The sedan is more agile and lively, with stand-up starts that cling to the seat in sport mode like a Tesla Model S. The Tang offers more linear acceleration, which would almost make you forget it has more than 500 hp underfoot. On the other hand, what we don’t forget is weight. The electric SUV weighs almost 2.8 tons!
The Atto, on a rather different basis, has firm, precise steering and a good level of comfort. The set isn’t too tight and the suspensions aren’t too dry, even in the two or three grooves on the small track. It will have to be confirmed during a longer test and on varied roads. Good point: Different driving modes (Normal, Eco, Comfort, Sport) can be configured, with steering independently adjustable in two modes (sport or normal), for example.
For now, the range of equipment and prices are still kept secret. But BYD intends to present these three models to the public at the Paris Motor Show, starting on October 17th. According to the brand, the positioning is clearly not low cost, but “affordable premium”. Therefore, it may be that the three BYDs offer competitive price/equipment ratios. As for the distribution network, it is not yet defined, but it should focus on already established groups, such as some countries that have chosen historical importers: Louwman in the Netherlands, Hedin in Sweden or RSA in Norway.
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