China’s big challenge to UK and other European car-makers has been making headlines this week. And I have been driving a smart new model that epitomises this.
It’s fully electric, great to drive, well appointed, significantly cheaper than most of the competition — and from a company you’ve probably never heard of. But like many other Chinese cars heading to these shores, you soon will.
The BYD Dolphin is a five-seater family hatchback to rival Volkswagen’s ID.3. But at a time when you’d be lucky to get an electric car for much under £40,000, prices for the Dolphin start at just £25,490.
BYD stands rather cheesily for ‘Build Your Dreams’, but is a serious player. The Chinese conglomerate began making batteries, then built the cars too (1.8 million last year) and is about to overtake Tesla as the world’s biggest electric car-maker.
There are four front-wheel drive BYD Dolphin models. Entry-level Active (from £25,490) combines a 44.9kWh battery with a 70kW (95hp) electric motor for an estimated range of 211 miles. Boost (from £26,490) has the same battery but a more powerful 130kW (176hp) motor and 17 in wheels with a range of about 192 miles. Both arrive early next year.
Good value: Prices for the all-electric BYD Dolphin hatchback start at £25,490
Comfort (£29,490) and Design (£30,999 which I drove) are on sale now and have the more powerful 60.4kWh battery and 150kW (204hp) electric motor combination, giving a sprightly 0 to 62mph acceleration of 7 seconds up to a top speed limited to 99mph, but a 265-mile range — enough to get from London to Middlesbrough.
The Design model has a glass roof, rear privacy glass, and wireless smartphone charging.
There are also deals from £299 a month after a £3,000 deposit.
It’s surprisingly nippy — even in the wet as I endured a September monsoon. Steady and stable around twisting country lanes, it’s also silent, calm and zero-emissions clean.
Four driving modes are Sport (my default setting), Normal, Economy and Snow.
BYD stands rather cheesily for ‘Build Your Dreams’, but is a serious player
Inside is a clean dashboard, a rotary control screen that you can position horizontally or vertically, and a simple control bar from which you simply twist one end to drive or reverse
Steady and stable around twisting country lanes, it’s also silent, calm and zero-emissions clean
Four driving modes are Sport (my default setting), Normal, Economy and Snow
The 345-litre boot — with a bespoke rubber-matting floor — expands to 1,310 litres with the rear seats folded.
Inside is a clean dashboard, a rotary control screen that you can position horizontally or vertically, and a clever but simple control bar from which you simply twist one end to drive or reverse.
Out on the road I even showed one irritating but surprised VW tail-gater a clean pair of heels as I sprinted out of view.
An integrated heat pump helps pre-warm your car batteries in winter – adding up to 15 per cent efficiency.
Other Chinese car-makers and brands now arriving in the UK include Great Wall (with its Ora Funky Cat), Nio, Chery, Geely, Zeekr and Omoda, adding to more familiar but now Chinese-owned electric car brands which include: MG, Volvo, Polestar, Lotus, and London black cab makers LEVC.
Time perhaps for an updated series of those much-loved ‘I-Spy’ car books.
Will it fit in my garage? BYD Dolphin
On sale: now
First deliveries: Autumn
Model driven: BYD Dolphin Design Price as driven: £30,990 Range price: from £25,490
Seats: 5 Length: 4290mm Width: 1770mm Width with mirrors: 2012mm Height: 1570mm Kerb weight: 1658kg Gross vehicle weight: 2068kg
Propulsion: electric motor Power: 150kW (204 horse-power) Emissions: zero Battery: 60.4kWh (BYD Lithium ion phosphate Blade battery)
0 to 62mph: 7 seconds Top speed: 99mph Drive: Front-wheel drive. Automatic Driving modes: Sport/Normal/ Economy/Snow
Range: up to 265 miles Consumption: 3.91miles/kWh
Charging times: 11kW AC domestic: 6 hours 12 minutes; DC 150kW to 80%: 29 to 43 minutes
Boot volume: Rear seats up: 345 litres; Rear seats down: 1,310 litres
Features on my car: Panoramic roof, privacy glass, wireless smart-phone charging.
‘Vehicle to load’ as standard: to charge external devices as a ‘mobile power station’.
Safety features: 360-degree cameras; adaptive cruise control; forward collision warning; autonomous emergency braking; rear collision warning; rear cross traffic alert and braking; lane departure prevention; emergency lane keeping assist.
Seven colours – from Surfing Blue to Coral pink – including two-tone options
Omoda 5 family SUV to arrive next year
Also making its way to the UK from China is the Omoda 5 family SUV, which will be on sale here from March 2024.
Running on a powerful 187bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and a top 5-star EuroNCAP crash-test rating, prices are expected to start from £24,000 for the Comfort variant and £27,000 for the Noble trim.
The Omoda 5 family SUV will be on sale here from March 2024
The latter features advanced driver assistance with 360-degree exterior camera technology, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking.
In the crash tests it achieved 87 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 88 per cent for safety assistance systems and 68 per cent for vulnerable road user protection.
Expect 31.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 170 g/km.
Electrified 2023 sets out road to the future
Our road to an electric car future is being set out at the major Electrified 2023 conference organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on Monday where Alison Jones, vice president of car giant Stellantis — which includes Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall, Jeep, and Alfa Romeo — will be a keynote speaker.
Peugeot’s new third-generation e-3008 electric SUV crossover
Timely as Peugeot has just unveiled its new third-generation e-3008 electric SUV crossover, set to go on sale early next year from £35,000-plus.
Promising a range up to 435 miles, the e-3008 will be available with two trim levels, Allure and GT, and three electric powertrains: Standard Range; Long Range; and Dual Motor with all-wheel drive. Self-charging hybrid and plug-in hybrid petrol versions will also be available.
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