Let’s be honest, Dolphin doesn’t trip off the tongue when talking about a new car.
But that is the name given to BYD’s latest electric car, and the oceanic theme will continue when the Seal hits our roads in December.
Time to press the pause button. Who the heck is BYD?
This is the biggest car company you have probably never heard of and the latest to come out of China, a battery maker turned electric car builder, and it is just like a Chinese takeaway, good value and very tasty.
An independently owned company BYD has been supplying the world with batteries along with lots of other tech – they make half of all i-Pads – but now a significant player in electric cars.
Since its first model in 2008 BYD (Build Your Dreams) has notched up more than five million sales, mainly in China, and last year produced 1.8 million electric cars. The first model in the UK was the recently launched Atto 3 SUV and now we have Dolphin, a five door family hatch around the size as a VW Golf.
We are getting are four models, laden with standard equipment and very competitively priced from £26,195 to £31,695. There is a festival of technology, and cheery design full of thoughtful touches and masses of storage spaces for a relatively small car.
For now it is the top end Comfort and Design models with a 60kWh battery pack and a range of 265 miles. Entry Active and Boost arrive in the new year with 45kWh packs and ranges of 211 and 193 for the slightly more powerful Boost.
The headline grabber is the ‘blade’ design battery pack, a thinner, lighter unit placed between the axles, with cobalt free lithium iron-phosphate content, said to be safer than conventional lithium-ion batteries.
An important benefit is a lower floor providing more head and legroom which is a bonus for adults in the back seat.
Not a first but another key feature is the heat pump which takes recycled energy from the motor, mitigating the loss of range experienced when the car’s heating is turned on. That can sometimes be as much as 25 miles on a freezing day. I can see that becoming standard in electric cars in the not too distant future.
BYD wants owners to feel a sense of fun and there is a light hearted, refreshing look to the cabin with a mixture of textures. Look out for the dolphin fin style door pull and wave design theme across the dashboard which is eye catching.
Nothing more captures the tech fest than the rotating central touchscreen. This is can be switched from horizontal to vertical using voice control and ‘Hey BYD’. It covers just about every function and even has a pleasant lady reminding the driver to stay within the speed limit. A far more effective guilt trip than a bleep.
With former Alpha Romeo and Audi designer Wolfgang Egger at the helm Dolphin has a trendy European look beefed up with some dazzling touches like the full width rear light bar and ziz-zag light signature.
The spec across the board is extensive following the current Chinese trend to tempt us into a new brand so expect powered front seats, LED high beam auto dipping lights, 4G connection, cloud service, all round camera, vegan leather trim, and a full suite of safety features as part of a long list.
What about this for another handy touch. A cable for charging electrical appliances using the car’s battery power with a ganger attachment for a standard 3-pin plug. Great for camping or keeping the laptop, i-Pad etc charged.
It’s a decent drive too, comfortable, with light steering and neutral handling. Range loss over a 50 miles country drive was around average for an electric car. A fast charge from 30 to 80 per cent takes half an hour. And with pedal to the floor there is plenty of pick up for safe overtaking.
Like Chinese owned MG, BYD is a work in progress so the focus is on building a dealer network, our nearest is Stockport. The target is 100 sites by the end of 2024.
If this is the standard we can expect then BYD is going to be a force to be reckoned within the next five to 10 years. This is great for the UK market so bring it on.
Electric motor 200 bhp
Range: 265 miles
0-60mph 7secs; 99mph
Warranty 6 years
Battery 8 years
Boot: 345-1310 litres
Insurance group 33