As you probably already know BYD or build your dreams is a Chinese brand that as far as New Zealand goes is an all electric brand focusing on offering affordable EVs to the masses. Around about 2 years ago they launched the ATTO 3, a vehicle that grabbed the attention of NZ road goers with its styling and value – well they’re back with a second model, the Dolphin, and it’s flippin’ great.
Chronologically, the Dolphin came out before the ATTO 3 and is part of several ocean-themed nameplates, but it now joins the ‘pioneering’ ATTO in NZ as their second model, with this one being an EV hatch.
In terms of model offerings, you get the choice of the standard range (with a 45kWh battery) and the extended range (with a 60kWh battery) I was given the latter to play with, which is just as well, because I used it a lot.
When it comes to styling, the Dolphin is both unique and head-turning. Its nose features a textured grille (although it doesn’t actually have a grille – or blow holes for that matter), LED headlights and DRLs, the BYD logo and lower vents to aid aero airflow and battery cooling. Plus, I don’t think I’ve said this before, but the windscreen wipers are cool, BYD call them ‘boneless’ but they are basically floppy and yet work well.
The Dolphin’s profile is as hatchy as it gets, with a strong shoulderline that rises towards that rear, shapely sils and 17-inch feet (or whatever Dolphins stand on) with coloured inserts and Ying Long comfort tires.
My review model came in their dual colour (that’s how you can tell at a glance you have the extended range), urban grey across the top and surf blue for the main body. Worth noting that the surf blue is around about $1,800 as an added extra but certainly very striking on a sunny day. Oh and a dual panoramic sunroof to let that sunlight flood the cabin.
Around the rear you get a roofline spoiler, another ‘boneless’ wiper, shapely LED rear lights and a hatch that opens up to 345 L of boot space, that remains the same regardless of battery type as they’re both front-wheel drive.
When it comes to fitting into your garage (or pool for that matter), the funky hatch’s dimensions are a meagre 4.3 m in length and 1.57 m height, but it also comes with a 2.7m wheelbase, so it may be compact and easy to park, but those inside have more than ample space (so you’re not jammed in like a tin of sardines.
Step inside and you’re greeted with a bit of an aquatic theme, with a wave style dash, various blue hues, stingray dash vents and even fins for door handles. But unlike its ATTO 3 sibling, the theme doesn’t feel overdone.
You get generous size door bins, two cup holders in the centre console, some hidden storage, and wireless phone charging. The DNR switch has been moved to the dash and operates with the roll of a finger (which I really like) and the 12.8-inch infotainment screen rotates landscape or portrait to suit your mood or preference.
It comes with essentially all the apps and aids that you’ll need, including a 360° bird’s-eye view of the vehicle, and some you don’t want, in particular the VERY AGGRESSIVE lane keep assist.
The menus are easy to navigate aground, reasonably quick and pretty informative, particularly the battery consumption and charging manager. While on that matter, we should probably discuss the power.
As discussed earlier, I had the extended range model, which meant that my 60kWh blade battery (which is awesome and you should Google) was good for up to 420km of range (although not the way I drove it). This in turn powers an electric motor that produces 150kW of power and 310Nm of torque, and a 0-100km/h time of just 7 seconds – that’s hot hatch territory!
BYD say that the standard range model is more appealing to fleet buyers and the extended range will be a winner for private buyers, but all I know is that they both offer V2L (vehicle to load) capability so you can power your house or washing machine from your Dolphin, or even (in my case) a toaster for those times that you need a snack on the move.
The rest of the cabin is as I say spacious and modern, with a small instrument gauge that tells you the basic facts you need to know, range and speed, supportive front seats and plenty of room for those in the rear, much more than an ICE powered hatch.
On the move the Dolphin drives swimmingly. It’s nimble about the town, easy to park and yet holds its own on the highway. It’s quiet on the tarmac (I assume thanks to those comfort tyres) and wind noise is localised to a bit around the door mirror – but only because I had the stereo turned down.
I do have to bring up the lane keep assist again, because it’s quite rough, but you can switch it off (which I urge you to do) and BYD say it will be looked at when the engineers come down to NZ – and then updated over the air I assume. Also, the Dolphin is not happy if you venture over the speed limit, again the annoying beep can be switched off.
Visibility all around is good with clever use of quarter panel glass on the front to help overcome any blind spot issues (of course the car has plenty of sensors around to tell you if there are any cars in your blind spot anyway).
When it comes to drive modes, the Dolphin will switch between Normal and Sports at the blink of an eye, and it has a number of brake regen settings, allowing you to, almost, one-pedal drive.
Not only is the BYD Dolphin a funky-styled and handy-sized hatch, but its feature-full and well-priced too. I had plenty of fun with it and still returned it with a reasonable amount of charge left. It’s also well supported too, with a comforting warranty period and a battery that barely degrades over a decade. All is all, the Dolphin gets a big tick, flipper would approve.