- Spacious enough for four adults to travel in comfort
- Excellent value for money
- Easy to drive with lots of tech as standard and decent range too
- Some road surface and wind noise at higher speeds
- A little body sway if pushed hard into bends
- It beeps at you quite a lot
The BYD Dolphin is a well-equipped, fully electric five-door family hatchback that is available in trim levels called Active, Boost, Comfort and Design.
With an entry price that undercuts its greatest rivals, it’s clear to see why this model from the Chinese carmaker is gaining so much attention, especially when you also factor in the very decent driving range between charges.
Models at the lower end of the trim levels feature a 44.9kWh battery with an estimated range of 211 miles for Active and 193 miles for Boost. At the other end of the scale, both the Comfort and Design vehicles have a larger 60.6kWh battery pack and can deliver up to 265 miles between charges.
Despite the BYD name being quite new here in the UK, the company was founded back in 1995 and is the world’s leading manufacturer of new energy vehicles. And, just in case you’re wondering, BYD stands for Build Your Dreams.
We opted for the flagship Dolphin Design for our test drive.
The five-door BYD Dolphin is a C-segment hatchback that is a lot roomier on the inside than you would think. BYD claims the design is “distinctive from every angle, due to its rounded profile and side silhouette resembling the graceful lines of a leaping dolphin” but we couldn’t quite see that to be honest.
What we could see however was a neatly styled vehicle with two-tone paintwork on the Design models, sweeping light clusters including LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass, a panoramic roof and 17-inch Tri-colour alloy wheels. As well as the BYD badge at the rear, the BUILD YOUR DREAMS name features on the light bar connecting the taillights.
Moving inside, there are vegan leather seats and steering wheel – the seats are power-adjustable for added convenience and can also be heated.
The main focal point is a 12.8-inch infotainment screen that, at the touch of a button, can be rotated 90 degrees from landscape to portrait and back again.
On-board tech includes a navigation system, smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (sadly not wireless though), a six-speaker Dynaudio Performance sound system with DAB radio, intelligent voice control that’s activated by saying ‘Hi BYD” and plenty more besides.
There is also a compact but clear five-inch driver information display where all the vital data such as speed, range and battery levels can be viewed.
On The Road
Handling & Performance
Our front-wheel drive BYD Dolphin Design featured the 60.4kWh battery and 204PS electric motor which allows it to sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.0 seconds and onto a top speed of 99mph.
The combined electric range of 265 miles between charges seemed really accurate during our test which involved some motorway stints, B roads and town centre driving.
The steering is nicely weighted but a little on the light side which is great for city centres with lots of manoeuvring, but not so comforting when fizzing through the country lanes.
While most people will not be driving the vehicle like a hot-hatch, it’s reassuring that it boasts that sudden turn of pace to overtake slower moving vehicles when required or when accelerating off a slip road to join fast-moving traffic.
Drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport alter the ride and handling considerably with Sport adding quite an edge. But for the best efficiency, Eco will help protect that battery charge and result in more impressive mileage.
The suspension is quite soft so tends to smooth out most bumps and dips along the way, but you will notice some tyre rumble and wind noise at higher speeds.
The brake pedal takes a little getting used to as you seem to press it quite a long way before anything happens, but after a short while you do get accustomed to it. Then out on the country lanes, the car is nicely grounded provided you aren’t too enthusiastic with the throttle and body sway is only noticeable if tight bends are attacked a little too eagerly.
Rather annoyingly, the BYD Dolphin does like to beep quite a lot due to the comprehensive list of driver safety aids, but thankfully these can be silenced fairly easily. And while we are on the subject of safety systems, the lane keep assist set-up is fairly aggressive and will drag the vehicle back into its lane.
Space & Practicality
The BYD Dolphin is a five-door family hatchback that stretches 4,290mm in length, is 1770mm wide, (2,012mm with mirrors), 1,570mm tall and has a wheelbase of 2,700mm.
The interior has ample space for four adults to sit comfortably with excellent knee room. In fact, three adults could sit in the back on shorter journeys without too much complaining. But ideally three youngsters would have more than enough room and there are Isofix anchors to the outer rear seats, along with a further one in the front passenger seat.
The boot is accessed via a manually-operated tailgate and can accommodate 345 litres of kit, a limit that increases to a generous 1,310 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. The boot on our test car featured a removable rubber mat that is really handy if you’re carrying muddy gear.
Elsewhere, there are numerous additional storage compartments, such as a glovebox, a large area beneath the centre console, seat back pockets, non-slip trays, a wireless charging pad, door bins and a small compartment near the driver’s door which is useful for loose change.
The BYD Dolphin offers an 11kW 3-phase on-board charger for AC charging as standard which gives a 0 to 100 per cent charge in 6 hours, 12 minutes. Alternatively, it can also be fast charged with a maximum of 150kW and this will see the battery boosted from 30 to 80 per cent in 29 minutes or zero to 80 per cent in 43 minutes.
The BYD Dolphin line-up costs from £26,195 for the Active model with the 44.9kWh battery and 95PS motor. The Boost version is £27,195 and has the same battery but a more powerful 176PS motor. Stepping up to Comfort will see a price-tag of £30,195 and this gains the larger 60.4kWh battery with a 204PS motor. Finally our test car, the Dolphin Design, which is powered by the same battery and motor as the Comfort model and costs £31,695.
It's worth mentioning the Blade battery technology as it really is an area of expertise for BYD. It is 100 per cent cobalt-free and utilises ground-breaking technology to provide new levels of safety, durability and performance. It has been put through the most stringent testing process such as being bent, crushed, overcharged by 260 per cent and heated in a furnace at 300 degrees centigrade. None of these tests resulted in a fire or explosion.
With zero carbon emissions there are numerous financial rewards for BYD Dolphin owners such as being exempt from road tax, along with any Congestion Charge or Ultra Low Emission Zone fees. But these incentives will be cut back or withdrawn completely from next year.
And for any business drivers considering the BYD Dolphin as a company car, it has an attractive Benefit in Kind tax rating of two per cent.
With a maximum five-star safety rating, the BYD Dolphin is packed with features to protect occupants and other road users alike. On-board safety technology includes blind spot detection, predictive collision warning, front cross traffic alert and brake, rear cross traffic alert and brake, emergency lane keep assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and lots more besides.
For added reassurance, the BYD Dolphin comes with a six-year, 93,000-mile warranty extending to eight-years or 124,000 miles for the Blade battery pack.
BYD launched in the UK with its Atto 3 SUV and the Dolphin is the follow-up vehicle. With plenty of trim and battery choices, there is a model to suit all budgets and we are already starting to see plenty of BYD cars on our roads nowadays.
So, clearly customers are attracted not only to the very competitive price-tag, but also the high standard of on-board tech and generous driving ranges between charges.