BYD Dolphin review: What’s Singapore's most affordable EV like?
BYD Dolphin review: What’s Singapore's most affordable EV like?
Note: This feature was first published on 7 August 2023.
BYD’s Dolphin is one of the most exciting new cars to reach our shores this year, not because of its performance or looks, but because of its price. At S$159,888, it is (at the time of writing) the most affordable EV you can buy right now. So what is a BYD Dolphin? And what does it give up to get to that price? Read on to find out.
The TD;LR version:
Range issues aside, it’s hard to argue against the Dolphin’s blend of features, practicality, and price. If you are considering or ready to commit to an EV, this is not a bad place to start.
@hwztech A quick look at the BYD Dolphin, Singapore’s most affordable EV. #hwz #hwzsg #byd #byddolphin #ev #electriccar #carsofsingapore ♬ r&b loop - Official Sound Studio
The Dolphin is currently the most compact BYD you can get here. It’s a small hatchback that takes up about the same space as a Honda Jazz, or somewhere between the size of a Volkswagen Polo and Golf. And yet, it’s based on the same platform as the larger Atto 3. And that means it gets EV modernities like an 800-volt architecture for faster charging and BYD’s Blade batteries that are supposedly smaller, lighter, safer, and friendlier to the environment.
The styling is quite generic and therefore inoffensive. Though, to my eyes, there’s a whiff of Toyota GR86 about the front bumper. There are angles and creases – particularly on the sides – that give it a more aggressive vibe than its innocuous-sounding name might suggest. Certainly, the available colours are quite interesting and uncommon: Sand White, Maldive Purple, Coral Pink, and Urban Grey. The test car is Maldive Purple, which, to my eyes, is lilac.
Though it’s billed as a hatchback, the first thing you’d probably notice about the Dolphin when you get into it for the first time is how high you sit. The sitting position is almost SUV-like. While it gives you a more commanding view of the road ahead, it does also make the Dolphin somewhat less engaging to drive (more on that later).
The interior is functional but unusual in some ways. The aircon vents, though as stylish as they may be, look more at home in an 800hp supercar. And even though there’s a surprising amount of space to tuck your phone away, none of them are actually wireless charging pads. But what’s most perplexing to me are the cupholders. Though there are ostensibly two of them, they actually overlap, so you can only really place one drink in time at a time. If you have a passenger with you on long rides, one of you is going to be thirsty. But crucially, it doesn’t look nor feel like BYD has cheaped out on the cabin (at least not too much).
Like the Atto 3, the Dolphin also has a tiny 5-inch instrument cluster, which can be hard to see at times. Also, the Dolphin’s main 12.8-inch infotainment display rotates so it can be read in either portrait or landscape orientation. I reckon this can be handy for navigation since it lets you see more of what’s ahead. And by the time you are reading this review, BYD should have updated its cars to support both wireless Android Auto and wired Apple CarPlay.
Despite its lower price, the Dolphin retains many of the safety features of the Atto 3. This includes adaptive cruise control – a feature more commonly found on much pricier cars – and other niceties such as lane departure warning, collision warning, automatic emergency warning, 360° cameras, and more. It even has ventilated front seats! Space is also not an issue in the back. There’s ample head and legroom, even for adults that are of slightly above-average height. I won't call the boot cavernous but it's certainly big enough even for road trips.
Some of you might pore over the Dolphin’s spec sheet and think that because it’s a hatchback and it’s electric, it should be a feisty little thing to drive. They might imagine it to be a little pocket rocket. But it’s not. As I said earlier, the sitting position is high, so you feel detached from the road. It also accentuates body roll and pitching movements, which discourages you from pushing on. The upside, however, is that combined with its soft damping, you are cosseted from the imperfections of the road. The ride is remarkably plush.
Furthermore, the electric motor appears to have a more benign state of tune that prioritises smooth power delivery over instantaneous dollops of torque. Smash the accelerator at the lights and wheelspin never comes. Instead, the Dolphin delivers its 70kW (94hp) and 180nm of torque gently at first and ramps up in the same manner a very linear naturally-aspirated motor might. And when you couple this calm power delivery with its fairly plush ride, and relatively well-insulated cabin, what you have is a car that is very well-suited for pottering around in the city.
As for range, it took 250km for me to drain its battery from a full charge down to 20%. By my calculations, given that it has a rather small 44.9kWh battery, that means its average power consumption would be around 15kWh/100km. This in turn means you’d probably get around 300km before its battery goes completely flat. Admittedly, that means the Dolphin can’t cover much ground, but that’s mostly because its battery is small. It’s available with a 60kWh battery in other markets, and if we had that version instead, we could probably get around 400km range on a full charge. Fortunately, 60kW charging is supported so we can get from 20% to 80% in a fairly brisk 30 minutes – that should get about 180km of range.
But then, issues with range and charging times are a given if you wish to jump on the EV bandwagon at this moment – particularly if you don’t have exclusive access to a charging point – so it's unlikely its slightly disappointing range is going to put off any potential buyers. Besides, it makes up for it in other ways. The level of equipment and features is exceptional for its price point, and it's hard to argue against its practicality. Overall, it’s simply a pleasant car to drive around in the city. If you are ready for the electric revolution, the Dolphin is a sensible place to start.
Pricing and availability
The BYD Dolphin is available now at a special promo price of S$159,888.
Note: Prices are correct at the time of publishing.