The new BYD Dolphin is the first model in what its Chinese manufacturer calls its ‘Ocean’ ser

Motoring with Tony Conlon: BYD’s Dolphin makes a splash

Chinese carmaker BYD (Build Your Dreams) has just introduced its second model to the Irish market on the coattails of the Atto 3, the electric car unveiled here last April.

The new BYD Dolphin is the first model in what its Chinese manufacturer calls its ‘Ocean’ series and is distributed in Ireland by MDL (Motor Distributers Ltd), the same people who look after the distribution of Mercedes-Benz cars and commercials in this country.

Taking its place alongside the BYD Atto 3 SUV, the battery-powered Dolphin is a compact C-segment hatchback whose wide range of standard features and competitive price offering will likely appeal to eco-friendly motorists keen to embrace lower-cost, emissions-free, all-electric motoring.

The leader of BYD’s design team, Wolfgang Egger, a distinguished veteran of the German auto industry, has undoubtably helped create a practical hatchback with visually appealing European looks. It’s soon to be followed here by the new Seal, the second model in BYD’s ‘Ocean’ series.

Built on BYD’s state-of-the-art e-Platform 3.0 and with the top models (Comfort and Design) powered by the manufacturer’s 60.4 kWh LFP Blade battery, these Dolphin versions boast a range of up to 427km (WLTP) with a 30% to 80% fast charging speed of 29 minutes.

Available in a choice of four trim levels – Active, Boost, Comfort & Design – each Dolphin comes equipped with a wide range of standard specifications tagged to a competitive price offering that – in the case of first-arrivals Comfort and Design models – begins from €29,318 after state subsidies.

The lesser rated capacity (44.9 kWh) Active and Boost models, which will have a lower electric driving range (approx 100km), are expected to appeal to customers who are keen to enter the electric vehicle (EV) world without spending a fortune. A suggested starting price of €25,000 would certainly give this BYD an advantage over many competitors

Combining BYD’s game-changing EV technology with an abundance of standard equipment, the Dolphin - just like the Atto 3 - is developed by a new energy vehicle (NEV) producer which, unlike other manufacturers, makes its own powertrain systems, power batteries, automotive semiconductors, drive motors and motor controller systems.

This in-house manufacturer has, in fact, become the world’s leading builder of new energy vehicles and power batteries, despite the fact that very few people have heard of the company.

Eye-catching features found on the car are its rounded profile and side silhouette, resembling what its designers call ‘the graceful lines of a leaping dolphin’. This quality two-tone car is offered in seven different colour combinations.

Measuring 4,290mm long, 1,570mm high and 1,770mm wide, with wing mirrors unfolded, its long 2,700mm wheelbase and short front/rear overhangs combine to give it a spacious appearance.

Inside, the Dolphin has a light and airy feel with space for five occupants. Ergonomically designed sports seats and headrests are made from vegan leather. Front seats have 6-way electric adjustment for the driver and 4-way electric adjustment for the front passenger.

The seats have body-hugging wings and proved supportive and comfortable as I drove on a series of twisty roads through Co Kildare. None of my passengers were critical of the car’s rear leg room. The Dolphin’s 60:40 split rear seats allow its 345-litre boot to expand to 1,310 litres when both seats are folded flat.

One standard element is a 3.3kW external discharge ‘vehicle-to-load’ facility which can be used to charge accessories and power external devices. Also standard across the board is an abundance of safety and advanced driver assistance features.

Cutting-edge lighting technology is claimed to provide a broader beam of light to enhance visibility when driving at night. High beam assist, adaptive front headlights and follow me home lighting are also part of the standard kit.

All models come equipped with forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, rear collision warning, rear cross traffic alert and rear cross traffic brake, lane departure prevention and emergency lane keeping assist.

Adding to the enjoyment of driving the Dolphin is adaptive cruise control and intelligent cruise control. A panoramic camera gives the driver 360-degrees visibility for safe vehicle manoeuvring. Additional driver aids include a blind spot detection system, electronic stability control, traction control, hill decent control and automatic vehicle hold.

With a claimed top speed of 160km/h, the Dolphin can cover 0-100km/h in seven seconds. This eager and willing hatchback, which comes with high levels of specification, is bound to widen the appeal of this new Chinese carmaker in Ireland. I expect to see the number of dealerships grow in the near future.