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Long-term tests

BYD Dolphin Design long-term test: an impressive EV with a pleasingly low price

First report: electric supermini gets the seal of approval from Andy

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

It’s early days in life with the BYD Dolphin, but I’m thoroughly impressed so far – not just with the great-value package, but also with how easily the car has slotted into the daily grind of life in suburban London. BYD may still be a very unfamiliar brand in the UK, but once the full dealer network is up and running, I expect to see many more of its cars on the roads. 

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  • Mileage: 3,582
  • Efficiency: 4.0mi/kWh

There’s no better indication of how seriously BYD is taking its assault on the UK market than walking into one of the brand’s new showrooms. Which is what I did when collecting my new Dolphin fleet car. 

BYD Milton Keynes is a gleaming place that sits happily alongside franchises for premium brands on the city’s outskirts. The car park is packed with brand-new examples of the Chinese firm’s handiwork, not least because 10 Dolphins have just been delivered on the morning of our visit. 

True, it’s a Tesla Model 3-rivalling BYD Seal that takes centre stage in the showroom, but although I’m here to pick up BYD’s smallest car, I’m not short-changed on the experience. 

That’s a thought that constantly comes to mind as salesperson Sophie Barrella talks me through the Dolphin. This may be BYD’s cheapest model in the UK at the moment, but it’s still packed with kit and tech – and it’s something of a bargain. We’re getting a model in top-spec Design trim, but you’ll struggle to find a pure-electric supermini, even in its most basic trim, that can match the BYD’s sub-£32k price tag. It’s little wonder that more than half of Dolphin buyers are choosing this top trim level. 

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For that money, we’re getting lots of big-car kit as standard. So, Sophie explains, the two-tone paintwork, three-colour alloys and rear privacy glass are all included in the price. As are vegan leather trim, electric adjustment and heating on the front seats, a 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen and – crucially for an EV – a heat pump. 

BYD’s tech game is strong, too, and the car’s spec list is full of safety features and driver-assistance systems. They include Adaptive Cruise Control, Front and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Predictive Collision Warning and Traffic Sign Recognition. I’m delighted that the overall safety package adds up to a five-star rating from Euro NCAP. For a family man coming to a car from a relatively unknown brand, such independent assessments provide very important reassurance. 

Although BYD is new to the UK market, opting to run a Dolphin wasn’t a shot in the dark. I can remember my colleague John McIlroy thoroughly enjoying his time in the company’s Atto 3 last year, and the Dolphin received the coveted 2024 Car of the Year award from our sister brand Carbuyer. My car’s first appearance in Auto Express came when it comfortably beat the new Fiat 600e in a twin test

Given those resounding endorsements, it will probably come as no surprise that, since I collected the Dolphin, it’s slotted into my everyday life extremely well. 

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At the most basic level, it’s a compact five-door hatchback, which is ideal for me, my wife and our 10-year-old daughter. It gives us a lovely blend of family-friendly space and practicality within parking space-friendly dimensions. That small size means it also copes well with the demands of London traffic. I’ve already decided to leave the car in its Eco driving mode, but that still gives me more than enough performance. Plus, the soft suspension set-up copes well with the frequently appalling road surfaces I have to encounter. 

So far, we’ve been confined to mostly suburban journeys, and we haven’t come close to seeing how accurate the claimed 265 miles of range on a charge is. The car is currently returning bang on 4.0mi/kWh, so one charge can usually see us through a week’s driving comfortably. Longer journeys and bigger tests are still to come. 

Perhaps my biggest frustration so far is that I live in south west London, but had to go to Milton Keynes to collect my car. However, even that is being attended to by BYD. Its dealer network is expanding all the time, with two brand-new outlets much closer to my home. The company’s plan is to have 40 retailers up and running by the end of June, and twice that by the end of the year. 

Model:BYD Dolphin Design
On fleet since:April 2024
Price new:£31,695
Powertrain:60.4kWh battery, 1x e-motor, 201bhp
CO2/tax:0g/km/2%
Options:None
InsuranceGroup: 33 Quote: £963
Mileage:3,582
Efficiency:4.0mi/kWh
Any problems?None so far
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Chief sub-editor

Andy ensures that every word that is written in the magazine is up to the right standards week in week out. He has been writing, talking and presenting videos about cars for more than 30 years, and on the staff at Auto Express since March 2019.

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