The BYD Dolphin might be the cheapest battery-electric vehicle currently sold in Australia, but you’d be dead wrong to think of it as some kind of budget buy offering.
As the new entry in BYD’s line-up here, the electric hatchback sits below the hugely successful Atto 3 SUV and soon-to-be launched Seal sedan – a halo model for the fledging Chinese brand and likely to become a serious rival to the Tesla Model 3.
And while some might argue Dolphin may not have the quite the same aesthetic of its larger stablemates, it’s certainly not unattractive, especially in the top-spec Premium trim which adds the choice of four different two-tone paint paints – all of which look superb. Even the wheels look good.
Stylistically, Dolphin’s front and rear light signatures look cutting edge, with LED light bands extending the width of the car.
The Dolphin also ticks plenty of boxes when it comes to space, practicality, comfort, tech, features and safety; not to mention a claimed WLTP range of up to 427km, along with plenty of go on tap.
BYD’s Dolphin rides on the same scalable e-Platform 3.0 for electric vehicles used by its larger siblings. Buyers get the choice of two trims and two battery sizes; the BYD Dolphin Dynamic is equipped with a 44.9kWh unit, while the BYD Dolphin Premium uses a 60.48kWh battery for more power and greater range.
Interestingly, BYD has also confirmed a Dolphin Sport variant in limited numbers for 2024, priced significantly higher than the Premium variant tested here at just under $50,000, though performance outputs have not been announced.
From a size comparison, Dolphin stretches just three centimetres longer than its MG 4 rival and costs $100 less at the entry level.
The BYD Dolphin goes up against the similarly-sized MG 4 priced from $39,990 and the smaller GWM Ora priced the same at $39,990.
BYD Dolphin pricing:
- 2024 BYD Dolphin Dynamic: $38,890
- 2024 BYD Dolphin Premium: $44,890
- 2024 BYD Dolphin Sport: $49,890
All prices exclude on-road costs
Inside is where the Dolphin really starts to shine. Even Tesla could learn a few new things from BYD on this front.
For starters there’s an interesting mix of materials in the cabin (in a good way) that flow nicely with a thoroughly modern theme but with all the usually functions within easy reach of the driver.
All surfaces are soft touch or have a textured look and feel about them, but of particular interest are the curiously shaped door openers on the door cards. They’re real metal and look to have been inspired by a dolphin, at least its fin or tail. Oddly enough, they work well and feel good to the touch.
The Vegan leather (see leatherette) bucket seats in the Dolphin Premium tested here also include Alcantara-like inserts, which are simply superb for their comfort and bolstering. They’re not sports seats, but they’re pretty damn close and importantly, both fronts are electrically adjustable.
I also like the look and feel of the Dolphin’s three-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel. It’s wrapped in that same super-soft leatherette with plenty of functionality with a stylish steering boss cover to boot.
Problem is, it’s not telescopically adjustable for reach, only tilt, which means with my shorter-than-average leg span I was forced to sit a bit closer to the wheel than my usual driving position. BYD would do well to offer both tilt and reach adjustability when it comes time for a facelift.
There’s a small 5.0-inch digital driver’s display mounted on the steering column, and while it’s decent and displays all the necessary information I still found it a bit too small at times. Perhaps that’s my age showing.
The first thing you’ll notice (and get excited by) is BYD’s revolving touchscreen which can go from landscape to portrait at the touch of a button on the steering wheel.
Interestingly, Apple CarPlay only works in its default landscape position. No biggie, but something to consider as you get cleaner access to the dash-mounted air vents when rotated.
While there’s a row of circular shortcut buttons for the likes of climate control, drive modes, audio volume as well as the toggle switch gear selector, most of the car’s functionality is accessed via menus on the touchscreen.
Dolphin buyers would do well to take some time to become familiar with the climate control menu and driver-assist functions before heading out on their initial excursion. There’s a ton of features in both menus and it’s well worth taking the time for a deep dive.
Up front, storage compartments of all shapes and sizes are plentiful to say the least, and on two levels – both covered and open cubby holes. There’s also wireless charging, though smartphone mirroring is wired.
And while it might look like a central armrest doubles as a console box, it actually doesn’t open or I couldn’t find it. Given all the other compartments, you won’t miss it one bit.
It looks and feels far more complete, if not more sophisticated than the MG 4 on the inside and certainly a more comfortable place to be when it comes to general passenger space – and that’s before you get to the panoramic electric roof with auto sun blind.
The rear seats are just as comfortable as those pews up front bar the bolstering, but legroom is substantial and the floor is flat – one of the key benefits to ground-up electric vehicles.
There’s a central armrest with two cupholders and a less attractive piece of rear-seat furniture which doubles as additional cup or bottle holder along with Type C and A USB ports (front and back).
Moreover, there are proper rear-seat pockets and dual phone holders along with decent width door bins.
The boot might seem compromised if you look at the numbers alone – 345 litres, expanding to 1310L with the rear seats folded in a 60:40 configuration. The boot floor can be dropped to accommodate taller items, or set to the same level as the folded seats. It’s a good feature if you also want to hide stuff away from prying eyes.
Despite its relatively compact proportions, Dolphin is a great example of intelligent space packaging and more than capable of supporting the needs of a four-person family in comfort.
Dolphin buyers get the choice of two different specs; the Dynamic, which gets a single 70kW/180Nm electric motor, powered by a 44.9kWh battery – BYD claims 0-100km/h in 12.3 seconds.
The Dolphin Premium tested here bumps it up to a 60.5kWh battery and a 150kW/310Nm electric motor, improving its 0-100km/h sprint by more than five seconds to 7.0 seconds.
BYD is yet to release any performance specs for its proposed Sport model, except to say it will obviously better the Premium’s 7.0-second sprint time.
The BYD Dolphin Dynamic has a range of 340km on the WLTP cycle with DC charging at up to 60kW, while the Dolphin Premium seen here gets 427km of range and DC charging at up to 80kW.
It’s efficient too, with our driver’s display reading 8kWh/100km around town when pottering around in Normal drive mode – while increasing to 14kWh/100km after a quick trip into the city in Sport – where it stayed.
Interestingly, the WLTP range claim is 449km, but when we collected our Dolphin tester, the display showed 502km at 99 per cent charge. That could mean the car was still showing the NEDC cycle range, but driven by an average driver it can be very efficient.
As far as fast charging goes and using an 80kW DC charger, Dolphin can top up its battery from 30-80 per cent in 29 minutes. Though it should be noted some rival makes claim similar charge times from 10-80 per cent capacity.
The Dolphin also offers a V2L (Vehicle To Load) function and is able to power small electric appliances at home.
For sure it’s prudent to consider Australia’s most affordable electric car at $38,890, but if you like a bit of go in your EV, not to mention the fun factor of scooting away from the traffic lights, you might want to consider the Dolphin Premium tested here.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s no high-performance number, but when you’ve dialled up Sport (the good news is, it stays in Sport), and punch it you’re jetting away from your fellow motorists more briskly than you’re probably used to.
Acceleration is never brutal no matter what mode you’re in, given power is delivered nice and evenly no matter how much you pin it – almost.
There are other more sedate drive modes you can select, including Normal and Eco, should range anxiety get the better of you; though Sport is easily the most enjoyable and responsive, while pleasant enough around town.
Occasionally you might get a little bit of torque steer when pulling out of an intersection, but it’s nothing dramatic and there’s little if any wheel spin to worry about as traction control seems to kick in very quickly and sort it out.
It’s a relatively cushy ride overall, though not floaty, with most bumps easily crushed and well isolated from the cabin. On that front, Dolphin is better than most of its competitors when it comes to ride compliance. That includes the MG 4 and Fiat 500e; the latter feels demonstrably more brittle on harsher surfaces.
The steering is pleasantly quick and reasonably sharp, but don’t expect any genuine steering feedback from Dolphin, as it’s all a bit numb in that department.
Again, that’s in the Premium version we drove for this test. Unlike the base Dynamic which gets a torsion-beam rear suspension, the Premium we drove uses a more sophisticated multi-link setup at the back.
Although Dolphin’s profile is quite tall given its 1570mm height, body composure through the bends at a solid clip is surprisingly good with little roll. This is where is falls behind the MG 4, which has a genuine ‘fun-to-drive’ factor going for it.
It’s quiet, too. There’s not much of the outside world heard inside the cabin, and that goes for wind and road noise from the Ling Long-brand Comfort tyres. However, I can’t help think a premium Euro tyre would surely be worth trying on the Dolphin.
Brakes are strong though they can also be quite aggressive and grabby under more sudden stops, as there can be a lack of bite at the top of the pedal travel, making it more difficult to brake smoothly under some conditions. It’s not as linear as we’d like though stopping power itself is assured.
The BYD Dolphin gets a stack of driver-assist features, but lane-keep assist can be annoyingly aggressive at times, especially when working in concert with emergency steering assist. At times it could be disconcerting.
Dolphin Dynamic highlights:
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights
- Adaptive Front Light
- Panoramic glass roof
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Rear privacy glass
- 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- DAB digital radio
- 6-speaker sound system
- 5.0-inch digital instrument cluster
- 6-way power driver’s seat
- 4-way power passenger’s seat
- Leatherette upholstery
- Heated front seats
- 60/40 split/fold rear seats
- Keyless entry and start
- Wireless phone charger
- USB-A x 2 (one front, one rear)
- USB-C x 2 (one front, one rear)
Dolphine Premium adds:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Multi-link rear suspension
- Two-tone paint
BYD has yet to release full specifications for the yet-to-be released Sport variant, but the following features have been confirmed:
- Performance tyres
- Performance-styled wheels
- Sport-styled body kit
- “Tuned sports performance”
The Dolphin Dynamic is available in four colour schemes:
- Sand White with Brown/Black interior
- Urban Grey with Grey/Black interior
- Maldive Purple with Brown/Black interior
- Coral Pink with Pink/Grey interior
The Dolphin Premium comes in four two-tone schemes:
- Ski White/Urban Grey with Grey/Black interior
- Coral Pink/Urban Grey with Pink/Grey interior
- Surf Blue/Urban Grey with Blue/Black interior
- Atlantis Grey/Delan Black with Grey/Black interio
The Sport will come only in Matte Grey with a Grey/Black interior.
The BYD Dolphin has been awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating using stricter 2023-25 testing criteria.
It scored 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 85 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 77 per cent for safety assist.
Standard equipment on all Dolphins includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane-keep assist
- Emergency lane-keep assist
- Front cross-traffic assist
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Intelligent speed limit assist
- Driver fatigue detection
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Driver’s far-side airbag
- Surround-view cameras
- Front, rear parking sensors
The BYD Dolphin is backed by a six-year, 150,000km vehicle warranty and an eight-year, 160,000km battery warranty.
BYD Australia offers its customers the option to service any of their vehicles through its own service centres or through certain mycar service centres. It’s best to find your local service centre via the BYD Australia website.
Servicing for the 2024 BYD Dolphin is required every 12 months or 20,000km whichever occurs first.
BYD Australia has pricing for the first 8 years or 160,000km available via its standard service plan. BYD provides the following prices for these services: $189, $370, $189, $447, $189, $370, $189 and $447.
There’s no way you’d believe the Dolphin was the cheapest EV on sale in Australia, given its extensive offering when it comes to tech, features, space, safety and range. It’s got the lot as far as all that goes.
It’s not as keen or dynamic as the MG 4, but it rides well, is reasonably well composed and more than competent for everyday drivers.
There’s a strong case to stick with the base Dolphin Dynamic given its sub-$39,000 price point and generous overall offering.
But if it was me, I’d stump up the extra $6000 for the Premium just for the extra range, not to mention the two-tone paint, bigger wheels and better suspension.
Or, you could wait for the Dolphin Sport to drop and go all out, as it too sounds like a dead-set winner for under $50,000.
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