First Drive: BYD Dolphin
Fleet EV enthusiasts may recall the BYD name from the little-seen e6 of a decade ago, but with a new family of electric cars, the company is serious about cracking the UK market. Richard Gooding drives the Dolphin and finds an impressive small EV which is focused on value, design and on-board technology.
What is it?
Even though its fleet of e6 electric minicabs run in partnership with Green Tomato Cars in 2014 created a splash, BYD (‘Build Your Dreams’) is little known in the UK. Originating as a battery manufacturer, the Chinese company has a long heritage in ‘New Energy Vehicles’ (NEVs) and was the world’s biggest seller of EVs in 2023. Now launching a full-scale assault on the UK, the Dolphin is BYD’s smallest car, and features the company’s proprietary Blade Battery, e-Platform 3.0 chassis as well as its unique ‘8-in-1’ powertrain technologies.
What range does it have?
Entry-level Active and mid-spec Boost Dolphin models are fitted with a 44.9kWh battery, for a respective WLTP-tested 211 and 192 miles of range. Comfort and Design-spec cars can potentially travel up to 265 miles from a 60.4kWh unit, and a heat pump is standard on all models.
BYD’s Blade Battery has been designed in-house, and ‘Cell-to-Pack’ (CTP) technology merges individual battery cells into a single pack. The use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) as a cathode material gives the batteries a longer life cycle, improved safety, as well as the ability to handle up to 3,000 charge-discharge cycles. BYD’s batteries are also cobalt-free, helping sustainability.
How long does it take to charge?
Plug a depleted 44.9kWh Dolphin into a 7kW wallbox, and it will be fully charged in just over seven hours. When connected to a fast charger, the battery can be charged at a maximum of 60kW, giving a 0-80 per cent fill in around 45 minutes. The 60.9kWh unit can take 88kW, reaching the same state of charge in the same time. A 30-80 per cent top-up takes 29 minutes.
How does it drive?
With tri-colour wheels and dual-tone paintwork, the Dolphin creates a smart first impression. Bold colours – including Coral Pink and Amethyst Purple – are even more stand-out, as is the daringly-styled interior with its 12.8-inch rotatable touchscreen. Not the last word in intuitiveness, it is nonetheless packed with features. Elsewhere, interesting material finishes impart a quality feel, with an unusual rotary bank of ‘roll’ switches, including the gear selector, adding a unique touch. At 4,290mm long, the Dolphin is nearer a Volkswagen ID 3 than a Vauxhall Corsa Electric in length, all to the benefit of space for rear passengers. Three power outputs – 70kW, 130kW and 150kW – are available and the most powerful motor delivers plenty of pace. The ride is comfortable, and with plenty of grip and precise steering, the Dolphin can be placed easily on the road. It’s a shame the two regenerative braking settings don’t allow for one-pedal driving, but overall, the Dolphin acquits itself well, and drives as enjoyably and ably as many other EVs.
What does it cost?
Four trims make up the BYD Dolphin model family, with two currently available to order. Priced from £30,195, the Comfort has a comprehensive standard specification which includes 17-inch bi-colour alloy wheels, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, automatic LED headlights, driver’s seat with six-way electric adjustment, electrically folding exterior mirrors, all-round parking sensors, vegan leather seats, voice control, and a 3.3kW Vehicle-to-Load function. Move up to the £31,695 Design model and you’ll gain 17-inch tri-colour alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass, and a wireless smartphone charger, along with the option of dual-tone (body and roof) metallic paint finishes. The 44.9kWh £26,195 Active and £27,195 Boost models are imminent, with equally compelling equipment lists. Value is a key BYD feature and is just one reason the Dolphin was shortlisted for the 2023 GreenFleet Vehicle of the Year award.
How much does it cost to tax?
All BYD Dolphins are exempt from UED charges in the first and subsequent years of registration, and for 2023-2024, fall into a two per cent Benefit In Kind (BIK) taxation band.
Why does my fleet need one?
A value-driven – but not cheap-feeling – proposition, the BYD Dolphin is appealingly competitive. Packed with technology, it is spacious, attractive inside and out, and drives well, too. Bold colour and material choices offer something different, and its four well-specified trims ensure there is a variant for every fleet driver. An impressive package and a car which is easy to like, the Dolphin is both a pleasing and very well-rounded newcomer.