Home Cars & Bikes The BYD Dolphin could be SA’s cheapest electric car

The BYD Dolphin could be SA’s cheapest electric car

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It’s release date is still unknown, but the Dolphin is ready to make a splash in Mzansi in 2024. And while it could be a price leader, it won’t skimp on quality, style, or safety.

Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) has confirmed its intention to introduce the Dolphin as a second model series in its local product range. This follows the launch of the Atto 3 electric vehicle in South Africa in 2023.

Duster-sized EV

The Dolphin is an electric compact crossover that’s close in size to the Chery Tiggo 4, Renault Duster, Hyundai Creta and Peugeot 2008. It measures 4 290 mm in length, is 1 770 wide, 1 570 high and has a wheelbase of 2 700 mm.

This makes it slightly longer than the fully electric GWM Ora and Volvo EX30, but narrower. The boot size of the Dolphin is 345 litres, with a 60/40 split, expanding to 1 310 litres.

Batteries and range

BYD, which will soon outsell Tesla globally, has equipped the Dolphin with either a 44,9 kWh or a 60,5 kWh battery. South Africa could see two versions of the car; an entry-level version with the smaller battery and a range of 340 km, and a luxury model with 427 km.

Both derivatives will have a single motor on the front axle. The more affordable Dolphin produces 70 kW and 180 Nm, allowing it to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in a laid-back 12,3 seconds. As far as suspension goes, it has McPherson struts up front and a torsion bar at the rear.

Power and weight

The high-spec Dolphin puts out 150 kW and 310 Nm of torque to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in at least 7 seconds. It also employs McPherson struts for the front suspension, but uses multi-link rear suspension, which is superior to a torsion bar design. The car weighs 1 658 kg, which is admirable for an electric crossover of this size. The 44,9 kWh Dolphin weighs even less; just 1 506 kg.

Crash-test results

Though there’s bound to be different spec levels for different versions of the Dolphin, all will be comprehensively equipped – especially where safety features are concerned. Advanced protective features contributed to excellent scores in both the European and Australian crash tests, scoring the full five stars in both. 

“In today’s super-competitive European car market, Chinese manufacturers are keen to demonstrate that their cars are a match for better-established brands,” remarked Dr Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP.

Loaded with safety tech

In Australia, the entry-level Dolphin has the following safety equipment and more. (It’s unlikely to be different in South Africa.)

  • Seven airbags (including curtain airbags and a front-centre airbag between front occupants)
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Indirect Driver Fatigue Monitoring (DFM)
  • Child Presence Detection (CPD)
  • 360° view monitor
  • Auto hold for inclines
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
  • Automatic Emergency Braking System (AEB)
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  • Lane Keeping Support (LKS)
  • Predictive Collision Warning (PCW)
  • Rear Collision Warning (RCW)
  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Brake (RCTB)
  • Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA)
  • Front Cross Traffic Brake (FCTB)
  • Lane Departure Prevention (LDP)

Pricing and where to buy

Using the prices of the BYD Atto and Dolphin in Australia, the website TopAuto speculates that the Dolphin will cost around R625 000 in South Africa. This would position it “right below its main competitor, the new GWM Ora 03 that retails from R686 950,” according to the website. To see the various interior and exterior colours that could be available in South Africa, visit BYD Australia’s website.

BYD has dealerships in Umhlanga, Pinetown, Midrand, Pretoria (Hatfield), Gqeberha, and Cape Town (Foreshore), where the BYD Atto 3 Standard sells for R768 000 and the BYD Atto 3 Extended for R835 000.

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