The new Atto 3 compact SUV – built by one of China’s biggest car makers – won’t arrive in Australia for at least five months, but locals can now put $1000 down for a reservation.

After months of delays, Chinese automotive giant BYD has finally opened its mass order books in Australia – though not for the “sub-$35,000” electric hatchback originally promised. 

The new Atto 3 compact SUV – known as the ‘Yuan Plus’ in its home market – starts from $44,381 before on-road for the entry-level variant, and local distributor Nexport claims customer deliveries will begin in July 2022 (approximately five months from today).

While that figure doesn’t make the BYD Australia’s cheapest electric vehicle outright anywhere, it currently sits in second place behind only the $44,990 drive-away MG ZS EV in all states but Tasmania (where low stamp duty and registration charges put it exactly on par with the MG in the traffic).

However, unlike its direct competitors, the BYD is sold online and pricing is not negotiable via a dealership. You can view on-road costs in your region by clicking here.

Currently, potential buyers can place a fully-refundable $1000 deposit to reserve a vehicle on Finalising the sale will not be possible until cars arrive, and, according to the small print, the advertised pricing is “subject to change.”

All display examples of the Atto 3 currently in Australia were built for the Chinese market in left-hand drive, meaning local media and prospective buyers have so far been unable to assess the vehicle.

However – despite not yet importing a registrable example of its new model and having no prior experience selling passenger cars en masse in Australia – importer Nexport is adamant it has “full factory backing” to build 1500 vehicles with the steering wheel on the correct side within the next five months.

Nexport has previously imported the BYD E6 people mover and T3 van – however no more than 65 examples across both models were ever sold to customers.

It claims it will import 15,000 cars before the end of 2022, suggesting ambitions to outsell electric vehicle market leader Tesla in its first year on sale.

In entry-level, ‘Superior’ standard-range guise a single electric motor sends 150kW/310Nm to the front wheels, allowing the 0-100km/h sprint to be completed in a claimed 7.3 seconds on the way to a top speed of 160km/h (view Drive‘s full deep dive into pricing and specifications by clicking here).

A 50.1kWh lithium-ion ‘Blade’ battery pack permits a claimed maximum driving range of 400km between charges (or 320km estimated according to European WLTP procedures).

If these figures prove to be accurate in real world testing, the BYD Atto 3 performance credentials will comfortably exceed those of its MG rival.

Inside the cabin, all five seats are trimmed in a two-tone faux-leather trim and infotainment comes via a 12.8-inch rotating infotainment screen.

Luke Todd – the CEO of Nexport – has previously suggested the Atto 3 will launch with a “five-star ANCAP safety rating” in Australia, however the peak testing body has confirmed to Drive no arrangements have so far been made by the local distributor for crash assessments to be carried out.

All 19 tested electric cars on the local market – including the MG ZS EV – currently carry a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

BYD cars are sold online via the EVDirect website, and a brick-and-mortar showroom in Darlinghurst, Sydney will allow potential customers to view and test-drive BYD products in person when road-legal examples arrive later in the year.

Servicing, repairs, and deliveries will be carried under contract by shopping centre-based mechanic MyCar, which previously traded as Kmart Tyre & Auto.

Nexport claims a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty for the vehicle.

The BYD marque has been a long time coming in Australia – in April last year Nexport said it was ready to roll out an electric hatchback then known as the BYD EA1 (badged ‘Dolphin’ in Chinese production form) for “well-under $35,000.”

At the time, the company claimed: “Our range of six cars will completely change the automotive landscape in Australia, and we expect to be a top-five manufacturer within 24 months.”

However, multiple setbacks resulted in those plans being placed on hold, and, in August, Mr Todd confirmed to Drive the more expensive Atto 3 SUV (then known only by its Chinese-market name, the Yuan Plus) would debut as the marque’s sole local offering by October 2021.

That date came and went, and the launch was subsequently rescheduled to November 2021 and then February 2022.

Earlier this week Nexport announced its previous promise to build electric cars and buses in the Australian Southern Highlands had been scrapped, blaming the NSW state government’s unwillingness to prop-up the ambitious project with tax-payer subsidies.

Extracted in full from: China’s BYD electric cars now on sale in Australia – Drive