Independent, Expert EV Reviews & Advice Since 2006

BYD Dolphin Review

The BYD Dolphin offers a comfortable driving experience and a practical range at a competitive price; just watch out for some intrusive safety systems.

  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
  • BYD Dolphin
Green Car Guide Rating: 7/10

Key stats

  • Model:   BYD Dolphin Design
  • Fuel:   Electric
  • Electric driving range (WLTP): 265 miles
  • Maximum rapid charging rate:   88 kW

Summary

  • Good to drive
  • Practical 265-mile official range
  • Competitive price
  • Some intrusive safety systems

Background

BYD will be a new name to many UK motorists, but the Chinese company is actually a huge global brand, with a background originally in batteries rather than cars. BYD recently became the largest global manufacturer of ‘new energy vehicles’, which covers battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. BYD is now bringing cars to the UK market, with the Dolphin family hatchback joining the Atto 3 SUV and the Seal saloon.

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin

Design & Engineering

The BYD Dolphin is a 4,290mm long C-segment five-seater hatchback with generous rear legroom compared to some other cars in this class, and a boot capacity of 345 litres, or 1,310 litres with the rear seats folded down. The boot floor is quite high, but there’s a spacious compartment under the false floor to store charging cables.

BYD says that the Dolphin is so-called because elements of the styling, such as the side silhouette, “resemble the graceful lines of a leaping dolphin”, and the curves in the interior “create the illusion that the occupants are wrapped in waves”. We think that the side and the rear of the Dolphin look contemporary, but the front of the car feels like it needs to more closely resemble BYD’s Seal model, with more aerodynamic curves in order to be more in keeping with the design of the rest of car.

The Dolphin also comes with two-tone body colours and bi-colour or tri-colour alloy wheels.

Under the skin the Dolphin has a Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LFP) Blade Battery, 60.4 kWh capacity in Design trim as tested, although a 44.9 kWh Lithium Iron Phosphate BYD Blade Battery is also available. BYD claims that the Blade Battery has higher levels of safety, durability and performance compared to the batteries in most other EVs. The cobalt-free Blade Batteries use Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LFP) as a cathode material, which offers improved thermal stability and a higher level of safety than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The BYD Dolphin Design has a power output of 204 PS and is front-wheel drive.

‘Build Your Dreams’ is written on the back of the Dolphin, which may not be to everyone’s liking; although this is also a feature on the Atto 3, this has been dropped for the Seal saloon.

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin Driving Experience

Getting into the Dolphin for the first time, the initial thing that you’re likely to notice about the Dolphin’s interior is the curved styling details, such as around the air vents at the ends of the dashboard.

The next observation may be that the steering wheel doesn’t have much reach adjustment, although it should just about be sufficient to provide a decent driving position for most people.

Then it’s time to hunt for the gear selector. It’s not located between the front seats, and it’s not on the steering column. Instead it’s a small rotating button at the right-hand side of a row of controls on the dashboard under the touchscreen. You push it one way for Drive, and the opposite way for Reverse. Slightly hidden away from clear sight is a button on the right of the dial for Park – and there’s a separate parking brake between the front seats. This initially appears to be a somewhat unconventional gear selector solution, however you soon get used to it.

However when using this switch there’s no option to adjust the level of brake regeneration – and there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles to do this either. Instead, to do this, you have to go into the touchscreen, select the vehicle symbol at the bottom right-hand side of the touchscreen, then select ‘New Energy’ (not an obvious button to look for), then select regenerative braking, then select standard or high. That’s very hidden away, and it’s a lot of button-pressing if you quickly want to change the amount of regen.

Once you’ve (hopefully) sorted your driving position, found the gear selector, and navigated lots of menus to adjust the level of regenerative braking if required, when you’re underway you’ll soon appreciate the Dolphin’s comfortable ride – both its primary ride quality on smooth roads and its secondary ride quality on bumpy roads.

The Dolphin’s handling is reasonably agile – as it should be in a compact hatchback. Performance is also perfectly respectable, with a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 7.0 seconds. The Dolphin is front-wheel drive, which generally results in lots of wheelspin when accelerating due to the significant amounts of instant torque in electric cars, but the grip levels are reasonably well managed by the traction control system.

Like the gear selector, there’s a small rotating button to select a driving mode – you can choose between Sport, Normal or Eco – it’s not the easiest drive mode selector to operate when driving. There’s a similar, separate button to select a drive mode for Snow.

The Dolphin is likely to be used primarily for local driving, but if you venture onto a motorway then you benefit from the EV’s performance and ride comfort, but there is some road and wind noise. However on such roads you’ll discover what, in our opinion, is the biggest issue with the Dolphin: very intrusive safety systems. If there’s no other cars immediately nearby and you change lanes without indicating, as is recommended in Roadcraft, the Police drivers’ manual, there will be a violent and annoying steering intervention, wrenching the control of the steering from your hands. Apart from impacting on the enjoyment of the driving experience, if you pull out to overtake a cyclist and the car steers you back towards the cyclist, this doesn’t have the safety outcomes that were intended.

To switch off this intervention, you have to go into the touchscreen, select the vehicle symbol at the bottom right-hand side of the touchscreen, then select Driving Assist, then select Lane Support System, then select Emergency Lane Keeping Assist, then select to confirm this action. By the time you’ve done all this button-pressing you’re more likely to have crashed than if you didn’t have this feature in the first place. And you need to repeat this sequence of button-pressing every time you start the car. The one bit of good news is that the Dolphin is a much better car to drive when the violent steering intervention has been banished.

It’s a similar process involving lots of sub-menus and button-pressing to find the traffic sign recognition menu to switch off the speed limit warning, which is delivered audibly in an American accent.

The Dolphin has a large central touchscreen which rotates between landscape and portrait format at the touch of a button – although we’re not fully convinced of the benefits of this.

The main features on the home screen are three circles, for Navigation, Spotify and DAB. We’d suggest that more conventional obvious permanent shortcut buttons would be better – eg. for Navigation, Media and Phone (as it is, it isn’t that obvious how to find the Phone screen).

And there are no separate climate controls – there are some small buttons at the bottom of the screen; if you press the button with a fan symbol, this takes you to another screen where you can find controls for eg. heated seats (there’s no heated steering wheel), but if you then want to return to Navigation, you have to go back to the home screen first.

If you use Apple CarPlay, the climate control buttons aren’t visible, and so you lose all ability to change heating and ventilation settings (this appears to be an issue on many other new cars, not just the Dolphin – why have designers of vehicle infotainment systems not thought of this?).

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin Electric Range and Charging

The BYD Dolphin has a WLTP combined electric driving range of 265 miles in Design trim (and also in Comfort trim). Active trim offers 211 miles, and Boost trim delivers 192 miles.

After a week of mixed driving the real-world range of the Dolphin was averaging 220 miles (despite the car displaying a range estimation of 265 miles after every full charge).

The Dolphin (in Design and Comfort trim) has a maximum DC rapid charging rate of 88 kW, which results in a time of 40 minutes for a 10% to 80% charge. Active and Boost models have a slower maximum DC rapid charging rate of 60 kW.

Comfort and Design trim levels have an 11 kW onboard charger which can provide a 1% to 100% charge in 6 hours 12 minutes; Active and Boost models have a 7 kW onboard charger.

All Dolphin models feature a heat pump, which uses heat from the powertrain to help warm the cabin in cold weather, so minimising any loss of battery range. BYD claims that its direct cooling and heating system increases the thermal efficiency by up to 15% in winter.

The Dolphin also has a Vehicle to Load (V2L) function, allowing external electrical equipment to be powered from the vehicle.

How to charge an electric car

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin

Price And Model Range

The BYD Dolphin is available in four trim levels: Active, Boost, Comfort and Design.

The Dolphin Active model has a 44.9 kWh battery, a 70 kW (95 PS) motor, and is priced at £26,195.

The Dolphin Boost model has a 44.9 kWh battery, a 130 kW (176 PS) motor, 17-inch wheels, multi-link rear suspension and is priced at £27,195.

The Dolphin Comfort model has a 60.4 kWh battery, a 150 kW (204 PS) motor, and is priced at £30,195.

The Dolphin Design model, as tested, has a 60.4 kWh battery, a 150 kW (204 PS) motor, a panoramic roof, V2L, privacy glass in the rear seats, wireless smartphone charging, and is priced at £31,695.

BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin

Conclusion

The BYD Dolphin is basically a good car to drive, with comfortable ride quality and decent performance. It’s also spacious for its class, it offers a practical range of up to 265 miles, and its pricing is competitive. So it‘s a shame that it’s let down by intrusive safety systems, and by the interface for the infotainment system, which means that a lot of button-pressing is required to switch off not only systems such as lane departure warning, but also to adjust the level of brake regeneration. Better shortcut buttons and more streamlined touchscreen menus would improve things. The BYD Dolphin is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.

Car facts and figures BYD Dolphin Review

  • Test electric driving range: 220 miles
  • Consumption (WLTP): 3.91 miles/kWh
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0 g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED):   £0
  • Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2024/25): 2%
  • Price:   £31,695 (Design trim)
  • Insurance group:   33
  • Power:   204 PS
  • Torque:   310 Nm
  • Max speed:   99 mph
  • 0-62 mph:   7.0 seconds
  • Weight:   1,658 kg
  • Towing capacity: 0 kg
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor