August 23, 2022 By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Isabel N. Delos Reyes

2022 BYD Dolphin

The Electrified Free Spirit

BYD, is in the top spot in its home market where it is known and celebrated most. As of this review of the Dolphin, BYD is the second ranked pure-EV manufacturer in the world, steadily closing in on Tesla, even topping them periodically. Yet, if you were not keenly following the progress of electrified mobility and you were not a dedicated car aficionado you may not even know of the brand’s existence. Truthfully, the brand was not on my radar back when the official distributor of BYD was established in the Philippines in 2013. If it were not for the perseverance and hard work of the family-owned Solar Transport and Automotive Resources Corporation’s Managing Director, Mark Tieng, over the years I would not appreciate the product developments and success of the core company beyond the fact that famously Warren Buffet owns a 10% stake in the company in China.

BYD, stands for Build Your Dreams, and is a global automotive brand available in more than 80 countries, that specializes in gasoline and electrified cars. The products have been steeply improving rapidly, however, until the Dolphin, the models offered in our market were usually already dated compared to units sold in China. The business is so strong in China that Mark has been struggling to get the models that he wants to sell in our market.

Without question, the battery technology and electric motors applied to the units that did get sold in our market were exemplary in function but commercial sales have been modest due more to high acquisition costs and product packaging. The Dolphin is an all-electric subcompact hatchback that will definitely turn the tide for the brand in our market.

The Dolphin was launched in China last year and has already sold more than 30,000 units in its home market. At the moment it is offered in two color schemes and three levels of packaging (two battery types offered: 30.72 kWh with 300 kilometers of range with 70 kW/180 Nm power and two versions of 44.9 kWh, essentially with the same 400-kilometer range but one produces 70 kW/180 Nm of power while the second produces 130 kW/290 Nm). Our market gets the choice of the two-color schemes: Grey Orange (our test unit) and Grey Green using the same balanced mid-level packaging using the 400-kilometer range and 70 kW/180 Nm of power. It was designed by the former AUDI design chief (he was also the design chief at different periods for Alfa Romeo, SEAT, Lancia, and Lamborghini), Wolfgang Egger, who is now the Global Design Director for BYD. Egger designed one of my favorite cars of all time, the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.

The Dolphin literally sparks a whole new wave for BYD, it is the first model of a series that applies the new “Marine Aesthetics” design language (the other models in the series are said to have names like Seal, Sealion and Seagull in saloon and crossover applications), the first model to use the new brand logo, and the first model produced on the all-new scalable “e-platform 3.0” architecture that integrates the company’s ultra-safe Blade battery pack systems as a stressed member for a significantly more rigid structure while allowing a myriad of near future features like less than 3-second acceleration times from 0-100 km/h, 1,000 kilometer range, and rapid charging abilities to gain a 150 kilometer range in five minutes using 800-volt high-power chargers. It is said that in alternative markets the model names may use an “Ocean Series” named after sea vessels; including Frigate and Landing Ship.

Looking at the Dolphin in the flesh somehow reminds of the 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century character Twiki, yes, I am a child of the 70’s. It actually gives me more of a Beluga Whale vibe than a Dolphin because of the front overhang snub nose that creates a squat overall appearance. This technique is a result of having significantly less traditional mechanical and wet parts in the engine bay. But it does look futuristic and organic at the same time. The fluid optimized proportions maximize interior cabin space from a fairly long 2700 mm wheelbase. The Dolphin appropriately uses excellent full-LED headlights and lovely fine signature taillights inspired from the Chinese knotting handicraft with the new “Build your Dreams” moniker in 3D-lettering centered in the taillight cluster. The aerodynamic dish-style star two-tone 16-inch alloys are wrapped with 195/60R16 89H Chao Yang Radial RP76 tires that rode quite well and quietly so you can run them until they need to be replaced without concern.

It is 4070 mm long and 1770 mm wide with a height of 1570 mm. It has the same wheelbase length of a Nissan Leaf and it is actually smaller in foot print however it feels more spacious inside, and it has more drama and standard equipment at a significantly lower cost. The trunk space is 345 liters with the rear seats up, and over three times the space at 1310 liters when the rear bench is down though the rear bench does not split.

The interior may initially look minimalist until you discover quite a number of unique design and functional treatments beyond the central rotating 12.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system optimized in landscape orientation. The cylindrical panel switchgear of physical controls on the center console with rotary dials manage most functions directly with a clever little rocker gear selector switch that manages reverse, neutral, and forward drive with a simple flick. The three-color sport one-piece bucket powered front seats and rear bench are very attractive and comfortable. The soft touch faux gecko-skin pattern stretches over the whole dashboard and door panels with matching central patterns on both front and rear seats are very unique and create that organic ambiance that contrasts nicely with the modern design. The tasteful floating metallic door releases, rotary turbo climate control vents, 5-inch digital instrument cluster, nicely designed speaker grilles (6- fairly good sounding speakers too) and rubberized floating shelf in the middle all contribute to a compelling interior. Rear legroom is very ample and spacious though I wish it also had rear climate control vents.

The BYD Dolphin has a 5-year factory warranty or 100,000 kilometers whichever is higher, supported by a steady supply of genuine parts, trained technicians and 5-star facilities, BRO or BYD Roadside Operations, a premium mobile service operation, and a free 1-year AAP membership for P1,798,000.00 which also comes standard with 2 chargers; a 1.6 kWh wall outlet and a 7-kW wall mounted charger. A full charge for a completely depleted battery will cost approximately P490.00 which would take around 6 to 7 hours to charge to achieve a range of up to 400 road kilometers.

The BYD Dolphin is the most affordable fully electric vehicle in our market with very manageable compromises. It is very zippy and handles really well as it absorbs our road harshness. For general safety it creates audible exterior chiming since it drives so silently which can get annoying but I enjoyed driving it nonetheless. Acceleration is more than ample and you really do not need a higher top speed for our country. With the costs of fuel becoming quite restrictive, the Dolphin is a magnificent and efficient alternative for daily commuting which can be very entertaining too on weekend journeys out of town.

Specifications

Engine

Engine Permanent-magnet synchronous AC, 44.9-kWh lithium iron phosphate Blade battery pack
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 94 hp (70 kW)
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 133 lb-ft (180 Nm)
Transmission 1-Speed Direct Drive

Performance

Top Speed 150 km/h (94 mph) Governed
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 9.3 sec.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l) 392 kilometer real-world range from the factory listed 405-kilometer (NEDC) claim.

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) PhP 1,798,000.00 (includes a free 7kW AC Home Wall Charger and 1.6kW AC Onboard Travel Charger)
What's Great Spacious, fairly strong dynamic performance, dependable realistic range, good build, unique, feature-rich, competitive.
What's Not So Price, no wireless phone charger, quirky.
C! Editors Rating 9.5/10
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