An attosecond is the smallest time scale unit in physics; a tachyonic particle is a hypothetical entity that always travels as fast as light. So the BYD Atto 3 Tachyon is potentially the car with the nerdiest name in the history of the automobile.
It’s also a new flagship for the hugely successful Atto 3 range in New Zealand. Just in NZ, mind, because it’s a creation of the Kiwi distributor – albeit impressively executed and sold in showrooms as a finished package.
For an extra $8000 over the Atto 3 extended range (60kWh, 420km), the Tachyon brings 20-inch wheels with Continental tyres, custom black badges and decals, tinted windows, Italian leather upholstery and a suede-like finish over the lower dashboard and doors. The trim is done by Auckland-based specialist RVE.
It looks great and actually, for our money the Tachyon package addresses the biggest three issues in what’s otherwise a great mainstream battery electric vehicle (BEV).
The gym/body-inspired dashboard of the Atto 3 isn’t for everyone. Tachyon overlays a black suede/Alcantara-like trim over the top.
First, the Chinese Atlas Batman (ha ha, cool name) eco-tyres fitted to the standard Atto are not the grippiest, intensifying understeer and inciting the odd bout of 1970s cop-show squeal. The Continental MaxContact MC6 tyres fitted to Tachyon are better quality rubber and sharpen up the dynamic package.
Second, the gym/body-inspired interior of the Atto 3 isn’t for everyone – especially the cream dash upholstery, which is intended to look and feel like skin and muscle. Tachyon overlays a black suede/Alcantara-like (it’s not actually either) trim over the top.
For what’s primarily a cosmetic package, you do get an enhanced driving experience.
Looks and feels nice … although you can still feel the ribs of the sinewy dash underneath and it remains to be seen whether the material stays taut over time, ’cause it feels quite stretchy. But RVE is a master at this kind of thing, so we’re feeling confident.
Finally, not everybody wants “Build Your Dreams” written in massive script across the back of their Atto 3. It’s replaced by a “Tachyon” badge on this car – and yes, it is a proper badge rather than a sticker. As are the replacement badges on the front guards. Really nice attention to detail.
So for what’s primarily a cosmetic package, you do get an enhanced driving experience. The extra grip from the larger, higher-quality tyres is welcome and it certainly helps the Atto 3’s cornering capabilities. It’s still no sports car and doesn’t pretend to be: understeer is still the name of the game and the steering feels a bit sticky, but you can definitely corner with more confidence.
We also reckon it rides a little better on the bigger wheels, which it theoretically shouldn’t; but perhaps more sophisticated construction of the Contis plays a part there.
The bigger feet do bring opportunity cost in terms of range, but it’s nothing dramatic from what we can see. The official range is 420km, but we’ve seen 480km on the standard car and the Tachyon was still regularly registering 475km during its time with us.
The Atto 3 generally has benefitted from four major over the air (OTA) updates since we last drove it at launch in 2022.
These include Apple/Android wireless phone projection (although the rotating screen has to be in landscape mode for that), changes to steering angle and throttle calibration, and enhanced functionality for the “Hey BYD” intelligent voice assistant. You read more about Atto 3's OTA action in our review of the standard range model.
Oh, and the NZ-specific BYD owner app is now fully active.
BYD NZ says the idea of Tachyon is to give the very mainstream Atto 3 a more premium feel and appeal to customers who might otherwise be looking at the likes of an entry-level Hyundai Ioniq 5 or Kia EV6. Already, around 10 per cent of Atto 3 customers are going that way.
BYD ATTO 3 TACHYON
MOTOR: 60kWh with single electric motor
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, FWD
RANGE: 420km (figure for Atto 3 extended range)