Dolphin Offers Best of Both Worlds

By Lee Pang Seng

IT’S hardly surprising that the BYD Dolphin has arrived to an overwhelming response in Malaysia. Being highly affordable for an EV (electric vehicle) doesn’t mean the potential Malaysian buyer is shortchanged on product features and equipment.

On the contrary, the BYD Dolphin comes very well equipped for an EV in equipment and safety features with a price starting from RM99,800. That best explains its runaway success here and fully mirrors the fantastic momentum it has gained in market share since BYD introduced the Dolphin at the Chengdu Motor Show in late August 2021.

Since then, BYD has sold almost 430,000 Dolphins till late July this year. In July 2023 alone, BYD sold 31,950 Dolphins, making up part of the 261,105 NEVs (new energy vehicles) that BYD sold in China for the month. This is an increase of 61 per cent year-on-year for July.

Although distributor Sime Darby Beyond Auto Sdn Bhd is using the same ‘New Wave’ promo tag as that used by Honda for its recently launched WR-V, we feel that it is more relevant in the Dolphin’s case. This BYD B-Compact hatchback has certainly raised the hopes of car owners interested in switching to electric power as a result of its affordability.

While the Dolphin has another Chinese rival in Neta V that was launched here earlier with a slightly cheaper starting price, the established Sime Darby backing is more likely to gain stronger customer trust. In any case, the big gainers are the new vehicle owners with these affordable and well-spec EV options.

Following the Dolphin’s recent launch, Sime Darby Beyond Auto organised a longer media run to provide a greater insight into this new attractive EV. This was a drive between Desa Park and the Elmina area and back, during which we drove the two models – Dynamic Standard and Premium Extended – in succession.

The two models are clearly aimed at offering the best of two worlds in driving experience; the Dynamic Standard panders more to the car owner looking to have a decent EV for everyday and personal commuting while the Premium Extended would find favour with the more outgoing types with a passion for speed and performance.

The Dolphin is categorised as a B-segment car here (although in China, it is classified as an A-segment car) as its body dimensions clearly slot it against the Honda City, Toyota Vios and Yaris and Nissan Almera. Its 2700mm-long wheelbase would, however, put it closer to the C-segment.

Dolphin Premium Extended

We started with the Dolphin Premium Extended. Before we go further, the Dolphins arranged for test drives - media and prospective customers - are of body colours that are not featured in the local BYD brochure. The Premium Extended came in a pink shade with dark grey bonnet while the Dynamic Standard was in a pale purple hue. Both models come with two-tone upholstery with white as a dominant base.

According to Sime Darby Beyond Auto, most Malaysian car owners are conservative in their preferences for vehicle body colours and upholstery hue; meaning less flashy and non-conventional options and single tone dark upholstery and interior. Nevertheless, those who fancy the pink or purple shades could still opt for them when making their Dolphin bookings.

The pink body of the Premium Extended is not inspired by the new Barbie movie although it might be a good excuse to pair up as a trendy promo. Having a dark grey bonnet adds a nice contrast that is underlined by the dark wheel arch mouldings. There are pink accents on the 17-inch alloy wheels too for extra glitter.

This pink splash is extended to the interior with two shades of it to complement the white seats and pink fascia linking the air vents on extreme ends of the dashboard. The dashboard also has another shade of pink that complements the variation on the seats. It is quite a dazzling colour play to brighten up the interior.

The curvaceous door handles from the interior look somewhat fragile but feels sturdy enough to serve its function. And the way the handle curves upwards, it sure looks good and strong to hang ‘tapau’ food or drink packets on them. Whether that is practical or safe is debatable. The Premium Extended also comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard.

Getting comfortably accommodated on the driver’s seat is achieved four ways via electronic means (the front passenger also enjoys power adjustments); this goes for the steering wheel height angle and reach as well. The five-inch digital instrument panel still needs some getting used to especially when there is the 12.8-inch intelligent rotating touchscreen at the centre of the dashboard.

There is no gearshift that is commonly seen in cars; instead, there is a gear switch on the central dash panel along with the traction control and air-conditioning buttons. You roll it up to Reverse and roll down for Drive. Roll it to the centre for Neutral. To park the car, you press the button on the side or another button further down the central console.

As we had driven the Dolphin Dynamic Standard during the car’s launch a week ago, we were already familiar with this unusual drive selection layout. The other thing was that we were looking forward to driving a more powerful Dolphin in the Premium Extended.

The Dolphin Dynamic Standard has an in-house developed BYD Blade battery with a capacity of 44.9kWh that allows the permanent magnet synchronous motor to develop 70kW and 180Nm. The Blade Battery in the Premium Extended has a greater capacity of 60.48kWh that doubles power output to 150kW and 310Nm.
As electric vehicles are all about enjoying immediate torque output to the driving wheels (which are the front ones in the Dolphin), we were looking forward to enjoying the seven-second 0-100km/h sprint performance of the Premium Extended. And we were not disappointed.

The Premium Extended has this eager to sprint feel every time we hit the accelerator pedal, spinning the front wheels easily and having them squealing. During the few instances that we opened up and leave the other cars ‘standing’ reminded us of the powerful sport cars that we had driven before. The fact that we could enjoy this strong surge of speed in a car costing less than RM130,000 on the road is an amazing experience.

The route didn’t take us through winding B-grade roads other than a few tight sweepers on the DASH (Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway). As such, we couldn’t have a better insight into the Dolphin’s dynamic qualities. Taking the few sweepers at reasonable speeds gave us a fair indication of the car’s dynamic merits.

The Dolphin Premium Extended is independently sprung all round with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link system at the rear. The tyres fitted as standard are the China-made Linglong Comfort Master of 205/50 R17 size that are exclusively for EVs. An interesting feature is that of a Dolphin embossed on the tyre sidewall.

As a result of its higher performance capability on the go, we could see via the instrument panel that the Premium Extended consumed more electricity when we stepped hard on the accelerator pedal; going above 100kW when pushed hard. This Dolphin model has a range of 427km (WTLP) that could be achieved with prudent driving that consumes less electricity.

Sime Darby Beyond Auto says it is working on setting up charging points to benefit its growing pool of EV customers (Dolphin and Atto 3 SUV – Sport Utility Vehicle). Perhaps here, it could take a cue from Tesla, which has already set up charging points before its Model Y is even delivered.

Dolphin Dynamic Standard

The return drive saw us in the Dolphin Dynamic Standard. While it might not dazzle in body colour like the Premium Extended, its light purple hue stands it out on its own merit. Pandering to those wanting an EV for normal motoring needs, the Dynamic Standard is understandably more subdued in outlook.
Again, this light purple body colour is an unusual option that is available if you want to stand out from the conventional traffic pool on Malaysian roads. Likewise, its multi-tone appointments inside the car. It’s less flashy than that in the Premium Extended with light grey air vents surround and two-tone seat upholstery,

Being the lower-spec model, there are only manual adjustments for the driver and front passenger seats although there is the same four-way selection. There are no ventilated front seats either as well as no panoramic sunroof. Most other interior details remain the same.

The Dolphin Dynamic Standard is also different from the Premium Extended in the rear suspension design, this being the torsion beam layout. It has smaller 16-inch alloy wheels fitted with Linglong Eco Master 195/60 R16 tyres. Both models come with no spare tyre but a tyre repair kit but they come standard with a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to alert the driver on any loss of tyre pressure on the go.
On the road, we were already familiar with the less urgent note in initial acceleration as experienced during the recent launch drive. With the lower 180Nm of torque going immediately to the front wheels, we didn’t get to spin the tyres nor elicit a squeak from them. But don’t be fooled as you could still enjoy a decent pace that belies its 12.3 seconds 0-100km/h performance. It also has a lower range of 340km (WTLP).

The Dynamic Standard appeared to hold its own on the tight sweepers along the DASH but the ride was definitely harder going over speedbumps, rumble strips and road ruts with the torsion bar rear. It’s not uncomfortable if you don’t compare between the two as the torsion bar ride is comparable to that of the conventional engine rivals.

Both the Dolphin models also scored well in the body aerodynamics department with wind rustle along the roof adequately curtailed for a quiet drive, even during the few short bursts of speed. The usual intrusion was the road roar over the varying road surfaces but that didn’t affect the radio music much.

Unlike conventional cars, you have to pay for the Dolphin service. Sime Darby Beyond Auto offers service packages of three years or 60,000km (RM1688), six years or 120,000km (RM3888) or eight years or 160,000km (RM4888). This covers the Reducer Oil, air conditioning filter, brake fluid, drive motor coolant and air conditioning refrigerant.

If you want more, there is the Plus Package of six years/120,000km (RM7888) and eight years/160,000km (RM12,888). This package covers replacing the windscreen washer fluid, wiper blades (front and rear), remote control battery, 12V battery, brake pads and brake discs (both front and rear).

There are three types of warranty; six years or 150,000km vehicle warranty; eight years or 160,000km high-voltage Blade battery warranty and eight-years or 150,000km drive unit warranty. BYD doesn’t believe in the battery swap system but the battery warranty system is long enough to give you many years of peace-of-mind motoring.