The Chinese know names. Undisputed. There's a brand called Weltmeister (the older ones will remember Germany's national soccer team once won), a goddess drive mode in the Ora Ballet Cat, and now the BYD Dolphin. The older ones will remember a clever dolphin named Flipper. Compared to Volkswagen, this point clearly goes to China's largest automobile manufacturer BYD for a compact model, which is fighting a hot race with Tesla for the global sales number one in electric vehicles.
Anyone expecting a chattering dolphin with a friendly, smiling face will initially be disappointed. The BYD Dolphin is comparatively reserved for a car from the Middle Kingdom. Which doesn't necessarily have to be negative if you also want to be successful in other regions of the world. A second argument is the competitive price: with a base price of 30,990 euros, the base Dolphin undercuts the entry-level VW ID.3 by 9,005 euros. But anyone who has struggled through equipment and option lists knows that such labels are not always meaningful.
But even in the basic “Active” configuration, the China electric car offers a lot: a heat pump, adaptive high beam, vegan leather seats and, above all, a whole cornucopia of driving assistants. These include adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic warning with active brakes at the front and rear, a door opening warning as soon as a two-wheeler approaches from behind and a blind spot warning. While the basic version is equipped with a 44.9 kilowatt hour battery (WLTP range of around 340 km) and a 70 kW / 95 hp motor, the top “Design” version that we drove, priced at 37,990 euros, has such Extras such as a glass roof and a 360-degree camera, 150 kW / 204 hp and 60.4 kWh battery capacity, which should be enough for 427 WLTP kilometers. The Chinese are particularly proud of the cobalt-free "Blade" battery, whose cells have the shape of knife blades that are thermally particularly stable and are even said to withstand penetrating nails without immediately bursting into flames.
However, the manageable charging capacity of 11 kW (AC charger / three-phase) and 88 kW DC charging casts a small shadow over the dolphin. With optimal charging performance, the batteries are filled from 30 to 80 percent in 29 minutes. Fine detail: If you want, you can use the Dolphin's battery as a power source for your own electric grill or e-compressor. The interior with its five-inch instrument monitor behind the steering wheel and the 12.9-inch touchscreen evokes memories of the ID.3. Only the head-up display with augmented reality graphics is missing. The operation of the infotainment did not present us with any major tasks, and the language assistant also does its job quite well, even if there is still a bit of room for improvement. The same applies to the software, which still needs one or the other fine adjustment. For example, the navigation prompts are late and the screen sometimes dims in bright light conditions. The Dolphin and the ID.3 have that in common. Even at VW, the algorithms didn't run smoothly at first.
The proportion of hard plastic in the interior is similar to that of the pre-facelift VW ID models. That's not really bothersome, especially when you consider the good price-performance ratio. Especially since the surfaces don't look too cheap when new, and the rotary switches in the center console for the automatic transmission and the volume are adjusted with a corrugated surface. This is not the case with the somewhat fiddly controls for the driving modes, the ESP and the air conditioning.
Overall, Dolphin performs well when driving. The chassis is tuned to be particularly comfortable, without the body teetering too much. The logical consequence of this set-up is that the build-up leans quite a bit in the corners. The steering is indirect and not a model of precision, but that doesn't matter too much when gliding along. Relaxed cruising is the great strength of the Chinese compact electric car. The 150 kW output and the torque of 310 Newton meters are completely sufficient. Especially since the BYD, which weighs 1,658 kilograms, accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in seven seconds and has a top speed of up to 160 km/h. Above all, the elasticity between 80 and 120 km/h is pleasant and gives a certain sovereignty. With the four driving programs Snow, Eco, Normal and Sport, which are selected via the aforementioned rotary switch, differences in the implementation of the accelerator pedal commands are noticeable, but even in Eco you don't mutate into a rolling chicane. The consumption fits anyway. After our test drive, the on-board computer reported 17.2 kWh/100 kilometers.
The 4.29 meter long Dolphin offers enough space, and you can also make yourself comfortable in the back seats. The trunk has a basic volume of 345 kilograms, if you fold down the backrests of the rear seat bench, it becomes 1,310 liters. However, you have to balance the luggage over a high sill and a narrow hatch. As an alternative, some storage compartments are available in the interior. So you can definitely look forward to this dolphin, just like in Flipper. The older ones will remember.