Text: Brent Co / Photos: Jet Rabe | posted November 13, 2013 15:35
Electronic Wonder on four wheels
Say hello to BYD, the latest Chinese automotive brand in the Philippines.
BYD, an acronym for Build Your Dreams, is a car brand that debuted through Solar Transport and Automotive Resources (STAR) Corporation. The BYD brand-name is considered one of the younger players in the global automotive market, having been founded in 2002 by the Chinese conglomerate of the same name that's also major player in the IT and new energy industries.
This particular models is the BYD F5 Surui, and despite being a Chinese automobile, is one of the most high-tech offerings in the Philippine auto market.
The F5 Surui first debuted at the Beijing Auto Show last year alongside the Qin hybrid car which was recently shown beating performance compact cars. Design-wise, we can’t help but see the resemblance of a Corolla in the F5. We can't really blame BYD; it's only smart to use 'inspiration' from the world’s best selling car (40 million and counting). The Chinese company does insert its own design inputs on the exterior here and there with components like LED taillights and a fin-type GPS antenna. Nowadays cars generally look alike at some point, given that designers typically do their rounds with different brands. Chinese carmakers themselves have started hiring foreign designers to produce more original styling in response to critics.
Cabin feel is significantly better on the F5 compared to other Chinese cars we have previously driven. Particularly of note is that the F5 does not have the normally sharp 'Chinese new car scent'; BYD has somehow managed to tone this down to tolerable levels. They have added premium features like piano black accents, leather seats, a high-tech multimedia system with 10 speakers, steering wheel integrated controls, dual-mode sunroof and textured center console trim (they should have stuck with piano black). While majority of the interior parts are made of hard plastic, they are of rather admirable quality and finish.
The F5, as we said, is a very feature-packed automobile, and most notable of all (not to mention unique) is that it comes with the world’s first remote driving technology where you can move your car forward, reverse, and turn it as well. Useful for getting in and out of tight parking spots or even just trying to impress girls or people around in general.
A smart key system for push button access to the doors, trunk and engine start/stop. The vehicle also features an intuitive multimedia system with a very response touch screen with DVD, navigation, audio, parking and side camera view functions. I wish they used better quality cameras though. It even has a calendar with on-screen schedule reminders.
Under the hood is a 'BYD developed’ aluminum 1.5-liter 'Turbo Power Stratified' VVL engine which produces 154 PS @ 5200 rpm and 240 Nm of torque from 1750-3500 rpm. The engine is likely based on a VW 1.4-liter TSI engine which has a similar engine layout and produces similar numbers. The engine is mated to a 6-speed electronically controlled dual clutch automatic transmission.
Upon startup, the engine seems a bit rough and noisy, but it smooths up on idle. Acceleration is quite zippy once you get the car to run within the powerband as the boost kicks in. The generous amount of torque-band gives a good amount of pull to overtake and weave through traffic.
The F5 is equipped with an electric power steering (EPS) system, which allows for lighter steering while maneuvering through slow-paced traffic in the metropolis. The system is very responsive and brings the car precisely where you point it to. However, the system does not seem to compensate for higher speeds and stiffen like other vehicles equipped with EPS. The suspension has been well tuned to give a good balance of handling and comfort and seems solid enough to endure the abusive nature of Philippine roads.
For safety, the F5 is fitted with four wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Override System (BOS), ESP, 6 SRS airbags (dual front, side, and curtain airbags on all windows), hill-start assist, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), side mirror mounted blindspot camera, safety belt warning, parking radar and rear parking camera (needs a better resolution camera). The F5 was also recently recognized by the China NCAP with a 5-star rating, its best ever rated passenger car, so far.
All the features included in the BYD F5 Surui seem to make it an attractive package for its retail price of PhP1,018,000. As for durability and reliability, only time can tell. Based on our test drive and overall assessment, the F5 seems to be a well-built car that comes with impressive safety credentials. I do find the rather rough sounding cold engine start quite disturbing. Philippine distributor STAR Corp. has also guaranteed that it will be providing parts and service support to back their 3-year warranty for their cars.