CAR REVIEWS

2014 BYD F0 GLX-i

2014 BYD F0 GLX-i image

Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted September 05, 2014 18:00

China's little rascal

There really is no way of stopping the wave of Chinese cars coming into the Philippines. For the better part of a decade, the Chinese automotive industry has been a manufacturing giant, outproducing the EU and even the United States.

There is, however, one pressing issue: there are several Chinese brands that make near-direct copies of models from many foreign companies and despite the many lawsuits the copies continue, as the PRC government fiercely protect their own. That's just a fact of the business, and gradually Chinese cars from Chinese brands have made their way to the country with varying degrees of success and, sometimes, failure.

One of the newest Chinese car brands to arrive in the Philippines is BYD, or Build Your Dreams. Under distributor STAR Corporation, BYD first opened their showroom in Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City almost a year ago to the day, initially offering a rather selected line up instead of going full force with all of BYD's models.

Enter this little dragon then: the BYD F0. Let's see what this rascal can do.

The F0 name is actually pronounced as “F-Zero”, and is the most affordable model in the BYD line up. If the model looks quite familiar for those who have been to Europe, the reason is that the F0 is really a copy of the (now previous generation) Toyota Aygo; a model that was offered in the European market.

The F0 is really a supermini that measures 3460mm long, 1618mm wide, 1465mm tall with a wheelbase that is just 2340mm long. To put that in perspective, the F0 is much shorter overall than the Mitsubishi Mirage (3710mm), the current Chevy Spark (3640mm) and even the diminutive Toyota Wigo (3600mm).

2014 BYD F0 Rear shot

The F0 is really a supermini that measures 3460mm long, 1618mm wide, 1465mm tall with a wheelbase that is just 2340mm long. To put that in perspective, the F0 is much shorter overall than the Mitsubishi Mirage (3710mm), the current Chevy Spark (3640mm) and even the diminutive Toyota Wigo (3600mm).

The design of the F0 is quite young and peppy, though we can't rate its design highly given its near-identical look to the Toyota. BYD did change some details such as the front headlights (which look to be inspired by the first gen Smart Fortwo/Forfour), the vertical combination tail lights and the lack of the bulge on the rear quarter panels for the taillights of the Toyota Aygo. Nevertheless, the F0 is still very much a copy of the Aygo and reportedly has interchangeability on some of the body panels, including the front doors.

2014 BYD F0 Dashboard shot

Inside, the F0 again has a young and peppy look but, as expected, it's also very similar to the original with an open glove pocket instead of a closable compartment, the exposed steel door panels in body color, the door handles and many others.

Unlike on the exterior, BYD's changes are more profound and somewhat more functional inside. They've revised the A/C vents and added more vents in the middle of the dashboard; a key feature in a tropical country. The center console is also different with vertically stacked A/C dials and various switches; the material and the feel of the switchgear seem to be of pretty good quality. One particular feature I like is the separate tachometer pod mounted off center of the large round speedometer, though the gauges seem to lack a dimmer feature so they're quite bright at night.

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Sit in the back and you'll realize that this is a pretty nice place to be in. The material of the seats are OK, the legroom is pretty decent and the A/C is quite powerful. There's no power windows here in the back, as the windows actually tilt outward with a folding clip similar to the ones found on the AUVs of yesteryear (i.e. the Toyota Tamaraw FX). Open the tailgate and there appears to be plenty of room for a few bags; maybe 3-4 medium sized backpacks. What is unusual is my realization that the rear bench is actually fixed upright; I did try to find some kind of mechanism to fold the backrest down, but to no avail. It's bolted on that way.

Being a small city car, you don't so much sit in the seat as you do on it; they're quite upright. The seatbelt is also typical of a Chinese car as the actual belt is quite short and does not afford too much of extra length for XXL guys. Ergononics is quite good though, as the steering wheel and shifter feel natural and easy to manipulate. A sticking point is the positioning of the power window switches; they're located awkwardly forward of the gearstick. Also peculiar is a rear view mirror that lacks a day/night mode so if you have an idiot driving behind you with their headlights at full blast, you will get a bit more annoyed than usual.

2014 BYD F0 Engine bay shot

Powering the BYD F0 is a 1.0 liter twin cam, 12-valve inline three cylinder engine matched with a 5-speed manual gearbox. The all aluminum engine is rated to produce 68 PS at 6000 rpm and 90 Newton-meters of torque at 4000-4500 rpm. The F0 comes fitted with a comfort access smart key, meaning all you have to do is push a button (with the key in your pocket) and you're good to go.

In tight city streets, the F0 drives decently; in fact it's surprisingly fun and agile. Maneuverability with the tiny car and that short wheelbase is very good, and finding a suitable parking spot is almost too easy. Refinement is okay but not something to write home about.

The transmission's gear ratios seem properly matched for the engine's power and torque bands, but the limitations are quite apparent. At high revs all you'll really get is a bit of noise, so it's best to drive the car smoothly and efficiently. The clutch is light; a good thing for driving in heavy traffic. But, when driven economically, the BYD can return some very impressive numbers.

There was no fuel economy or average speed meter in the F0, so we used the full-to-full method in measuring fuel economy. The result? 12.6 kilometers per liter in heavy to moderate city traffic (16-20 km/h average, estimated) and 14.3 km/l in lighter traffic. On the highway, the number jumped up a bit to 18.2 km/l at a steady 97 km/h, though it does get a little noisy given the gearing.

The handling is the most surprising characteristic of this BYD. Econo cars in this category commonly get soft suspension settings like the Toyota Wigo. Some models like the Chana Benni, Chery QQ and even the original Chevrolet Spark tend to have somewhat uneven damping. Not so in the BYD F0.

Toss the F0 into a series of corners and the car feels like it's quite sure of itself, able to take on tight bends and long corners confidently. The lightness of feel and braking offered by the F0 is hard to match in its category, so much so that BYD Philippines even stripped and made basic modifications to an F0, thereby turning it into a little racecar.

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BYD's strategy is a very shrewd and calculated one; arrive with a few models to sell, gain a measure of the market, gauge the after sales requirements, and then expand when the time is right. This is in contrast to what Chery did in 2007, as they had problems regarding local homologation which caused massive delays (they reportedly submitted technical documents in Chinese) in the issuance of plates and even with parts logistics after they sold big numbers. BYD is being more cautious and taking better care of their customers; the right way to go for any new auto brand and distributor trying to make a name for itself in the market.

Despite that, the BYD F0's biggest challenge is pricing. At PhP 548,000, the BYD F0 1.0L 5-M/T is significantly more than the 2014 Toyota Wigo 1.0L 5-M/T at PhP 499,000; the latter also has a DVD navigation system to boot.

It's challenging to pass judgment on the BYD F0. It's fun, it's peppy, it's fresh and the old 'new (Chinese) car' smell is gone, but the F0 is still too much of a copy and there's no way around that. I do wish BYD worked on making the F0 look more'original', but it is what it is.

What I know for sure is that there's an enjoyable and efficient little car in the BYD F0 so much so that it begs us to think that Toyota really should have sold that Aygo here a long time ago.

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