First of all, what is BYD? It is short for “Build Your Dreams”, a Chinese car company founded in 2003. They have made their name by manufacturing hybrid and electric cars along side standard automobiles. BYD arrived in the Philippines in 2013 under the management of Star Transport and Automotive Resources Corp. (Star Corp) and opened their first car showroom and dealership at 312 Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.
The BYD L3 GS-i 1.5L DCT is four door sedan that is powered by a 1.5 liter four cylinder 16 valve single overhead cam engine that is rated at maximum of 107 hp and 145Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm. Power to the car's front wheels is transmitted by a 6-speed dual clutch transmission (or DCT). Stopping power is provided by the four-wheel disc-brake system with ABS and electronic brake force distribution system (EBD). This all sounds rather standard except for the DCT which makes me wonder why equip this car with a complex DCT where a more typical automatic transmission would have done the same function for a lower cost. We will get back later on that.
On the looks of the BYD L3, one glance at the car and resemblance is unmistakable. The car looks like a clone of a previous model Toyota Corolla Altis. On paper, the car is 4.5 meters long, 1.7 meters wide and 1.4 meters tall or about the size of a Toyota Vios. The L3's front end features projector-type headlights with a chromed front grill with a pair of fog-lights set low in the front bumper. The lines along the sides of the car flow arrow-straight from the front towards the rear and ends at the tail-light cluster, giving the car a simple and smooth overall look. Wheels are 15 inch alloys wrapped in 195/60 series tires.
Inside the L3, the seats are covered in black leather, with interior space enough for five average sized adults. Looking at the dashboard, the speedometer and tach presented as two orange circles with multi-function LED displays at their centers that feels both practical and somewhat futuristic in looks. The plastic steering wheel features integrated audio controls. Behind the steering wheel, resides the engine START/STOP button. The 7 inch touchscreen in-car entertainment unit features the usual radio, cd, dvd, aux and usb ports as well as serves as video monitor for the reverse camera. Curiously, for a touchscreen system, it has eighteen buttons or knobs. Wasn't the purpose of a touchscreen system to reduce the number of actual physical buttons and convert them into virtual buttons on the screen? The aircon controls are located under the touchscreen and designed as three rotary knobs that looks premium enough to belong in a more upscale car. The controls also are tactile enough to adjust them by feel and without looking at them which is a big plus. Overhead, the power sunroof is something hard to miss. Slide back the inner cover to let the sunshine in or slide open the glass at a push of the button for that refreshing roofless feeling of the wind blowing in while driving through the country-side.
The L3 offers a number of safety features. There are the usual three point seat belts, anti-lock brakes and dual front airbags. It also features electronic brake force distribution to help keep control of the car in emergency situations. It even has an isofix to secure a child seat, rear parking sensors, back-up video camera and headlight leveling adjustment.
So what is it like to drive the BYD L3 GS-i?
Boring. Which, in this case, is not a bad thing because it means the car drives and performs as intended with little drama. It is a compact sedan that will get you from point A to B every single day of the week. That said, the L3 could have used a bit more sound proofing because engine noise is quite audible from within the cabin. The engine seems to sound a bit “off” when initially started but seems to smoothen out after some time. The engine pulls solidly between 3,500 to 6,000 rpm through the dual clutch gearbox, although I do detect some gear hunting at very slow speeds. I can also feel a bit of shift-shock as the DCT tranny shifts gears during city driving. Accelerating from a dead stop and engine at idle will require a bit of patience until the engine reaches it's power RPM range. The same goes as the car tries to manage to go up parking ramps, it will just barely accelerate. At faster speeds like 60 to 80 kph on EDSA during an early Sunday morning drive, the engine and tranny combo felt very good and at ease. At a steady cruise, the engine would rev just a touch over 1K rpm. On level highway and flooring the gas pedal, acceleration can be brisk as the tranny quickly downshifts and engine revs up to it's power range. This fills me with a feeling of confidence that I could actually overtake slower cars on the highway . The L3's soft suspension results in some plowing of front corner as it goes through some fast curves. It is definitely no sports car but it still manages to retain enough composure to be predictable if pushed hard in a turn.
Fuel economy of the BYD L3 GS-1 one surprising good thing about the L3 and it is probably thanks to it's DCT transmission. The car achieved about 9 km/L in city driving with moderate traffic and over 14km/L on the expressway. For this one alone, I think BYD made a good choice on the automatic tranny type for the L3.
A few misses or things I would like to see improved on the L3 (as I drove it). The suspension and steering could have been “tighter” on this car, maybe using better rubber bushings and improved anti-rollbars. The driver-side power-window switch automatically rolls down but it does not automatically “roll-up” at a single touch. Having the auto roll-up function would have been expected. The touchscreen headunit could have been better if it featured GPS navigation. BYD should have invested a bit more to leather wrap portions of the car which a driver will touch and hold all the time, like the steering wheel, shifter knob and hand brake lever to subtly give the car a bit more premium feel with minimal extra cost. And maybe less seldomly used gadgets like the electronic “compass” integrated in the rear view mirror.
Overall, the BYD L3 GS-i DCT is a mixed bag of a car. On one side, the car is equipped with more features and gadgets than other cars at it's price level. On the other side, judging it as a “car”, it could have been a bit better, especially in areas like engine performance and the ride quality of the suspension. The L3 might not be able to match Japanese and Korean brands head-on just yet but as an alternative brand option, BYD might have something great to offer the Filipino car buyers, especially with it's 5 year warranty and “5-Star” customer service program which includes call-in assistance, and emergency road side services anywhere you may be.
The BYD L3 GS-i 1.5L DCT is priced at Php828,000.00.