Look for a cab in the city and, if you’re lucky, you could end up choosing between several makes. Though the Toyota Vios from several model years remains the most ubiquitous on the road, you’d sometimes have the option for other sedans such as the Hyundai Accent, and now, the BYD F3.

If it’s a choice between sub-compact sedans like the Vios and Accent, and a slightly bigger compact like the F3, which would you choose? It’s the same metered cost to you, theoretically, so you’d probably go for the bigger, likely more comfortable ride. And that’s what World Transport is banking on as it partners up with STAR Corp., exclusive distributor of BYD vehicles in the country. They’ve just announced the roll out of BYD F3 cabs in World Trasnport livery.

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Other than dimensions, which you’d like bigger, the numbers game would work in reverse for you as a hirer, in contrast to ownership concerns for weight and engine size. With dimensions that closely match those of the Toyota Corolla Altis, the Vios’ bigger brother, from several generations back, the F3 promises larger people as well as cargo space, and a smooth ride on the longer wheelbase (LWH of 4533x1705x1490mm, WB of 2600mm) while riding higher than most other cab choices (and perhaps drier with 170mm of ground clearance).

The F3 is about 100kg heavier than its rivals, not surprising given its size and seemingly thicker skin, and has a bigger petrol engine. If the driver didn’t over-inflate the tires to eke out every possible kilometre per liter of petrol, the weight ought to translate into better handling of frequent potholes and road wrinkles. The 1.5L 16V SOHC engine, while on the very edge of what can still be considered as a utilitarian fuel sipper, could be smoother running, more quiet, than the 1.3L of the Vios, and definitely more than the turbodiesel of the Accent. The inside should be quiet with the A/C making cool and dry the air you’re paying for, even while you’re sweating out the meter’s ticks in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

With this move to put their vehicles on the public transport grid, BYD follows in the footsteps of Toyota and Hyundai, all having embraced the brand-building possibilities, and not shirking away from the utilitarian image, of having taxicab models. In the case of BYD however, the move tends more to the strategic. Although they’ll entertain any inquiries from private buyers, they’ve brought in the F3 specifically for taxicab service, it isn’t a base variant to any of their other models.

The last time any carmaker did this was in the 1990’s when Hyundai rolled the dice with their Excel sub-compact sedan. The Excel didn’t prosper, not while purchases where possible only with taxicab operating licenses, but Hyundai did. BYD could do better with the F3 pushed for fleet service while also quietly making it available to any other interested motorists.

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