Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Styling
The looks of the Funky Cat / Ora 03 are divisive, but most people seem to love it. There is undoubtably a lot of MINI in there, but also some Porsche 911 and even a bit of Fiat Punto at the back, with rear lights which aren’t quite where you expect them to be. They also do child-pleasing flashes and scrolls when you walk towards the car with the key in your pocket.
The ‘cute’ appearance means the Ora 03’s size is easy to misjudge, even in the metal. While it might appear to be the size of a MINI or Fiat 500, this five-door, five-seat hatchback is roughly the same size as a Volkswagen ID.3, Hyundai Kona or an MG4 – but is actually taller than them all. So it’s a bit bigger than a Corsa, but smaller than a Leaf.
The inside is interesting, too, because the Ora 03 tries to be more exciting and ‘premium’ inside than most of the rivals. So there are bold colours and interesting switches like you’d find in something like a Fiat 500 or MINI. You can just choose plain black, but the funkier options offer lighter shades and two-tone trims.
Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Technology
The tech is another area where GWM hopes to rise above the opposition and go some way to justifying the higher-than-expected price. It has a pair of 10.25-inch screens grafted together to form one widescreen of information, rather like in a lot of Kias, with one side for the driver’s information stack and the other for the central touchscreen. The graphics and responsiveness are good, but the screen itself is small and the touch buttons can be fiddly to operate, especially on the move, and there's currently no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Still, you do get nav, digital radio and Bluetooth handsfree and audio streaming on both the Pure+ and Pro+.
There’s two phone charge points in the front although they are the old USB format which feels a bit like having a cassette player these days. If you want to go really old school, there is a 12v socket too, which might be handy for a dash cam.
While some of the tech seems behind the times, GWM is particularly proud of the voice recognition system which can be awoken from its slumber by saying “Hello Ora”. If you use the precise terms which the system recognises it works well enough, but if you get it slightly wrong then you’ll find it playing a random song from the Deezer streaming service rather than setting the navigation destination for home. In most cases it’s just easier to press a button, especially for functions like winding down a window.
The safety kit is top-notch though, resulting in the Funky Cat / Ora 03 getting a full five stars in the independent EuroNCAP crash tests and assessments. There’s a 360-degree camera to prevent parking scuffs and a system which slams on the brakes if it thinks you are just about to pull out of a parking spot and there’s someone walking or driving behind you.
But there’s also a neat facial recognition function. If you set up the right account, as soon as you sit in the driver’s seat, the Ora 03 will recognise you, and set the displays, shortcut keys, driver-assistance systems and sat-nav to your preferences. It will also spy on you though, so if you yawn it will tell you to take a break, and it will also nag you if you take your eyes off the road. We can see the benefits, but several people we told had reservations about having a camera – and microphone – in the car ‘spying’ on them while they drove. A GWM spokesman said there are ways of disabling the system and that all data is kept in Europe.
Talking of data, there’s also an ORA app for your smartphone, which we haven’t been able to test yet, but offers the usual stuff like pre-heating and cooling of the interior remotely, charging controls and lock and unlock functions.
Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Interior and Practicality
The extra height of the Ora 03 compared to similar-sized cars means there is plenty of headroom in both the front and back. We had no problems getting comfortable in the driver’s seat, but rear passengers don’t fare as well. The curved doors make getting in a squash, and the floor is unusually high, which means it feels like sitting on a futon with your knees at belly-button height.
Storage space is good though, with a centre console nook for a handbag, a lidded storage bin and mobile phone charging pad. The door pockets will take a bottle too.
The boot isn’t nearly as accommodating, though. At 228-litres it’s only 17-litres bigger than the MINI Electric’s and is a lot less practical than the ID.3’s 385 litres. There’s big step up to lift loads over too and the shape of the luggage space tapers sharply inwards towards the top. The seats fold to reveal a 858 litre space - compared to 1,267 in an ID.3 and 731 in the current MINI. There is no frunk space, but there is a cubby for the cables under the boot floor, if you reel them up neatly.
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Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Performance and Driving
The Ora Funky Cat doesn’t just look like a softer, slightly flabbier MINI – it drives like one, too. That’s not a bad thing, as the sharp steering and firm ride of a MINI can become a little tiring on a long journey. The Ora is still on the sporty side compared to rivals like the Kia Niro EV or Hyundai Kona but is a little more relaxed than the car it will share its underpinnings with next year. There is a reasonable amount of feedback through the unusually large steering wheel, and it feels a little more natural in its responses compared to the slightly artificial feeling MG4.
We've only tried the Ora 03 with the smaller, 48kWh battery that you get in the Pure+ model, but you can also get it with a 63kWh battery in the Pro+. Both of these are front-wheel drive, get a 169bhp motor and can do the usual zero to 62mph sprint in around 8.3 seconds, which is fast enough but nothing special. It’ll keep up with whatever you need to do. But it’s very definitely not one to take for a drive on a Sunday just for the hell of it.
It’s refined though, with little noise from the motors and a slippery shape which seems to keep wind whistle to a minimum. The Ora is blissfully free from squeaks and rattles too, suggesting it has the build quality you’d expect from a car which is a joint venture with BMW. The only nit to pick is a notable rumble from the tyres on some road surfaces.
We also found the brakes a little odd. There are several stages of regen', including one which allows full one-pedal driving. In any mode it takes some getting used to, as the car will slam on the stoppers suddenly if it senses a threat and seems to temper the regen' according to the position of cars or obstacles in your path.
The indicators will also take some getting used to. As with most cars these days, a tap is all it needs to turn them on, but they don’t cancel once you have changed lanes or come off at your exit, and you have to press it in the opposite direction to turn them off. We would like to apologise to drivers in Solihull area for our seemingly erratic flashes, swearing and frustrated hand flailing. I guess it is something you’d quickly master if you drive an Ora every day.
Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Range and Charging
Back when the GWM Ora 03 was the Ora Funky Cat, it only came with the 48kWh battery and a possible 193 miles of range on the WLTP cycle. That is usefully more than a MINI Electric or Honda e, but down on something like a Corsa Electric or the similar-sized Citroen e-C4, which both manage more than 200 miles.
The Ora's 193 mile official figure will translate to a real-world range of around 150 miles, which is still plenty for most people, especially those who are based in urban areas. For those who need a longer range, a bigger 63kWh battery has now joined the range, so you can now choose between the 48kWh GWM Ora 03 Pure+ or 63kWh GWM Ora Pro+.
The Pro+ gets a WLTP range of 260 miles, but we'd expect a real-world range of more like 210 miles.
If you do venture further afield you’ll find the charging ability is decidedly underwhelming. At a maximum charging speed of 64kW on a suitable DC charger it will take 42 minutes to get from 15-80%, which means an ID.3 owner will have taken on enough watts to go the same distance approximately 20 minutes faster. That’s not so much of a problem if you’re doing a lot of charging at home - but if this is a city car aimed at people who might not have a driveway, that’s a bit of a miss, and it's really disappointing that the bigger battery Ora 03 doesn't get faster charging to match its touring range.
Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Price and Equipment
The Ora 03 Pure+ is priced at £31,995 while the Pro+ is £34,995, which isn't as cheap as many were expecting of this brand when it came to the UK. After all, an MG4 is still cheaper than that.
In its defence, the Ora is pretty well loaded with kit. The equipment list includes Adaptive Cruise Control, 360 Degree Cameras, 18” Alloy Wheels, wireless phone charging and electric front seats. Unusually, a 3-pin ‘granny’ charge cable is also included too. There is no seat or steering wheel heating on the Pure+ though, but the Pro+ won't only warm your posterior, it'll give it a massage too. Oddly, there is no rear wiper on the Ora 03– a trend among some electric cars which we know annoys some of our audience.
Perhaps more importantly, the Ora 03 is really cheap to lease, and you can get deals with pretty low deposits from under £240 per month. although PCP leasing isn't quite as competitive; there are 0% interest offers around but you seem to need a chunky deposit to keep monthly costs down.
In terms of warranty, the Ora gets five year unlimited mileage cover on the car, with eight years and 100,000 miles on the battery. That’s better than most, and matches Hyundai. But Kia and MG both offer seven years. Ora says it has cars available for almost immediate delivery too.
The only options available now are metallic paint for an extra £595 with the two-tone interior option adding another £200.
Ora Funky Cat / GWM Ora 03 Verdict
In isolation, the GWM Ora 03 is a great electric car. We weren’t disappointed with the ‘grown-up MINI’ dynamics. We also love the way it looks, the quality and the equipment list. The 5-star safety score is to be applauded too.
But some of the specifications are a little off the pace, notably the charging speed, its overall efficiency, and the boot space. Not being able to add heated seats to the Pure+ is really annoying, too.
But there is a more fundamental issue. We all assumed the Ora would be priced to compete with the MG4 with a price which started with a ‘2’. Ora bosses say the Funky Cat is a different proposition to the MG as it is more 'premium', but comparisons are inevitable.
Clearly the Ora 03 has been carefully priced to compete with the big players, and the quality seems to be a step up from most of the mainstream brands too, if you judge it by the solid-sounding thunk of the doors and the feel of the materials.
But GWM is a big unknown in the UK, and people will expect some sort of reason to buy from a brand they’ve never heard of. Tesla got a foothold with the Supercharger network and blistering performance. MG – hardly a new brand in the UK – has a long warranty and keen pricing.
Yet GWM doesn’t seem to have any overwhelmingly persuasive unique selling points, except the way it looks. So you’ve got to really want the Ora 03’s style to make up for the time you’ll spend explaining what the car is when people ask in the pub, and to overcome the nagging doubt which comes from buying from a brand you’ve never heard of.
The Ora 03 is a car which appeals more to the heart than the head. If you let your heart win we wouldn’t blame you, but we struggle to recommend the Ora wholeheartedly based on an objective points tally.