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Car Review

GWM ORA 03 review

£31,940 - £34,940
510
Published: 29 May 2024
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It’s spacious and finished well inside, but the 03 is let down by some fundamental issues

Good stuff

Plenty of interior space, statement looks, material quality

Bad stuff

Crashy suspension, poor to drive, infuriating driving aids, not that cheap

Overview

What is it?

That’s a question you’ll find yourself being asked on a regular basis if you drive an Ora 03, although perhaps not as often as when it was called the Funky Cat. No, it really was.

You see, in China this car is called the Good Cat, while the other cars in Ora’s range are known as the Black Cat and the White Cat (both are small electric city cars). Fans of political quotations may recognise the naming strategy from former paramount leader of the People's Republic of China Deng Xiaoping’s 1960s quip: “No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.” Niche.

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Why’d they change it?

The official line is that parent company Great Wall Motor decided to standardise its naming strategy, but having not quite shifted 1,000 of these in the year after it was launched here, we strongly suspect ‘Funky Cat’ was simply too out there for the UK. So Ora has gone in completely the opposite direction instead. ‘Ora oh three’? ‘Zero three?’ Or just ‘Three’? You decide.

Ora (which apparently stands for ‘open, reliable and alternative’) is relatively new to Europe, but has been building electric cars in China since 2018. It sits alongside Haval, Wey, GWM and Tank as brands owned by the GWM overlord, and a few years ago it signed a joint venture agreement with BMW for the “development and production of electric vehicles in China”. As a result, the 03 is related to… the new Mini Cooper Electric. Though Mini will no doubt insist this is a distant second cousin, three times removed, and not a sibling.

Tell me more about the car, then…

Well, from the outside it rather looks like a mashup of a number of different designs. There’s more than a hint of bloated Mini about it and there’s definitely some K12 Nissan Micra vibes too. Heck, even the Porsche 911 could have been an influence on Ora’s designers if you really squint.

But essentially what has come out in the wash is a Volkswagen ID.3-sized five-door hatch with a small boot but decent space for rear seat passengers. There’s a fancy interior too with two 10.25-inch screens, but you can read more on that by clicking on the Interior tab of this review.

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How far can it go on a charge?

Great question. You get the option of two batteries on the 03: Pure+ comes with a 48kWh pack that’s good for 193 miles WLTP range, while the newer Pro+ gets a 63kWh unit for 260 miles on paper. Ora reckons both will charge from 15 to 80 per cent full in 45 minutes or so on a rapid charger.

The powertrain is identical in every other regard: a single motor provides front-wheel drive, and either way you’ll have 169bhp on tap for 0-62mph in just over eight seconds. 

What will it cost me?

Well, it’s not as cheap as the MG4 - which starts at £26,995 - nor the Mini Cooper Electric with which it shares some DNA. Okay that’s a smaller car, but it drives much better than this does. Oh dear.

The 03 will set you back £31,995 before any options, and the bigger battery is another three grand on top of that.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

The substance just isn’t there at the moment, and it’s let down by simple mistakes like the small luggage space

It’s an odd proposition, the 03. The cutesy retro design will no doubt win it some fans, but Ora will have to hope those same folk who love the pumped-up Mini aesthetic aren’t too bothered about the clunky, disconnected driving experience. Why not just buy the Mini?

The substance just isn’t there at the moment, and it’s let down by simple mistakes like the small luggage space, shonky infotainment and the fact there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto just yet. Although we’ve sampled Beta software that will eventually be rolled out to owners.

Still, overall it’s a tech-filled first attempt from a young carmaker and the ability to deliver one to your door in a matter of a few weeks could be a big selling point. The addition of the larger battery option also helps the 03’s cause, but this is still a really, really tough sell.

The Rivals

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