Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin with a introduction to ORA – one of five brands owned by Chinese car giant, Great Wall Motor.
Founded in 1984, GWM is China’s largest producer of SUVs and pick-up trucks.
It’s become a global player now too, because in 2018 it signed a joint venture deal with BMW which will include producing MINI EVs.
ORA is GWM’s 100% electric brand and the Funky Cat is the first of a family of cars coming to the UK, probably all with cute feline names. The latest ORA model has just been launched in China, where it’s known as the Lightning Cat.
According to GWM, ORA stands for “Open, Reliable and Alternative” and so far the strategy seems to be working well.
ORA sold 135,000 cars in China during 2021 and so far in the UK, more than 8,000 people have registered an interest in the Funky Cat, while executives have a modest UK sales prediction of 5,000 cars for 2023.
The Funky Cat is bigger than it looks in pictures, so we’re talking VW Golf sized – not Polo. Crucially, it’s also about the same size as the VW ID.3 – the car GWM reckons is its closest EV rival.
Priced from £31,995, ORA has kept it simple at launch with just a ‘First Edition’ available in four colours, including Aurora Green and Nebula Green.
With its blend of retro features and modern touches, this five-door family hatchback is a breath of fresh air on the road.
With its round headlights, sloping nose and bonnet creases, there are hints of MINI, Nissan Micra and Alfa Romeo MiTo,
The Funky Cat sports clever curves and a high waistline., while its pert rear has low set lights, a full width lightbar along the bottom of the tailgate window and a sporty spoiler.
Featuring a 48kWh battery offering an official range of 193 miles, power comes from a 168bhp motor driving the front wheels, giving a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 99mph.
It can be charged via a 6.6kW home charger in five hours 24 minutes, or 3 hours 12 minutes using an 11kW public charger.
If you can find a rapid 100kW connection, you’ll be back on the road in less than 45 minutes.
Once you slip inside the cabin and close the door (there’s a satisfying clunk), it’s clear that the Funky Cat is a class act.
The interior is right up there with the MINI Electric in terms of build quality and the near-premium use of materials.
The cabin trim matches the exterior colour and it has a modern, minimalist design. There’s a large two-spoke steering wheel, a row of toggle switches and a 10.25-inch screen, plus a large digital driver’s display (also 10.25 inches).
At launch there’s no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but ORA assures us this will form part of an over-the-air update in 2023.
The Funky Cat is spacious too, with enough room for adults to sit behind adults, though the 228-litre boot is modest (rising to 858 litres with the rear seats flipped down).
The heated and electrically adjustable leatherette seats are comfortable and even feature cool cross stitching usually found on luxury cars (check out the door cards too).
When it’s time to set off, simply select D via a centrally located rotating knob, release the parking brake and you’re away. Accompanied by a distant whine, the Funky Cat is as swift as you’d expect for a relatively lightweight EV.
A few irritations soon become apparent. For instance, the indicators are tricky to cancel. They require an incredibly light touch and it’s all too easy to activate the opposite signal. We’re sure it won’t be such an issue after a few weeks of ownership, but it’s not ideal initially.
The various bongs and safety warnings are slightly overbearing too, while the infotainment screen looks cool, but could be much bolder with a larger typeface.
That said, the Funky Cat is comfortable, easy and fun to drive with light, nicely weighted steering. Visibility is good and cabin refinement is admirable.
There’s also some decent performance (it’s not hard to spin the front wheels if you floor it, especially in the wet) and you can choose from various drive modes. We’d recommend sticking to Eco for town driving, Normal on more open roads and Sport for occasional bursts of range-sapping run.
You can select single-pedal drive mode, which almost eradicates the need for brakes – simply lift off and it slows down fast. Or you can choose between three levels of regen via the touchscreen.
However, despite its looks, the Funky Cat is no match for the MINI Electric in the handling department. Hustle it too much in faster corners and it becomes unsettled, but for everyday driving it’s just the job.
So, as long as you don’t go expecting hot hatch driving dynamics, the Funky Cat won’t disappoint, while a real-world range of 150 miles+ is way above the smaller MINI’s 100 miles.
We’d say the impressive new MG4 is perhaps its stiffest rival when it comes to value for money and driver engagement, above even the ID.3 and Cupra Born.
Standard kit on the Funky Cat Launch Edition includes LED headlights, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system, a rear traffic cross alert and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
In fact, it’s so safe that Euro NCAP awarded it a maximum five stars in crash testing.
Finally, a special mention for the voice command system, which works surprisingly well. Simply say “Hello Ora” and you’re away. It recognises your voice too and it can even open and close windows!