Smart styling inside and out, nicely roomy, but small boot lets it down
It’s cheerful, not cheap, chic, cheeky – and oh, it’s Chinese. Say hello to the ORA Funky Cat compact electric hatch from GWM (Great Wall Motor company).
Not so long ago we might have brought some scepticism to bear on thinking of buying a car from China. But this new range shows just how far engineering and build quality have progressed.
I think it’s only fair to all concerned – seller and potential buyer – to state bluntly that this has the ability to make you at least think about what you should spend your money on.
Yes, it has to prove itself to the buying public on so many fronts – pricing, extent of network backup, potential trade-in future value and so on.
And you cannot dismiss the fact that with cars, if not with life, familiarity can breed contentment: What is already established and proven is a powerful sales weapon when you are parting with thousands of euro.
Things can change quickly, however. There has to be a market out there of young, and young-at-heart buyers, eager to get into something different.
This Funky Cat may be just what they’ve been looking for. Heck, if an ould lad like me can get a bit fired up by it, how will twenty- or-thirtysomethings react?
If they want space on a small footprint – the Funky Cat looks smaller than it really is – then this will suit them. It is ostensibly a rival for the likes of the Volkswagen ID.3 and its ilk (electric and traditional small-family hatchbacks) in terms of interior space and general dimensions.
But it could persuade buyers of smaller EVs into sitting up and paying attention too. They would include the likes of the Honda e, Fiat 500e, Peugeot 208e and Mini electric (from which some styling cues such as the large circular LED headlights have been borrowed if I am not mistaken). I think one of its best selling points is that it outguns a lot of those smaller competitors on real-world range between charges.
The cabin most definitely felt like this was a decent family hatch of Volkswagen ID.3 category and size.
I think the deciding factor on who buys what will be price. The entry-level version with smaller battery and lower range costs from €31,995.
That pits it against the small EVs just mentioned. Meanwhile, the more powerful 400PRO+ kicks off at €39,995 – spec includes an opening panoramic roof and seat massage – is more in line with the larger hatchbacks.
Problem solved: you pay your money and you get the Funky Cat you that suits your pocket.
For all that, this Cat is far from perfect – more anon – but it measures up on looks (not everyone will agree on the shape of those headlights being a great idea), driveability and interior space with the best of them.
The thing I found surprising was how nicely balanced and nippy it was around town. Of course, much the same can be said about the rivals.
I have also extolled their virtues many a time.
In my case, I looked forward to taking the Cat out for a spin on minor errands around south Dublin. It made itself very much at home. And it won every battle with the tightest of parking spaces, thanks to so many aids and a nimble turning circle.
The interior, bright and breezy, had seating that was both comfortable and of sufficient breadth to take even a larger frame than mine.
It’s also nearly idiot-proof on many fronts, including the simple method of engaging drive, park and reverse.
The infotainment system was clear and straightforward but I would have liked a bigger graphic display on the driver’s screen to show remaining range.
One thing its techno system made abundantly clear was that it would not tolerate anyone being tired at the wheel. I don’t quite know why I was yawning so much in the course of one particular drive but every time I languidly opened my mouth, it told me to pull over and rest.
And so to the minus side: There are three areas I would work on if I were planning an update on this (usually there is one under way even at first launch).
The icons behind the shiny plastic casing for critical controls on the steering wheel are virtually invisible and I found it extremely annoying having to peer for the likes of changing volume for example. Really annoying.
There was a lot of road noise over more coarse surfaces. It filled the cabin. Maybe they should look at different tyres?
And the boot is tiny. Not sure how they can change that but it is small.
Overall, though, the Ora Funky Cat is good enough to create waves in the market here.
GWM ORA Funky Cat, electric hatchback; 300 PRO (48 kWh battery), claimed range of 310kms. From €31,995. Spec includes quilted leatherette seats, electric front seats, 18ins alloys, Adaptive Cruise Control, 360-degree surround camera, wireless phone charging. €120 tax.
400PRO+ version tested costs from €39,995; 63 kWh battery, 420kms claimed range. Spec includes opening panoramic roof, massaging/ventilated/heated front seats, auto park assist. Spread of safety and comfort elements.