The ORA ‘Funky Cat’ is shaking up the electric car market. The Chinese brand is new to the Irish market and as part of the vast Great Wall Motors family benefits from its scale – this particular electric platform is a co development with BMW. The Funky Cat features loads of kit as standard and has very attractive pricing that can’t be ignored starting from €31,995.
Funky Cat’s exterior styling is a mash up of retro themes with more than a nod to the classic VW Beetle, there’s even hints of old Nissan Micra. Press the unlock button and the Funky Cat’s lights will do a welcome dance that a DS or Audi would be proud of. Look closer and you will see some embossed whiskers in the bumpers that shows the designers had a sense of humour. The essence of the car’s design delivers a disarming, non aggressive body form that will raise the odd smile. A bonus to its cuteness is that the Funky Cat gets allowed-out by other drivers at junctions long before any BMW! The body delivers a spacious cabin, but be warned the boot is tiny. Sadly there is no badging on the car whatsoever that says ‘Funky Cat’ just a large ORA on the tail gate with a small GWM badge to the right that looks like a grade badge (e.g. GTE / GLS etc.).
Inside the cabin seats five, four is best, and is very spacious considering the car’s compact, almost supermini-like appearance – in reality the Funky Cat takes up about as much road space as a VW Golf. Rear cabin space is great. Funky Cat has a premium feel and our top spec 400 Pro+ test car (from €39,995) shames quite a few premium brands. It is easier to say what the 400 Pro+ doesn’t have than list its’ equipment… yep, it has almost every option as standard bar CarPlay and Android Auto – that is on the way and will be an over the air update. The car can recognise the face of the driver when they get in and adjust settings accordingly. Large touch screens, MINI-like toggle switches and a rotary gear selector are some of the nicer touches to the cabin – we even have heated and massaging seats in our range topping model and a heated steering wheel. Voice activation via “Hello ORA” features. The Funky Cat has loads of driving assistance systems but many are overly active, makes all sorts of announcements – if you yawn – you’ll be given out to for driving while tired! At times the assistance systems, while noble and ultimately there to enhance your safety, are simply distracting and you will find yourself seeking out ways to switch off things like the ‘driver monitoring’ system. It is not quite HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey – but it’s not far off. In NCAP crash tests the Funky Cat scored best in class.
On the road the 1,540kg front wheel drive Funky Cat has a good ride but can be a little lumpy on some surfaces – not helped by its good looking 18 inch alloys. There is a slight bit of wind noise too at speed near the upper front doors. Funky Cat is brisk with 0-100km/h taking 8.2/8.3 seconds. Cornering is not dynamic and the car can feel a little vague – especially on damp surfaces on twisty routes (in fairness that can be most cars). Ultimately I had no desire to take the twisty route home or drive the car with any enthusiasm. The Funky Cat drives without any real vices and once you master the electronic aids – that can be too intrusive, the overall experience will be fine. The Funky Cat comes in two guises the 300 Pro with a 48kWh battery (lithium Iron Phosphate) and the 400 Pro+ with a larger 63kWh battery (Ternary Lithium). Both versions have the same 171hp/250nm electric motor and near identical performance figures – bar range from a full battery at 310km and 420km respectfully (WLTP combined). Top speed is 160km/h. The entry point model offers incredible value at this point in time. Drivers who have longer commutes should note that the Funky Cat will accept a modest circa 55kW (peak 64kW) maximum charging speed – so using rapid chargers will be of no real benefit over standard fast 50kW public chargers. The upside is the Funky Cat has an 11kW AC onboard charging capacity – you will still only get 7kW at home but at public slow chargers you will get a very useful 11kW. Official energy consumption is quoted at 16.7kW/100km (300) to 16.7 (400). We averaged a little more at circa 18kW/100km during our test week (that included motorway driving). ORA quotes 42.5 – 48 minute charge time depending on model to go from 20% to 80% charge. During our testing we often found fast chargers occupied or broken and made great use of public ‘slow’ 22kW chargers.
So what is not to love? There is no rear wiper and the hatchback-like rear screen can get pretty dirty. The turn indicators frustrated me at times as they don’t always cancel – meaning that as you try to get them to cycle off you end up inadvertently sending all sorts of coded signals to other road users as you attempt to finesse the indicator stalk to switch off! Big brother’s presence is both wonderful and alarming. Connected cars are nothing new but in Funky Cat the fact that the driver is under constant surveillance by a camera – in a Chinese car – is something that brings out the thriller novelist in me. GWM says the data collected is GDPR compliant and processed in Munich, okay… but… The display screens are filled with information and some cool technology but the writing and units displayed on secondary controls are ridiculously small and require too much scanning time by the driver. We did not have access to register the car to our own account but I am sure when the car is set up to suit the owner’s taste the tech will prove to be be more friend than foe. There is so much tech and assisted systems that you will need to pay attention to the handover to get mastery of it all.
The ORA Funky Cat is an impressive car, with loads of style and premium features at a very attractive price. Its inability to charge at rapid speed is a drawback but its ability to charge at public AC chargers at up to 11kW makes up for this to a great degree – although it can’t match the Renault Megane with its 22kW AC ability. The Funky Cat comes with impressive car (5yr mileage/ 12 anti-corrosion) and battery (8yr) warranties and five years of roadside breakdown assistance. Chinese EVs look set to dominate the market in a few short years, as they have the manufacturing scale to undercut Europe’s best. Pricing more than politics is the critical factor with any car purchase these days but especially with electric cars. We liked the Funky Cat and are excited for the next models to come from ORA as in previews they look particularly well styled.