First Drive: Is the new GWM Ora Funky Cat an alternative to established EV rivals?
The Funky Cat is a new electric hatchback from GWM Ora, but what does this quirky-looking EV feel like to drive? James Batchelor finds out.
What is it?
Good question as it’s one we’d reckon most people will have on their lips, too. The Funky Cat comes from one of China’s leading carmakers, Great Wall Motor, while Ora is its EV-only brand. The firm hopes to finally establish itself in Europe and the UK as an alternative to more traditional brands, and the family hatchback-sized Funky Cat is its first move.
It’s on sale now from three dealers, but GWM Ora UK plans to add more showrooms and models, including a Porsche Panamera-esque electric coupe-saloon, in 2023. Does it stand a chance against an increasingly impressive pool of European EVs? We’ve been finding out.
Great Wall has been in the UK before with its rather underwhelming Steed pick-up, but this time around it’s going after the electric hatchback customer with its Ora brand. That’s no easy feat as this sector is dominated by the likes of the Volkswagen ID.3, Vauxhall’s Corsa-e and Mini Electric.
There’s also the small matter of the MG4 – a car built by GWM’s big Chinese rival SAIC, and one which undercuts nearly all of its competition on price and electric driving range.
What’s under the bonnet?
When GWM Ora first hinted it was bringing its Funky Cat to the UK, there was talk of a low entry price and two battery options – 48kWh and 63kWh. For the time being, however, only the smaller battery is on offer, paired with a 169bhp electric motor that powers the front wheels.
In terms of charging, an 80 per cent top-up with a standard home wallbox will take five hours and 24 minutes, while a three-phase 11kW on-street charger cuts that down to three hours and 12 minutes. The Funky Cat can only charge up to speeds of 64kW, so plug into a 100kW ultra-rapid charger and an 80 per cent fill-up will take around 45 minutes.
Lastly, you’ll be able to squeeze a claimed 193 miles out of the 48kWh battery, while 261 miles is claimed for the forthcoming 63kWh version.
What’s it like to drive?
With its cutesy, unthreatening image, it would be easy to dismiss the Funky Cat as not much cop to drive. But that’s the first surprise as it’s rather entertaining, with sharp steering, a very balanced and comfortable ride, and more than enough poke.
A 0-60mph time of just over eight seconds is nothing to write home about for an EV, but it certainly feels quicker than that, and there’s a pleasing linear feel to the way it accelerates; even selecting the ‘Sport’ setting doesn’t pin the driver to their seat.
How does it look?
It’s the styling that really marks out the Funky Cat. You see, while most electric family hatchbacks favour a modern, even futuristic look, GWM Ora has gone for a more retro look.
The huge headlamps and curvy bonnet perhaps ape a Porsche 911, and two of the four colour combinations offered have a slightly ’50s Americana flavour to them. That said, the rear light bar is more on trend, even if it does strobe like KITT from Knight Rider.
What’s it like inside?
The first surprise is how well the Funky Cat drives, and the second is how plush it is on the inside. There’s a solid feel to the interior – the doors thunk as they do in an ID.3, but the material quality far exceeds the German electric hatchback in every respect.
Most surfaces are either covered in stitched faux leather or squidgy soft-touch plastic, and the switchgear all feels good – the row of chrome ventilation controls are even Mini-like in look and feel. The Funky Cat gets two 10.25-inch screens and while there’s plenty of functionality, the menus are a little clunky and tricky to use on the move. And while we’re on the subject of things that could be better, the passenger space is more than adequate but the boot, at 228 litres, is a little on the small side.
What’s the spec like?
This is where the Funky Cat ends up having its tail between its legs, as for the time being there’s only one high-spec First Edition offered.
There’s no criticising the equipment that’s thrown in as standard, as the Funky Cat gets those screens, electrically adjustable front seats and a 360-degree parking camera. In fact, the parking aid is just the start as the Funky Cat has received a full NCAP five-star safety rating on account of its suite of safety gizmos. Features such as lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert with a braking function, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and lane change assist normally come as part of costly options pack on rivals, but not with the Funky Cat.
However, there’s a but. When the Funky Cat was first mooted for the UK, a price of £25,000 was hinted at, but this First Edition costs from £31,995. While cheaper versions are set to follow, that’s a whole heap of money for a car from an unknown brand. For comparison, an MG4 Trophy Long Range can travel further (270 miles) and costs £31,495, while a Cupra Born has a 20 per cent larger battery, is more powerful, costs just £4,500 more and is nicer to drive.
It’s a shame GWM Ora has decided to offer such a high-spec First Edition trim level at the car’s launch, as the car’s high price relative to its 193-mile range and limited dealer network makes it a tough sell. Moreover, the car’s cutesy styling and quality interior are the only things that make it stand out in a marketplace that’s currently focused on range and affordability.
There’s a good car that drives very well beneath the lavish spec, though, and the Funky Cat – the name being a perfect example – does add a sense of fun and character to the typical family electric car that can very often come across as being a little straight-laced.
Forthcoming cheaper models will probably make more sense, but on this first impression, there is much to like about the Funky Cat.