Having grabbed the attention with its light-hearted ‘Funky Cat’ name Chinese brand GWM ORA has, in a surprising move, rebranded its small electric car as the 03 to bring it into line with other markets in which it operates. No matter, it’s still the same car. Just a little less … funky! Whatever it’s called the 03 remains a viable competitor for popular electric hatchbacks like the Vauxhall Corsa-e, Peugeot e-208, Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf and offers both impressive range, generous standard equipment and a competitive price. In a competitive market it faces a tough battle but those cute looks are a good start, even if some of the finer details lack polish.
“For all the generous equipment of the First Edition tested here, it doesn’t deliver a knockout blow in terms of bottom-line price”
GWM ORA might be a new name here but is a big player in electric cars in its home market, so brings with it some serious clout. For all that you might expect a bit of a price advantage over its European rivals but, for all the generous equipment of the First Edition we tested while still known as the Funky Cat it doesn’t deliver a knockout blow in terms of bottom-line price or monthly finance offers. That may improve as the range expands to include more affordable versions but it’s not quite the steal the (also Chinese built) MG4 seems by comparison. In terms of running costs even with energy prices as they are an electric car can still save you money, assuming you have off-street parking to install your own charger and a suitable home energy tariff with cheaper off-peak charges for topping up overnight when electricity is cheaper.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a GWM ORA ORA 03
“To help build confidence the 03 comes as standard with a five-year warranty”
We’ll put a holding score in here, on the basis ORA is a new brand to the UK so there’s no historical data to compare. Parent company GWM sold nearly 1.3m cars globally in 2021, though, and of those nearly 10 per cent were ORA models so it’s an established player. To help build confidence the 03 comes as standard with a five-year warranty and five years of European breakdown cover, with a guarantee for the battery and motor extending to eight years or 100,000 miles.
Expert rating: 3/5
Safety for a GWM ORA ORA 03
“There’s also a facial recognition system that advises you to pull over if you yawn or scolds you for holding your phone”
Five out of five for effort but points deducted for application, on the basis the 03 comes with more safety tech than many rivals but not all of it works as you’d want. Examples include an over-sensitive emergency steering system that tweaks the wheel for imagined hazards and a zero-tolerance, voice-based speed limit warning scolding you any time it thinks you’re going too fast. Given these systems aren’t always aligned with the actual limit on the road this can get really irritating, ditto the fact both reset every time you switch the car on. There’s also a facial recognition system that advises you to pull over if you yawn or scolds you for holding your phone. Laudable in both instances but perhaps a little too Big Brother for our tastes. We were also shocked at how much wheelspin there was off the line in wet conditions, speedy exits from side roads into fast-moving traffic too often resulting in a frantic scrabble and whiff of tyre smoke before everything was brought under control. All of this suggests ORA needs a little more time finessing its systems.
Expert rating: 3/5
How comfortable is the GWM ORA ORA 03
“The front seats are a little flat and lacking in support but it’s perfectly acceptable and the driving position and visibility are decent”
The 03 looks small in pictures but, in reality, is bigger than the Peugeot e-208 or Vauxhall e-Corsa you may also be considering and closer in size to a Nissan Leaf or even a VW ID.3. As such it feels pretty spacious inside, helped by the lighter two-tone interior on our test car. The roof is nice and tall as well, meaning plenty of headroom while the flat floor in the back and tall doors mean access is decent for three across the rear bench. The front seats are a little flat and lacking in support but it’s perfectly acceptable and the driving position and visibility are confidence inspiring. While it’s bigger than that of a Honda E the boot is rather small, access to it restricted by the narrow space between the wheelarches and tall sill over which you’ll have to heave your stuff. You’ll struggle to fit even a small buggy in the back as well, the Leaf offering nearly half as much again in terms of boot space.
Expert rating: 4/5
Features of the GWM ORA ORA 03
“There’s no CarPlay yet but ORA promises this will be added via an over-the-air update in due course”
We tested the First Edition model in its original Funky Cat trim, which came with pretty much everything you’d want as standard, metallic paint (on its own or paired with the two-tone interior) the only cost option. At the time of writing the distinctive colour combinations have been slimmed down into four options, as voted on by customers who joined the mailing list before the car went on sale. Each to theirs but we reckon the two-tone look suits the retro vibe while on the inside it feels very, well, funky.
ORA clearly pitches itself at the smartphone generation, a vibe underlined by constant bongs and chimes, kit like facial recognition and voice control via the ‘Hello Ora’ interaction. There are two big screens for your instruments and infotainment, built-in navigation, internet radio and wireless charging for your phone. Worryingly there’s no CarPlay yet but ORA promises this will be added via an over-the-air update in due course. It can’t come soon enough, the standard graphics being somewhat fiddly and difficult to use, with tiny icons that make even basic functions tricky to access while on the move. The physical toggles beneath the screen are a nice retro touch and provide ‘hot key’ access to heating, ventilation and demisting but it’s still not ideal. The sense the 03 may have been slightly rushed to market continues with annoyances like an indicator stalk that won’t cancel itself, often leaving you flashing one way and then the other as you try to turn them off.
Expert rating: 4/5
Power for a GWM ORA ORA 03
“There are big steps in response between the three driving modes, Sport arriving with a comedy snarl over the speakers”
In range and performance terms the 03’s 171 horsepower looks healthy compared with the Vauxhall Corsa-e and standard Nissan Leaf and it’ll do nearly 200 miles between charges, with a bigger battery on the way if you need to go further. At the wheel there are big steps in response between the three driving modes, Sport arriving with a comedy snarl over the speakers as the instruments flash red, the main difference being how abruptly it responds to the accelerator. Credit to ORA as well – it may be a new face but the 03’s smooth power delivery is matched with assured handling more than capable of keeping pace with its rivals.
Putting energy back into the battery when slowing – regen to use the jargon – is a big part of driving an electric car efficiently and most offer ways to adjust this according to the kind of driving you’re doing. In the 03 there are three steps plus a ‘one pedal’ setting, the latter meaning you can drive in stop-start traffic and come to a smooth halt just by lifting off the accelerator. This is handy, but it’s frustrating you have to delve into the menus on the touch-screen to access it, rather than select it via the gearstick or paddles on the steering wheel as you can in many rivals.