Electric car sales are growing rapidly in Australia, and China is the driving force.
The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y are made in Shanghai, the BYD Atto 3 is made in Changzhou, the MG ZS EV is made in Zhengzhou, while the Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40/C40 are manufactured in Chengdu – and that’s just the beginning.
Not content letting its rivals have all the fun, Chinese brand GWM is ready to unleash its electric assault on Australia.
The face of that assault, at least to start with, is the Ora hatchback. Yes, we know it has a funny name overseas, but this is the only time we’ll write the words Good Cat… maybe.
Look past its unique design, which is equal parts retro and futuristic, and you’ll find a city hatch with a competitive range claim, a modern interior, and a price sharp enough to make it one of the nation’s most affordable electric cars.
Given the strength of its competition, the 2023 GWM Ora can’t just be affordable – it needs to drive with polish as well.
For the most part, it does.
You’re looking at one of very few cars to be hit with a price cut in 2023. The sharply priced MG 4 and BYD Dolphin have forced GWM to rethink Ora pricing for Australia, and the result is a starting price below $40,000 before on-roads.
2023 GWM Ora pricing:
- GWM Ora Standard Range: $39,990 (-$4000)
- GWM Ora Extended Range: $45,990 (-$2000)
- GWM Ora Extended Range Ultra: $48,990 (NEW)
- GWM Ora Extended Range GT: $51,990 (-$2000)
Prices exclude on-road costs
Drive-away pricing is also available for the Ora. It varies from state-to-state, due to the range of incentives on offer – for the full list, check out our price and spec story.
The MG 4 is conceptually similar to the Ora. It’s a small electric hatchback, and kicks off at $38,990 before on-road costs – making it the second cheapest electric car in Australia right now, behind the BYD Dolphin at $38,890 before on-roads.
A lot of affordable electric cars feel as though all the development money was spent on the battery, with the cabins an afterthought. That isn’t the case in the Ora, which packs plenty of showroom appeal.
With black leather (or leather-like, at least) trim on the seats, blue contrast stitching, metal-effect toggle switches on the dash, and a dual-screen infotainment setup, there’s a premium aura (not sorry) about the interior.
It’s not perfect, though. The Ora suffers the same seating problems as other GWM cars, with the seat cushion canted too far forward to offer any under-thigh support, and the decision to put an “ON/OFF” switch on the dashboard for the air-conditioning right where you’d put a start button is confusing.
Turns out you just get in the Ora and select drive to move off, but anyone unfamiliar will try in vain to turn the car on (or off) using the power switch for the climate control.
Despite its diminutive exterior, the Ora offers a decent amount of space up front. The big steering wheel adjusts for reach and tilt, and the wide centre console means you aren’t sitting on top of your passenger.
There’s plenty of storage for cups and phones – including two wireless chargers – and everywhere rest your elbow is nicely padded.
Infotainment technology remains a mixed bag. The system in the Ora still relies too heavily on small icons that are tough to press on the move.
You can use the toggles on the dashboard to jump directly to the climate controls, but settings for the regenerative braking are buried in a sub-menu that takes too many presses to reach. It’s nice GWM included a physical button for your drive modes, but it’s far less useful than a shortcut to one-pedal driving.
Wireless Apple CarPlay worked well during our time behind the wheel, connecting quickly and maintaining a solid connection. Android Auto wasn’t working on the car we filmed at Lang Lang.
Unlike the Polestar 2 or Tesla Model 3, which are instantly turned on when you put your bum on the driver’s seat, the system in the Ora takes a beat to get started.
Although you can flick to Drive and move off while the screens are still black, it isn’t particularly confidence inspiring to be driving before the instrument binnacle has turned on.
Rear seat space is surprisingly good, given the Ora’s size. Not only is there decent headroom, there’s enough legroom to house adults behind adults.
It’s easy enough to get into thanks to wide-opening doors, and the inclusion of a fold-down central armrest is welcome.
Although it looks quite small on the outside, the Ora feels slightly bigger than a Volkswagen Golf in the second row.
Rear air vents would improve on its usability as a small family car, though. They’re something we expect from small SUVs at this price point.
The trade-off for that rear seat space? Claimed boot space is 228 litres, expanding to 858L with the rear seats folded.
With a significant loading lip and slim opening it’ll handle the weekly shop, but will struggle with more than a couple of overnight bags – and definitely won’t swallow a set of golf clubs.
Power in the Ora comes from a front-mounted electric motor making 126kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
Two battery packs are offered. The Standard Range gets a 48kWh lithium-ion unit, while the Extended Range ups capacity to 63kWh.
The GWM Ora Standard Range has a claimed range of 320km on the tougher WLTP test cycle. Opting for the Extended Range ups that to 420km on the same test.
We saw a claimed 15kWh per 100km during our time behind the wheel, which equates to a range around the 320km mark in the real world from the Standard Range.
Our big takeaway from a quick drive of the Ora on private roads earlier this year was that it felt nicely tied down, almost like a warm hatch. That’s how it plays out in the real world, too.
Although it has similar outputs to a Golf, the shove from the electric motor at low speed makes it feel punchier.
It doesn’t have the neck-snapping shove of more powerful EVs off the mark, but there’s enough punch on tap to squeal the tyres if you feel racy away from the traffic lights.
The Ora accelerates smoothly, and the most aggressive regenerative braking setting is smart at city speeds. It’s a shame one-pedal mode is buried in a sub-menu, and needs to be reactivated every time you turn the car on.
One-pedal driving is a key differentiator for electric cars, allowing drivers to use regenerative braking to slow the vehicle without pressing the brake pedal, and it should be easier to access.
There’s a firm-ish feel to the suspension, and the steering is quicker than in the GWM Ute or Haval products we’ve experienced. It’s still quite vague around centre, but you won’t be doing as much arm-twirling to slot into tight parking spaces here as in other GWM products.
Despite its taut ride, the Ora doesn’t crash and bash over speed bumps or potholes. It does a solid job keeping the outside world at bay, and hides its 1540kg kerb weight better than you’d expect.
GWM has also made progress on the active driver assist front, although there’s still work to be done. The driver monitoring is nowhere near as hyperactive as before, but the emergency lane-keeping is still far too keen to get involved, and the pre-collision brake alert is prone to crying wolf.
All the assists can be turned off, but once again they’re buried in sub-menus in the touchscreen. GWM is far from alone; one common denominator between the Chinese cars on sale in Australia is their busy driver assists.
Get dialled into how the electric assists operate and the Ora is a relatively comfortable cruiser – but they’re hard to look past, because they are so determined to get involved.
Wind noise and roar from the tyres is well suppressed, which isn’t always the case in affordable electric cars. You don’t feel like you’re competing with background static when having a conversation with a passenger at high speeds, even on rougher Australian country highways.
Ora Standard Range + Extended Range highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- LED headlights
- 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
- 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- Wireless phone charger
- Leatherette seats
- 6-way power driver’s seat
- 4-way power passenger seat
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Surround-view camera
- Adaptive cruise control
- Rear parking sensors
Ora Ultra adds:
- Electric tailgate
- Panoramic sunroof
- Heated steering wheel
- Driver seat memory function
- Heated, ventilated, massaging front seats
Ora GT adds:
- Unique 18-inch alloy wheels
- Unique bumpers and grille
- Powered hands-free tailgate
- Panoramic sunroof
- Red brake calipers
- Heated steering wheel
- Automatic parking
GWM’s electric hatchback received a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP testing conducted in 2022.
The GWM Ora received an adult occupant protection rating of 92 per cent, a child occupant protection rating of 84 per cent, a vulnerable road user protection rating of 74 per cent, and a safety assist rating of 93 per cent.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- 7 SRS airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Crossing vehicle detection
- Blind-spot assist
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Reverse collision warning
- Traffic sign recognition
- Camera-based driver monitoring
The GWM Ora is backed by a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty like the wider range. The battery is covered for eight years.
Five years of roadside assist and five years of capped-price servicing are also offered.
The first five services for the GWM Ora are capped at $99. Logbook servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
There’s some weirdness about the Ora, but it’s more than just a curiosity.
It’s nicely equipped for the price, and there’s appeal to the warm-hatch-ish way it drives. It’s the most resolved GWM product we’ve driven, from the ride and handling to the (still overzealous, but less overzealous) safety systems.
There’s still a degree of polish lacking though, that would elevate the Ora from competitive to compelling. More polished interior technology, a bigger boot, and a more accommodating seating position up front would go a long way to making the Ora easier to recommend.
The gulf between Chinese cars and their Korean, Japanese, and European competitors is narrowing in the internal-combustion space, and it feels tighter again in the electric car market.
The fact it seems capable of matching its claimed range in the real world is also a tick, although we’ll have to put it side-by-side with the MG 4 to see which will go further in real-world conditions.
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MORE: Everything GWM Ora