We’ve all experienced that concoction of emotions boiling in our minds’ cauldron when starting a new job in an unfamiliar workplace. We are the same as before, everyone else, the environment, and the way of doing things are tangibly different, making us work that bit harder to both perform the role we’re employed for, and rapidly learning about the organisation’s culture and systems.
This past month with my new GWM ORA Funky Cat long-termer has felt like that ‘are you new around here?’ sensation, albeit with the added pressure of needing to quickly establish how everything works because, you know, driving and all that. Despite being under 500 miles into my relationship with the Funky Cat, it’s already evident there is going to be much to write about, with most topics warranting the space of a monthly update each. Consider this introductory report as necessarily whistlestop in nature.
On paper, there’s nothing especially unusual here; it’s a compact, five-door, five-seater electric hatchback, with the motor ahead of you driving the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. Nice and easy. With a gross capacity of 48kWh, it’s a BEV designed primarily for shorter journeys, evidenced by its 193-mile maximum range. Early experience suggests 160 to 170 miles will be the summer norm. A larger battery option will be joining the line-up imminently.
Although referencing no older model in its back catalogue – GWM ORA only debuted as a brand in 2018 – there’s nevertheless a friendly familiarity about the Funky Cat’s styling. Amplifying its retro charm is the two-tone Aurora Green bodywork with contrasting Moonlight White roof. At £795, it’s the only extra-cost option fitted to this First Edition version, which – for now – is the sole variant in the range. Similar hues continue inside, in what are slick-looking, plush-finished surroundings. Some cheaper feeling plastics are found in the lower reaches of the cabin, but they too feel well-assembled. In fact, considering this car has already racked up almost 5,000 miles, there are no signs of being prematurely play worn.
There’s a generous amount of space inside, with ample room for four tall passengers, five at a push, but this benefit is partly responsible for the laughably small boot. At 228 litres, it’s 157 litres short of the load space in the Cupra Born I ran previously, despite them having very similar physical dimensions overall.
Almost all of the Funky Cat’s controls – including the majority of heating and ventilation functions – are accessed via the central touchscreen, with a smattering of physical buttons below that and on the steering wheel spokes. Icons and menus are fairly logically arranged, but are small and fiddly to use accurately while driving. It’s not yet compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but an enabling over-the-air update is expected this year.
Once started – just by pressing the brake pedal – you will be immediately aware of the abundance of safety systems on board, courtesy of synthesised chimes and vocal messages, particularly when engaging the adaptive cruise control. While I will explore these systems in more depth in a future update, I’ll confirm here and now that it’s the most interventional array of driver aids I’ve experienced in any car. Still, Euro NCAP appreciated them, awarding the Funky Cat a top-ranking five star overall rating.
Those aside, the GWM ORA is very simple to drive, with light controls, including a larger-than-average steering wheel. Disappointingly, early reporting is that while it’s not particularly engaging to pilot, neither does it play the comfort card shrewdly. Poorly surfaced, undulating roads are the norm here in rural Lincolnshire, features which don’t permit the Funky Cat to feel remotely settled. Motorways are appreciably calmer experiences in comparison. More positively, acceleration is swift enough to nip out quickly into moving traffic and deal with overtakes efficiently, although traction in wet conditions from standstill and slow-speed starts is compromised, the tyres scrabbling ferociously in their pursuit of traction.
First impressions then are definitely mixed; while the GWM ORA Funky Cat has an abundance of visual and tactile appeal inside and out, how it drives is proving to be an early source of frustration. But it’s still early days, and once I’ve learned its idiosyncrasies, we might get along famously, just like the second week in that new job.
CO2 emissions 0g/km
Range (combined) 193 miles
Date arrived 30th June 2023