GWM says its Ora Sport – known as the Ora Lightning Cat in other markets – is “under consideration” for the Australian market, a left-hand drive evaluation vehicle currently in the country for analysis as part of the Chinese brand’s business case.
Replete with animated cat graphics and ‘meow’ sounds upon start-up, the all-electric medium sedan offers much the same running gear as its hatch counterpart, to be known simply as the Ora locally but as the Ora Good Cat overseas, with the option of 48kWh standard range and 63kWh extended range battery options.
Standard range vehicles offer a lithium-ion phosphate battery while extended range versions utilise a larger nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) unit. DC fast charging is said to take 30 minutes from 30 to 80 per cent charge.
Single and dual (permanent magnet synchronous) motor versions of the Ora Sport are available from GWM, the former offering 150kW/340Nm with a driving range of 555km (CLTC) and the latter with 300kW/680Nm and 705km (CLTC) driving range. All figures are provided courtesy of Chinese specifications and may differ if the model is offered locally.
The swoopy sedan is well specified with 19-inch alloy wheels, frameless doors, split panoramic roof, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats with massage functionality and an electrically activated pop-up spoiler. A comprehensive driver assistance package which includes auto parking is also featured on the high-grade variant.
Dual screens, the instrument panel measuring 10.25 inches and the infotainment array 12.3 inches, and head-up display are also offered, each bringing an expected level of connectivity.
The top-shelf variant also gains a heat pump and UV climate control system with fragrance dispenser.
The Ora Sport offers six driving modes: Eco, Standard, Sport, Goddess, Custom and Supersport, but oddly, just four paint colours.
The cabin of the Ora Sport offers a number of handy cubbies and seating for five. There are USB ports available throughout and an inductive charging pad up front. ISOXFIX and top-tether style child seat anchorages are provided in the outboard rear seats. The rear seats fold flat to illicit more cargo space
There’s no word on price yet. However, with the Ora (Good Cat) retailing for well under $50K, we expect the Ora Sport will be reasonably priced, well short of its nearest direct rivals, the Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Ioniq 6.
The Ora Sport, like most monocoque-framed GWM models, is built on the brand’s B30 Lemon modular platform. The architecture is said to have been the subject of some 124 optimisation tests and more than 8000 virtual simulations to deliver “high performance, high safety and lightweight”.
Our test drive of the Ora Sport was identical to that of the Ora (hatch) – a brief lap of the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) in Wensleydale, Victoria that did not provide detailed opportunity to experience the vehicle’s ride, handling, and range. As such, this ‘review’ should also be treated as something of a taste test, and not a comprehensive analysis.
Get passed the Ora Sport’s polarising looks and it’s refreshing to find the car is well put together, with a high standard of finish that appears to summon all manner of other models including those from Bentley, Bugatti, MG and even Porsche. Realistically, however, the model is a more likely rival to the Hyundai Ioniq 6 or Tesla Model 3 – just much, much cheaper.
With an expected sticker price of around $50K there is a lot to like about this Chinese newcomer. A mix of physical buttons and touchscreen prompts show a lot of thought has gone into how the car operates, and the leather upholstery, seating and steering wheel position is likewise well thought-out.
We drove the dual motor version of the Ora Sport at the AARC and can certainly vouch for the model’s brisk acceleration time. GWM says it will hit triple digits in 4.3 seconds, which is bloody quick by any measure – and especially when you factor in that all-important list price. This car is something of a sleeper, and who doesn’t love that?
But, like the Ora hatch, there are character flaws that make themselves known almost straight away. The suspension is decidedly soggy which doesn’t bode well for a car with 300kW at its disposal, nor does the light, remote steering which is better suited to an under-stressed family SUV than a dual motor rocket ship.
The Ora Sport seems to struggle to put its power down and is less refined than it ought to be when viewed against other dual motor, all-wheel drive rivals. At speed, it’s also somewhat noisy with a fair level of tyre thrum and wind noise taking away from what should be a quiet ride.
A localised suspension tune would certainly benefit the Ora Sport and help control some of the ponderous body motion we noted in traversing the tightening radius corners of the AARC’s five per cent grade loop. We’re sure it would also offer the vehicle better response in returning rubber to the road after potholes and the likes, which in the vehicle’s present state of tune can be quick to unsettle the ride.
We also didn’t like the larger diameter steering wheel and thin steering wheel rim. We understand the vehicle has a very female focus in its design, but are unsure whether Australian buyers will feel the same way about the car as the Chinese, especially given their familiarity with sportier cabin setups that have prevailed over the last couple of decades.
Still, the vehicle’s controls are otherwise easy to operate and the quality of the cabin hard to fault. Again, the styling may not be to everyone’s taste, but the materials and assembly are very hard to fault.
We like the clarity of the screen and HUD, even if we couldn’t understand much of the Ora Sport’s “native tongue” but enjoyed the clarity of the readouts all the same.
Up back, we think taller occupants may struggle with the head- and legroom offered, and reckon the back seat is best suited to two and not three passengers. Little tackers may also find the window line a little high, which means a booster seat is probably a great idea for those under 10 years of age.
There’s a good amount of storage in the car, the open shelf below the centre console a great place to pop a handbag, while the cup holders and door bins are well sized and placed, which should hold great appeal to those of us who enjoy a coffee during the morning commute.
We’ll be very keen to see how the range claims of the Ora Sport stack up when tested in the real world, and hope the niggles experienced on test are isolated to this “assessment” model. With the right price, and the right range, this cut-price Chinese newcomer could well prove something of a hit for Aussie buyers wishing to move into an electric car, assuming of course they like the look.
GWM Australia will keep us updated on the model’s potential for the local market, and we’ll certainly be waiting for that announcement with interest.