ORA Funky Cat review - Select Car Leasing
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ORA Funky Cat Review

Introduction

Those of you who are into pick-up trucks might remember the Great Wall brand. The Chinese company made a brief foray into the UK market with the value-orientated Steed pick-up, but now it’s back with something very different. Sold under the all-electric GWM ORA brand, the new Funky Cat may have a questionable name, but it’s hoping to be taken seriously alongside electric hatchbacks such as the MG4, the Mini Electric and the Renault Zoe.

But first let’s tackle the name, which might well put some customers off immediately. ORA originally wanted to call this the Good Cat, which arguably sounds even worse, and Funky Cat is nothing if not a conversation starter. It’s just that the conversation might involve justifying your reasons for leasing such a thing. So does the cute little hatchback land on its feet, or is the Funky Cat about to find itself in very deep water?

Select's rating score* - 3.2 / 5

At a Glance

It might be difficult to get past the Funky Cat’s name, but the car itself ticks a lot of modern electric car boxes. The cute styling may take some inspiration from Fiat and Mini, but it’s quite a comprehensive design that gives the car a fun, playful look without detracting too much from the semi-premium positioning.


Inside, it’s similarly afflicted with design features from other brands, but you get a big touchscreen as standard and there’s a digital instrument display. The technology isn’t perfect, but it’s better than a lot of much bigger and more established brands can manage, which bodes well for ORA’s future products.

As does the way the Funky Cat drives. It isn’t especially agile – the battery weighs it down a bit – but it feels pleasant enough with reasonable ride comfort and refinement. The brakes lack finesse and the battery is a little small, but for those in urban environments that won’t matter too much. More important is the powerful electric motor and the decent interior space, which makes carrying four people surprisingly easy. Their luggage, however, might take a bit more persuasion to get in the cramped boot.


Key Features

It’s difficult to talk about the Funky Cat without dwelling on the name, which might be off-putting to some customers. But if you can get past that, you’ll find a reasonably stylish, well-built small electric hatchback with a smart interior and ample seating for four adults. That’s going to appeal to plenty of customers.

But the highlight has to be the in-car technology, which is advanced for such an unknown brand and utilises technology only really seen in more upmarket cars. The voice recognition software is among the best systems we’ve used, and though the facial recognition system comes with a few privacy concerns, it seems to work very well. Perhaps the touchscreen isn’t the easiest on the eye, but in terms of functionality, it’s much better than anything from MG or Suzuki.


Range & Batteries

For the time being, ORA is only offering the Funky Cat with the 48kWh battery, which was originally expected to be the cheapest option. There are long and complicated reasons for this, but the upshot is a current maximum range of 193 miles on the official economy test. To see how this would sit in practice, take a look at our guide on official vs real-world battery range.

That isn’t brilliant when viewed alongside the MG4, and it’s only on a par with the Fiat 500e, but it is considerably more than you’ll get from the Mini. Better still, our test suggested such a distance would probably be more or less achievable if you can keep the Funky Cat away from motorways.


Performance & Drive

For the time being, Funky Cat customers get little choice when it comes to propulsion. Until a larger battery is made available, the 48kWh unit is the only one on offer, and that comes with a 171hp electric motor that drives the front wheels. That provides adequate performance – 0-62mph takes just over eight seconds – but it isn’t rapid. Still, the Funky Cat has more than enough punch to feel nippy around town or in traffic.

But while performance is so-so, the way the car drives is much more appealing. It doesn’t feel especially lively or engaging, but it’s easy enough to drive and though the ride is imperfect it isn’t problematic either. Visibility is limited slightly by the rear window, which means the parking sensors and reversing camera come in handy when manoeuvring.


The weight of the battery clearly has an effect on the suspension when driving at lower speeds, too, with the odd thump and bump making its way into the cabin. However, aside from the MG 4 EV, which is remarkably comfortable, the Funky Cat is on a par with most electric small hatchbacks in its class – particularly on the motorway.

Country roads don’t catch it out too much, either, with the low centre of gravity ensuring there isn’t too much body roll in corners, while the electric motor provides ample performance without creating too much noise. The overall impression is one of safety, rather than excitement, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The Funky Cat remains lively enough for a little enjoyment without ever feeling threatening. Put an MG 4 EV on a greasy road, on the other hand, and it can get a little wayward.

All that said, there is one glaring issue, and that’s in probably the least forgivable spot of all: the brakes. Because the Funky Cat is trying to retain efficiency by using regenerative braking to slow down and recharge the batteries, while also using conventional brakes to ensure safety and stopping power, the brakes lack any kind of feel or finesse. At low speeds, for example, a small squeeze of the brakes brings the car to a juddering halt. It is something you become more accustomed to as time goes on, but it never entirely goes away.


Charging

Although charging at home will ensure the Funky Cat is cheap to run, it’s likely to be a slow process despite the relatively small battery. ORA hasn’t said how long it’ll take using a 13-amp plug, but charging from 15-80% with a domestic ‘wallbox’ charger delivering 6.6kW will take around five-and-a-half hours. That’s more than fast enough for overnight charging, but competitors with larger batteries can take on more range in a similar timeframe.

If, however, you use a public charging point capable of 100kW charging, the Funky Cat will be able to charge at a maximum of 64kW, allowing it to get from 15-80% in less than 45 minutes. In practice, that means using a charger capable of more than 100kW will likely be a waste of money, as such chargers generally cost more than 50-100kW units that will charge the Funky Cat just as quickly.

Need to get the most out of every charge? We've got a guide to talk you through choosing you perfect home charging point.


Running costs & Emissions

As with all electric cars, the ability to run the Funky Cat cheaply will largely depend on your lifestyle. If you can charge at home most of the time and only occasionally need to fill up using a public rapid charger, it isn’t going to be too expensive – particularly if you can take advantage of cheaper off-peak electricity. But for those travelling further afield, a charging point membership will be vital. The Funky Cat’s range isn’t that brilliant, and you don’t want to be spending substantial sums to fill it up away from home.

Even if you do have to do that every so often, though, the Funky Cat will prove cheaper to run than most family hatchbacks, especially if you’re a company car driver. With no tailpipe emissions, the Funky Cat gets the same Benefit-in-Kind tax benefits as other electric cars, and its relatively competitive purchase price means you won’t face big bills.


Interior & Technology

Ora has tried to make sure the Funky Cat’s cabin feels more premium than that of the MG 4 EV, in an attempt to differentiate the car’s on feel. The result is, perhaps surprisingly, a fairly solid interior that’s perfectly pleasant to occupy, even if it does feel like a compilation of greatest hits from other brands’ models.

The two-spoke steering wheel, for example, has shades of Fiat 500e while the toggle-style switchgear on the dash is reminiscent of Mini’s buttons. Nevertheless, the components and materials all feel pretty good and they’re screwed together very well. It isn’t quite as premium as ORA might have you believe, but it’s certainly more than a match for the likes of Fiat and Hyundai.


But a big part of the Funky Cat experience is the on-board technology, which dominates proceedings. A big central touchscreen and a digital instrument display are of course included, and while the displays may not look as fancy as those fitted to a Volkswagen ID.3, they are much more user-friendly.

And they have more functionality, because ORA has fitted the Funky Cat with facial recognition technology that can recognise the driver and then adjust the seats, climate control and mirrors accordingly. Then, when you’re driving, the system can recognise when your attention is wandering and issue a warning. It’ll even pick up a yawn or a lingering gaze out of the side window.


But more impressive than all that is the voice control system – and that’s a sentence we’ve never used in a car review before. Most voice control systems, up to and including Alexa and Siri, are generally pretty awful, missing your commands and tripping themselves over at every available opportunity. But ORA seems to have got it right with the Funky Cat, which can use voice controls to open the window or set the navigation system. It isn’t perfect – of course it isn’t – but Ora is refining it all the time and its breadth of capability is impressive.

As is so often the way with modern cars, and particularly electric vehicles, the Funky Cat comes with an app that allows customers to remotely lock or unlock the car, or pre-set the heater so it’s nice and toasty when they get in. The system also allows drivers to monitor charging and battery state for better route planning. Perhaps that’s nothing special for the likes of Volkswagen and Hyundai, but it’s a solid addition from an unknown Chinese brand.


Practicality & Boot Space

The Funky Cat is something of a paradox when it comes to practicality, because in some respects it’s very good indeed, but in others it’s sadly lacking. For those in the front, it’s great. There’s plenty of space and seat adjustment, which means it’s easy to get comfortable and the driving position is pretty good. There’s some storage, too, which means you can tuck away all your bits and bobs.

And the news continues to be good as we move further back, with adequate room for four adults to sit in relative comfort. It’s no Rolls-Royce, but legroom is ample even when you’re sitting behind tall people, so there should be no difficulty fitting four six-footers in the Funky Cat. Even headroom is good thanks to the high roof.


But it’s clear the luggage capacity has been sacrificed to make room for people in the back, and for lots of customers, that’s going to be an issue. The 228-litre boot is a small improvement on the Mini Electric and the Fiat 500e, but neither of those cars is famed for its carrying capacity. Alongside an MG 4 EV or a VW ID.3, the Funky Cat may compete in terms of passenger space, but the boot is nowhere near average for the class.

Of course, if you’re more likely to carry people than bags, you might find that an acceptable compromise, and if you aren’t carrying passengers you can always fold down the back seats to create more luggage space. But it’s worth remembering that’s a compromise you may have to make in the Funky Cat.


Safety

ORA is rightly very proud of the Funky Cat’s five-star Euro NCAP crash test score, which included a very strong 92% rating for adult occupant protection. Child occupant protection was also solid, if not quite as impressive, but what’s most incredible is the 93% score for safety assistance technology. That area is normally a weak point for small cars, but the Funky Cat impressed with its suite of gadgets.

As is now de rigeur, the Funky Cat comes with autonomous emergency braking that can stop the car automatically if the driver fails to react to a hazard, but it also gets lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance to the vehicle in front. In addition, the Funky Cat gets technology that can stop the car if somebody cuts you up at a junction and blind-spot monitoring that tells you when there’s a vehicle in the hard-to-see areas over your shoulders.

What’s more, ORA hasn’t just gone to town with conventional safety technology. All cars get reversing cameras and parking sensors as standard, while voice activation can operate many of the car’s controls. Normally, such a system would be absolutely useless, but the Funky Cat’s technology seems to work well. It doesn’t just change the radio station, but it can be used to wind down a window or change a setting without the driver ever taking their hands off the wheel.


Options

At launch, GWM ORA is offering Funky Cat customers just one trim level, which is called First Edition. It comes with a huge amount of equipment, including quilted leatherette upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels and a touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation.

The First Edition also comes with a 360-degree manoeuvring camera, rear parking sensors and automatic windscreen wipers, not to mention automatic climate control and electrically adjustable front seats. Add to that keyless entry and start and the aforementioned safety technology, and you’ve got a pretty comprehensive equipment list that leaves you wanting for very little indeed.


Customers also get a choice of colour schemes, including two two-tone options. Starry Black and Nebula Green are the sole single-tone options, but there’s a much richer Aurora Green that’s paired with a Moonlight White roof, and there’s lustrous Mars Red that comes with a Starry Black roof.

Which paint colour you choose will also impact your interior colour scheme, so while the single-tone colours come with classy but unremarkable black interiors, the Mars Red cars get a striking two-tone red-and-white interior. The Aurora Green cars, meanwhile, mix a kind of teal colour with white to provide something bright, but marginally more upmarket.


Rival Cars

The Funky Cat faces a growing number of rivals from across the automotive spectrum, and that means it’s competing with some of the biggest names in the business. Chief among its rivals is the MG 4 EV (below), an electric family hatchback that has taken the market by storm. Great to drive, cheap to run and competitively priced, the MG is the obvious choice in this competitive sector.


Because of the MG 4’s influence, GWM ORA has decided to move the Funky Cat upmarket, preferring to compare its hatchback with the electric Mini, against which it stacks up well. The Mini may feel slightly more solid and noticeably more fun to drive, but the tech is no more impressive and the range is quite disappointing. For many customers, the Funky Cat will make more sense.


Other rivals to note include the much smaller Fiat 500e (above), which majors on style and urban manoeuvrability, and the larger Volkswagen ID.3, which is more about space and maturity. Or there’s the Cupra Born, which uses much the same underpinnings as the ID.3 but veils them with a more angular, more modern design.

And the Funky Cat can’t get away without being compared to the original electric family hatch, the Nissan Leaf (below). Now more usable than ever and with a much bigger boot, the Leaf is more competitive than it has ever been, but it still feels less premium than many of its rivals, Funky Cat included.


Verdict & Next Steps

Name aside, the Funky Cat is held back primarily by its battery, which really isn’t big enough. That said, if and when larger battery packs come on stream, that main weakness should be removed, and we’ll be left with a much more serious contender than the name suggests. 

Forget the battery and the MG4, and we’d probably say the Funky Cat was one of the best electric hatchbacks on the market. Unfortunately, they’re pretty important considerations, and they dent the appeal of what would otherwise be a very competent small electric car.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the ORA Funky Cat

**Correct as of 27/02/2023. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,866.85 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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