What is the GWM Ora 03? Put simply, it’s the most affordable electric vehicle to be launched in South Africa to date. We sent CAR road test editor Kyle Kock to drive it in and around Gauteng.
GWM Ora 03 300 Super Luxury Fast Facts
- Engine: Permanent magnet synchronous front
- Power: 126 kW
- Torque: 250 N.m
- Fuel consumption: 16,7 kWh/100 km
- Range: 310 km
- Seat capacity: 5
- Luggage space: 228 litres (claimed) 152 litres (tested)
- Service plan/warranty: 7 years/105 000 km warranty
- Price: R686 950
What are we driving?
The Ora 03, known as Good Cat or Funky Cat in other markets, is a hatchback EV styled by ex-Porsche designer Emanuel Derta that reminds me of the boutique hatchbacks that were plentiful in South Africa around a decade ago (Think R56 Mini Cooper and Citroen DS3). There are four models in the local lineup, of which the one driven for this impression is officially the cheapest EV on sale in Mzansi.
Related: Pricing of GWM’s ORA EV Confirmed
Inside, the Ora 03 has soft-touch surfaces, shiny chrome trim, and a dual-screen that extends from just in front of the driver to the middle of the facia – it doubles as both digital instruments and infotainment. The upholstery is in two-tone – the dark charcoal fabric on this particular model is broken up by the stitching and sections on the seats, steering wheel, facia, and door panels. The switchgear feels solid and reassuring, and the seat cushions are wide enough to accommodate South Africans of all sizes, though less supportive than I prefer.
Accommodation for rear seat occupants is generous, to say the least – the amount of headroom and legroom is very impressive. But it must be said that the room comes at the expense of what can be thrown into the boot. The boot in the launch unit was half filled just by my regular-sized duffel bag and backpack.
The 300 Super Luxury, curvaceous and with retro-styled five-spoke alloy wheels has a range of around 310 km with its 48 kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery, while the 400 Super Luxury, Ultra Luxury, and GT make use of a 63 kWh nickel-manganese cobalt battery. In the SL and the UL, there’s a claimed range of 420 km, while the GT has a claimed range of 400 km due to slightly higher consumption.
What are the GWM Ora’s rivals?
Mini makes an EV version of the Cooper, in the form of the SE hatch three-door. It retails for R783 500, makes 135 kW and 270 N.m, and has a WLTP range of 215 km. Then there’s the Volvo EX30 Core Single Motor, which is available for R775 900, with 200 kW and 343 N.m and a claimed range of 344 km.
What is the GWM Ora like to drive?
Starting from the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in the direction of the V8 Roadhouse in Hartbeespoort, the Ora displayed excellent road manners, with impressive levels of NVH suppression. The suspension is also well-damped and soaked up imperfections in the tarmac with little fuss.
There’s a choice of driving modes, but I left the ECU to figure it all out in Auto, with my only real preference being to make continuous use of one-pedal driving. The “engine braking” is a great way to harvest energy, even while you’re coasting. My driving partner and I had used up the minimal amount of range on a round trip of around 92 km (probably in the region of 70 km of range) to finish third in GWM’s economy challenge during the course of the day. In reality, we weren’t trying too hard to win, but the Ora’s range claims across all models are believable and most drivers should get close.
The surprise for me was how planted the Ora felt on the track. The home of motorsport in South Africa was the last place I expected an EV to be launched, but it braked well, turned in with precision and you can also overwhelm the front wheels with understeer if you get on the throttle too early. Overall, the Ora gave a great account of itself.
This is an impressive addition to the EV market, with all the bells and whistles, a range of models to choose from, and feels suitably premium. Even though it undercuts all other EVs, the Ora is still out of reach even for middle-class South Africans aspiring to make the jump to new energy solutions, but that’s not the fault of GWM. The company is making strides to make EV motoring more accessible with financing options that include inverters and batteries installed at your home. A mighty effort from GWM all around!