Here, kitty kitty kitty…
Please, no cat jokes.
But it’s called the Funky Cat.
Yes. Yes it is. But let’s not let that distract us from the task at hand, which is reviewing what’s actually a very serious new electric car from China. It’s just landed on the Irish market, and it’s sharply-priced enough to give the likes of VW and Renault a dose of the worries.
Is it a cat-astrophe for them?
Please, just stop. Although it might be, because although the Ora Funky Cat arrives here with a base price of €31,995 for the 300km range version and €39,995 for the 450km range version, and it has just as much interior space as a VW ID.3 or a Renault Megane E-Tech.
It’s a bit odd looking compared to the Renault or the VW though.
I think ‘retro’ is more fair than odd, but yes the styling is an acquired taste. It’s one part original VW Beetle, with a dash of early-2000s Nissan Micra and a little bit of first-generation Nissan Leaf.
Is it as oddball inside?
No, if anything it’s at its most impressive inside. Ora likes to claim that the cabin quality is up there with premium brands, which it isn’t quite, but the cabin looks smart, and you can have it interesting contrasting colours rather than the usual plain-old grey and black. You get two big screens for instruments and infotainment.
The infotainment one is a little too fiddly for its own good, but it’s packed with features including built-in internet radio and voice control, although it won’t have Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto until Ora gives it a software update. The front seats get expensive-looking quilted leatherette covers and there’s plenty of room — you can easily fit one six-footer behind another. The only black mark is that the boot is tiny.
What’s that thing stuck to the windscreen pillar?
Ah, that’ll be the face recognition system. Like your phone, the Ora Funky Cat can scan your face, recognise it, and use that information to automatically set the seat, the stereo, and the heating to your pre-programmed tastes. It also monitors whether you’re distracted or dozy, although it’s a bit hair-trigger in this regard, blaring warnings at you if you as much as glance out of the side window.
A Chinese car that reads your face? Is that not a worry?
It might be. Ora assures that all of the face recognition and app data that you share is stored at its European HQ in Munich, and so all of that info is subject to EU GDPR laws. How reassured that makes you is, I guess, up to you but if you already own a phone with face recognition, which is almost certainly made in China, then you’ve probably crossed that personal rubicon.
What’s the electric performance like?
With a 170hp motor driving the front wheels, the Funky Cat is decently brisk, although not what you’d call especially quick. It’s pleasant and easy to drive, but it’s not keen on tight and twisty country roads — front grip, possibly thanks to cheap-o tyres, is especially poor in wet conditions and the Ora Cat scrabbles out of corners like it’s digging into the kitty litter — which is surprising, as somewhere under here is the same platform as the next-generation Mini, thanks to a tie-up between BMW and Great Wall Motors, which owns Ora. Hopefully, the Mini will get a sharper tune to the suspension, and better tyres.
As for range, the news is very mixed. If you’re keeping to low-speed roads, in town and avoiding motorways then it’s pretty good — with the big battery 64kWh version you should easily get more than 400km from a charge in real-world conditions. If you’re pounding the motorway, though, it’s not so good. A 170km motorway journey drained more than 65 per cent of the battery charge, which means you’ll only get around 250km or so on longer hauls. It doesn’t charge all that fast either — just 67kW from a rapid DC charger, although the AC charger (which you’ll use at home or with a kerb-side charger) does run at 11kW, which does help top up a bit quicker.
So you’re saying it’s not purr-fect?
Oh good grief… No, it’s not. It’s a good first effort from Ora, and it bodes well for upcoming models such as the Tesla Model 3 saloon rival that will be launched imminently, and an inevitable compact crossover model. It’s an interesting alternative to the electric car mainstream, and one that’s keenly priced and exceptionally well-equipped, but it’s not much use if you need to do long journeys and rely on fast-charging.
Saucer of milk, table three?
How much? Starts at €31,995. The one we drove was €39,995
How fast? 0-100km/h in 9.8 secs
How far? Official range for the 64kWh battery is 420km, but it’s closer to 350km in the real world, or less than 300km if you’re racking up motorway miles.
What do you get? Even the cheaper 300 Pro model is stuffed with equipment including 18-inch alloys, a blind spot monitor, radar-guided cruise control, lane-keeping steering, faux-leather seats, electric seat adjustment, voice and face recognition, 360-degree parking camera, the big digital screens, wireless phone charging, and built-in satellite navigation. 400 Pro + models get heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel, an electric boot-lid, a panoramic sunroof, and automated parking.
How big? The boot is tiny, at just 228-litres which is only slightly more than you get in a current three-door Mini. The cabin makes up for that, though, with generous space front and rear, and lots of storage areas in the centre console and door bins.
Plus: Quirky looks, good price, nice to drive
Minus: Inconsistent range, small boot, slow charging
Equals: It’s an oddball choice, but potentially a good one as the Funky Cat — silly name apart — is well-made and sharply priced. European and Japanese competitors offer more rounded performance and range, though.