18 March 2024

A little character goes a long way

| Paul Gover
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small electric car

Comfortable and well priced, the electric GWM Ora has plenty of appeal, especially for first-car drivers. Photo: Supplied.

One of the year 12 kids at the high school in my suburb drives a shiny new GWM Ora.

Hmm . . . clearly, she or he has relatively wealthy relatives who are concerned about climate change and are early converts to full battery-electric motoring.

They are also likely to have chosen a new car to maximise the safety protection for their student and are not too concerned about a kick-off price of $39,990 before on-road costs.

This is all assumption and likely to be wrong, since many teenagers do their own earning at McDonald’s, but it paints a picture of the Ora. It was designed and developed to be a plug-in starter car for youngsters moving to full electrification for the first time, and singles – or couples – who want something for short-haul trips.

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The youthful approach also explains the styling, which is rounded and cute with a happy ”face” on the front end. In some ways, it’s like a Mini Cooper. In some countries, the young-and-funky approach includes naming it Good Cat. But not here. The basic range for the Ora is a claimed 320 kilometres, which can be boosted to 420 with the ”extended range” model from $45,990.

Pricing of the Ora has changed since it first landed in Australia, with GWM slashing up to $4000 off the showroom sticker to combat the arrival of the MG4 and BYD Dolphin, both from just on $39,000.

So we’re finally seeing some serious competition in the first-time electric world, even if they are all Chinese brands and cars with individual strengths and weaknesses. The Ora is a baby car by the standards of 2024 and, inside, things are not so good, with a teeny-tiny boot and not much space in the back seat for sprawling teenagers.

The dashboard layout is simple and smart, with a pair of screens that don’t steal the view from the road ahead. Yet. The infotainment interface could be a lot better, with regular drop-outs and a telephone link that many people reported was like talking to a diver while they were underwater.

On the driver-assistance front, the Ora is one of the worst cars I’ve driven. It bings and bongs, interferes with the steering, and generally tries to second-guess the driver – incorrectly – far too often.

The front seats lack shape and support, typical of Chinese arrivals, but it’s not something a first-car driver is likely to regard as a deal-breaker. Still, the interior looks nicely plush and the quality is good. It feels like much more than a throwaway first car.

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Driving-wise, the Ora is easy to park, gets along with typically electric briskness, and stops well. The ride comfort is fine at suburban speeds, although it gets floppy and bouncy on country-style roads or where the potholes have taken control.

So it’s an OK car with a reasonable price, and that’s enough for a lot of first-car buyers. I’m expecting to see a lot more parked at high schools over the coming year.


  • Position: Baby electric car
  • Price: From $39,990
  • Battery: 41kWh
  • Power: 126kW/250Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed double-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
  • Plus: Stylish, affordable, best of the Chinese
  • Minus: Not really cheap, not really polished
  • THE TICK: Not for everyone.
  • Score: 6/10

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