“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.”
Henry Ford could have been talking about today’s car interiors. But it hasn’t always been this way. Hark back to the 1950s when your Morris Minor was festooned with red vinyl and glossy trimmings. Or even corduroy.
Certainly, in terms of design choices, the world was a brighter place in the 1950s. So why can’t we have this again?
Well, I’m here to say you can, provided it’s from China.
First, it was the unique door pockets of the BYD Atto 3, which resemble guitar strings that can even be played like an instrument. And now it’s the new Ora hatchback by Great Wall Motors (GWM).
The headline is that it’s a new electric vehicle starting at $40,606 driveaway in the ACT, which makes it the third cheapest EV in the country. But there’s another stand-out. Inside.
To be honest, sitting in the Ora is what I imagine it’s like to sit in a handbag (a very spacious handbag, mind you). All is light and colour and little metal touches.
I’m not even conflating its … femininity. It seems no one in all the development meetings checked to see what ‘ora’ actually means. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s the plural version of an anatomical term for the opening at “either end of the cervix”.
Moving on, GWM describes the styling as a “new classic”. Many others, including all your family and friends, will opt for the words “so ugly”. Honestly, I don’t mind it. There’s nothing proportionally wrong with it. It looks cheerful and a bit cute.
Mine, borrowed from National Capital Motors in Tuggeranong – as you may not have noticed – is also finished in stunning metallic blue-green.
By now, I’m used to cars playing a little jingle on entry, but you almost need an intermission for the Ora’s musical number. Little orange fish even ‘swim’ across both screens, for an unknown reason.
The second thing you’ll notice is the car is ready to go without you having to push a physical start button. I like this – you can wake up your smartphone by picking it up, so why not the same in your EV? As for the off button, that’s next to your right knee, which took me some time to find because it favours a fork of lighting over the universal on-off symbol. You’re welcome.
Fit and finish is impressive everywhere you look, but the Ora is also genuinely refined and pleasant to drive.
Yes, the suspension is stiff to make up for the weight of all those batteries. But despite being an entirely electric, wire-driven machine, steering feel is on point and the regenerative braking system is very natural without any jerkiness even in its most ‘on’ setting.
Of course, the pièce de résistance of the Chinese is how much they can cram in for the price. And it’s here too.
Mine is the ‘Extended Range’ model for $46,606 driveaway in the ACT, with 420 km of estimated range, as well as full leatherette interior, LED lights, Apple CarPlay and Adaptive Cruise Control.
But for about $3000 extra, you can have the Ora Ultra with its panoramic sunroof, heated and massaging front seats, heated steering wheel and more. This is stuff BMW only just announced they’ll stop charging a subscription for.
There is the niggling fear over how long the soft, suede-like dash material will fair under the laser-like Australian sun.
And there’s no satisfying click to be found in the dial for Park, Reverse and Drive – it spins freely to the point you have to look down to double check it has, in fact, locked into Reverse before you charge into the bumper in front of you instead.
And much like its cousins from Haval, lane-keeping assistance is forever chiming in even when you could fit an entire Tour de France convoy between you and the white line.
But for a company that as little as 11 years ago felt content they’d done a good job because they didn’t use asbestos in the exhaust gaskets, the Ora is a remarkably good package.
So, would I buy one? No, but only because I’m a man.
2023 GWM Ora Extended Range
- $46,606 (driveaway ACT)
- 63 kWh lithium-ion battery, 126 kW/ 250 Nm
- Front-wheel drive (FWD)
- 420 km estimated range
- 0-100 km/h in 8.4 seconds
- 5-star ANCAP safety rating
This car was provided for testing by National Capital GWM, Tuggeranong. Region has no commercial arrangement with National Capital Motors.