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Look, out there on the road. Is it a new Mini? Is it a new restomod Beetle? Wait, it’s an Ora? That pretty much sums up my first encounter with the GWM Ora, the newest and probably quirkiest urban EV from what is probably one of the fastest growing brands in New Zealand.

GWM, or Great Wall Motors if you want the full name, has been on the attack in the NZ new car market in recent years, and almost without any PR at all, and the Ora sits as one of the most affordable new EVs out there, with a start price of $47,990. Let’s see what is hidden behind that quirky face and that way low price tag.

Yes, the GWM Ora is quite the stylish looking wee thing. As mentioned previously, you can see bits of Mini and Beetle but also some Fiat 500 and even some elements of Swift in the design. Its almost like GWM put all these cars in a giant design food blender and the result was the Ora. I love certain details like the headlights, front haunches and how the whole side profile seems to flow as a single piece.

Round the back you have a rear light bar consisting of LED taillights housed within the boot lid, a rear diffuser and “ORA” spelt out in big letters, just in case those following you need a reminder of what you are driving. Then again, its the name Ora which prompted this writer/pop music fan to refer to it as “Rita” for the duration of the drive.

With these quirky, yet functional cues, the Ora has no problem turning heads, many of which sported a kind of exclamative expression. Which is hardly surprising considering the emblem for the Ora is an exclamation mark.

The Ora is sold here at the moment as one model, but with the choice of normal or extended range capability. As we have established, the Standard Range, my test car thanks to the team at CMG Motors Christchurch, will set you back $47,990. However, this does not include the full Government Clean Car Rebate of $7,018.

Throw that in and you have quite the attainable new EV. The Extended range will set you back an extra $5k at $52,990 but still makes good on that rebate. There are also the Ultra and flagship GT models of the Ora on their way too but for now, its standard or extended only.

Both cars produce 126kW and 250Nm of torque with electric drive going through the front wheels by an electric motor. The only difference is the size of the battery between the Standard at 48kWh and 63kWh for the Extended.

According to WTLP statistics, the Standard has a range of 310kms while the Extended is good for 420kms. Using an DC fast charger, you will also get from 10 per cent to 80 per cent charge in around 41 minutes. While I was not able to test the complete charging capabilities of the Ora, that is pretty impressive.

Inside the funkiness continues in earnest. While some of the materials used aren’t quite up to par with others in this segment, quality has certainly improved in a very short space of time. The Ora’s cabin is nice place to be and that two-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel does feel good in your mitts. I also did notice the center console switch gear is not unlike the toggle switches found in Mini products.

Much like a Tesla, you don’t need to press a button to fire up the Ora. Simply press the brake pedal and it wakes up. To switch off, simply tap the power button below the driver’s side air vent. Once on, you get a welcome greeting on the digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen of tropical goldfish swimming before the onboard tech kicks in.

While the 10.25-inch infotainment system I found to be a bit of a stretch, the tech itself is easy to use and understand. You get goodies like wireless charging, 16-inch alloys, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a 360-degree camera, parking sensors, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, auto wipers and electric leather seats.

Given its dimensions, the Ora isn’t bad in terms of space. Entry and exit for driver and passenger is also pretty good too. Boot space is rated at 228L. So, while not the most cavernous out there, it has quite a deep floor so with some expert packaging you can fit a decent amount in there.

Moving off and straight away I found the Ora to have buckets of character to match its quirky chops. It doesn’t have the most sumptuous ride around, but for city EV with a kerb weight of 1540kg, it still feels well planted and well sorted. The gear selector is identical to what you find in Haval, and it still isn’t as responsive. Sometimes I thought I had engaged Drive or Reverse and I was in Neutral, so one does need to be patient. However, the Ora makes up for this by having a tight turning circle.

Switching between drive modes is accompanied by a distinct technological sounding tone. For example, if you switch to sport mode, you get a Transformers-style robot shape shifting sound effect. Something which caught me quite by surprise.

Once in Sport mode, the Ora can certainly shift. Not rapidly so but still pretty briskly in any one’s language. The level of regenerative braking is also increased considerably. This allows you to engage single pedal drive and rely solely on the regen braking to bring things to a halt rather than you having to touch the brakes.

It is here where the Ora’s ability to provide you with a somewhat fun commute makes itself known. It wasn’t long before I found myself slicing and dicing through inner city Christchurch traffic. It’s a very much a point-and-shoot sort of car, a hallmark which is almost essential to any urban kickaround. The electric power steering doesn’t have a great deal of feel but it is responsive and direct.

It is rather difficult not to be entertained and impressed with the GWM Ora despite a few niggles. It’s funky and fun. Plus, for this kind of money, especially when you throw in that rebate, the factor of value for money is unquestionable. GWM is on the rise in New Zealand and the Ora is just another reason for buyers to sit up and take notice.

RATING: 8/10

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