The cost of entry has long been a challenge for electric vehicles, but the 2023 GWM Ora Extended Range changes that. Priced at $45,990 plus on-roads, it’s slightly dearer than its entry level sibling at $39,990.
While that seems like a lot of coin for what is in essence, a small car, we’re pleased to say there’s plenty to like about the Ora. It starts with retro visuals outside. Bug-eyed and chrome-emblazoned LED headlights greet one from the front.
From there, you’ve got a short and swooping bonnet that feels decidedly MINI Cooper. Like the GWM Tank 300 we tested recently, which feels a little Jeep Wrangler, it would seem design philosophies within GWM focus heavily on existing backyards.
Four doors allow easy access and the whole shebang ends with a stumpy hatchback at the rear, which incorporates a cool hidden brake light that runs across the bottom edge of the windscreen treatment.
It’s cute, and with its two-tone paintwork it turns heads. Ours was adorned in Mars Red and a black roof. Four other hues include Hamilton White, Glacier Blue, Aurora Green and the oddly named Sun Black.
18-inch alloys shod with 215/50 Giti Tire rubber (a brand we had to look up), fill the guards and round out an attractive exterior package. Grabbing at the driver’s door allows keyless access to a slick looking interior.
There are multiple finishes to take in, starting with the seats. They’re trimmed in faux dark grey leatherette and microfibre, and feature a diamond pattern in sections, with contrasting blue stitching.
Front row passenger seating is electrically adjustable, but this writer simply couldn’t get comfortable. At 6ft tall, the seat bottoms were simply not long enough, nor did they provide adequate upward pitch to support thighs.
The centre console is a little barren, housing the rotary shifter and handbrake controls. Further up, the dashboard is handsome, with hidden vents that run across the leading edge. There are two 10.25-inch screens that butt up against each other.
They handle entertainment and instruments. It works, but we sometimes found light refraction was a challenge. The silver trim atop the screens creates a constant reflection on the windshield that was a little distracting as well.
On those screens, the same experience we had with the GWM Tank regarding vehicle system controls was present here, but more punctuated. The cabin is almost completely devoid of buttons.
This makes for a very clean and modern visual, but when it came to mundane and simple tasks such as turning the volume up, we were relegated to steering controls. There are two wireless charging pads and you can choose between wired and wireless Apple CarPlay.
There’s the same choice for Android Auto but when utilising either of these apps, the small control buttons that would normally appear on the right side of the screen disappeared. The same issue presented with HVAC controls.
The pretty chrome row of toggles in the centre stack allowed you to toggle the fan and air conditioning on and off, but not adjust temperature or fan speed. These were all handled by the screen, enacted by very small touch-buttons located on the right-hand side.
They’re so small in fact that you would need to remove focus from the road to use them with any type of accuracy. Tap them, and they open a HVAC screen with the various controls within. There were two occasions where this screen froze.
It essentially crashed the infotainment system, no CarPlay, no volume control – nothing. The only way to reset was to stop and turn the vehicle on and off. A couple of extra buttons would’ve mitigated this issue, and it detracts from what is a pretty good driving experience.
Passenger space is generous for such a small car. Two adults could ride comfortably in the rear, let alone children. It’s hard to fathom from the outside, but the wheelbase is 10mm longer than a Corolla – which makes the interior room understandable.
What is clear however is that GWM have prioritised passenger space to storage. Unlike the Toyota, the boot space of the Ora is just 228-litres. It didn’t stop yours truly fitting a large shop from Costco in, but there was a fair bit of Jenga involved.
The rear seats do fold down though, and extend storage out to 858-litres. On the safety front, there’s a raft of inclusions that contribute to a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Among them are seven airbags, AEB, blind spot assist and rear cross traffic alert.
You also get lane departure warning and lane keep assist, reverse collision warning, traffic sign recognition and camera based driver monitoring. Like the Tank, the lane keep assist was at times, too aggressive.
The lower centre of gravity in the Ora meant it didn’t feel as scary, but we switched it off soon into our time with it. Easy on the eye, and pleasing to drive, the Ora is a real surprise. It’s punchy, with 126kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
It also gets up to and maintains highway speeds with minimal fuss. GWM claims 420km of EV range, and we can verify that it’s achievable. There are five selectable drive modes, including Eco, Normal, Sport and Auto, as well as an Eco+ mode.
Range anxiety was never an issue, and while an overnight charge was quite slow, the fact buyers get a free home charger (at the time of writing) is certainly a bonus. On the road it feels solid and planted, despite weighing in at just over 1.5 tonne.
It’s still responsive and fun to drive. The mass gives it a bit of heft but turn-in response and mid corner predictability belies its girth. It really shouldn’t lose traction under power, but it would when pushed.
Packed with a 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty, we reckon this is an EV that makes sense – it’s small, affordable, easy-to-drive, with a little joy from a pleasing aesthetic and fun dynamics.
Our test vehicle was provided by GWM Australia & New Zealand. To find out more about the 2023 GWM Ora Extended Range, contact your local GWM dealer.