Good Cat is a weird name for what seems, to many, to be a weird little car.
There is method in that monicker though. It references a quote from former CCP leader Deng Xiaoping, itself a reference to a Sichuan proverb: “No matter whether it’s a white cat or a black cat; if it can catch mice, it’s a good cat”.
Meaning: we have to be pragmatic in effecting social or political (and now environmental, presumably) change. Yes, the silly car is a bit serious after all.
But what exactly is an Ora Good Cat? Ora (“Open, reliable and alternative” apparently) is a new battery electric vehicle (BEV) brand from China’s Great Wall Motors – the same company that brings us the Cannon ute and Haval SUVs.
The Good Cat is only Ora’s fourth model since 2018 (White Cat and Black Cat came before it; yes really). It’s a small-medium hatch-cum-SUV that will kick off the brand’s Kiwi presence later this year: pure electric, at a price of around $50k for a fully loaded version with a generous 63kWh battery/420km range. Less the Government’s $8625 Clean Car Discount of course, assuming there’s still money in the kitty for that at the end of the year (the Ford Ranger is selling really well though, should be fine).
A few dollars either way and the Ora could potentially undercut the MG ZS EV, currently NZ's cheapest pure-electric vehicle with a starting price of $49,990.
This is very much a first look at a pre-production Good Cat; but what you see here is pretty representative of the Kiwi-market model in terms of look and interior specification.
What’s missing is the full-size battery, so we can’t give you too much information on real-world range: the car you see here has a 48kWh capacity (WLTP range 336km), which may be offered as an option – although the local GWM people reckon it would only be a few thousand dollars cheaper than the full size.
Also missing from our test vehicle is full connectivity, which will obviously make a huge difference to the user experience. The Kiwi-market Good Cat will have an embedded SIM card, meaning you’ll get “live” apps on-screen, control via your mobile phone for stuff like charging and locking/unlocking, and so on. Possibly even semi-autonomous parking (it already has a clever “ghost car” 360-degree camera setup).
Otherwise, what you see here is pretty much what we’ll get. Oh yes, about that: no point in pretending that the little Ora isn’t a pretty obvious, shall we say, “homage” to iconic small cars like the Fiat 500, Mini, Volkswagen Beetle and even the first-generation Nissan Leaf.
It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek of course; nicely executed and visually balanced, but polarising all the same. It won’t be for everybody.
Inside, the Good Cat goes even heavier on the retro styling, especially in the lurid green-and-white colourway of our test car.
Nothing retro about the tech underneath. The Good Cat is built around bespoke EV architecture and while the dashboard might look like a 1950s Fiat, it’s topped by a fully digital “widescreen” dual display with an operating system that will look very familiar if you’ve driven a Haval SUV lately.
That also means the typeface is a tad small for all but the young and the menus are fiddly, but given that online functionality is still to be added and all Kiwi Good Cats will have Apple CarPlay and Android auto phone projection, we’ll reserve judgement until we experience the finished product.
When you start up, virtual fish appear on the driver’s screen and then quickly swim across the centre console as the system boots up (check out the video above). Shades of Honda e; not original, but still very cute. Also a cat in-joke maybe?
There are still a few physical controls, including basic on/off for the air con and some Mini-like toggle switches, plus of course the standard-issue GWM rotary gear selector; which, like the Haval Jolion/H6, doesn’t have stops either side. So you don’t really know when you’ve hit Drive or Reverse unless you look, because the dial just keeps spinning. Curious, Cat.
Anyway, this is one super-spacious supermini. Is it a supermini? As with many BEVs, it’s hard to pin the Good Cat to one segment, because the flexibility of EV architecture allows makers to play around with those dimensions.
The Good Cat is 190mm shorter than the ubiquitous Toyota Yaris, so it’s a genuinely short and easy-to-park city car. But the wheelbase is 100mm longer and it’s also 101mm taller; combine that will the flat cabin floor you get from a BEV and it offers occupant space more akin to a vehicle the next size up. Decent seats, too; it’s a nice place to passenger.
The Ora is modestly powered, with 105kW/210Nm from its single electric motor. But it’s still good for 0-100km/h in around 8.5 seconds and the performance is smooth, with the powertrain more calibrated for linear acceleration than off-the-line antics. Although Ora is also fond of quoting a 0-50km/h time of 3.8sec for the Good Cat.
Dynamically, it feels quite mature: substantial steering and good body control through typically bumpy Kiwi open-road corners. The biggest handling downside is the combination of BEV-torque with eco-tyres, meaning it’s all too easy for the car to lurch into understeer. Or on a wet road, simply wheelspin until the traction control shuts things down, then spin again, shut down, repeat.
The other driver assists are comprehensive for a small car, with everything from adaptive cruise control to all forms of lane assistance and even a driver-facing camera to check you have eyes on the road. Impressive, but also a bit fussy.
The anti-distraction feature is okay, but the forward collision alert and lane-keeping systems can be intrusive, especially when they speak to you: “Electronic lane keeping activated!”
You can switch off or modify the sensitivity of a lot of it, but the problem is everything defaults to full strength when you switch off the vehicle.
So a little electronic fine-tuning would be welcome. But we’re still impressed by the solidity, quality and equipment of this preview example. Judging by the vox-pop during our week with the vehicle, there’s already fairly high awareness among the Kiwi public about what Ora is and does, so it’s going to be interesting to watch what happens when this car is launched in NZ.
By the way, if you’re already making dismissive comments about Chinese cars, this particular example was actually made in Germany. Weird, but a reminder not to make assumptions. Now there’s a good kitty.
ORA GOOD CAT
ENGINE: 60kWh battery with single electric motor
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, FWD
CONSUMPTION: 13.2kWh/100km (WLTP), range 420km
PRICE: $50,000 (est)