Ora's all-electric Good Cat delivers good range and retrolicious styling in impressive debut

Ora's all-electric Good Cat delivers good range and retrolicious styling in impressive debut
With its short overhangs, chrome surrounded head lights, and bulbous front end, the Good Cat sports a cutesy front end that is sure to call to mind a few classic cars.
PHOTO: sgCarMart

'First drives' are normally as the term suggests — few-hour interactions with a new machine from which one walks away with first impressions, rather than firmly-cemented judgement of a car. 

Yet it is with seven days and 2,260km across Thailand and Malaysia in both the driver and passenger seats under our belt that we now recount our time with this curiously retro-looking hatch. It's got a curious name to match too: The Good Cat.

The Good what?

The Good Cat is manufactured by Chinese carmaker ORA, itself a subsidiary under the larger Great Wall Motor brand. (You'll find both 'ORA' and 'GWM' badging on the car.) Legend has it that the feline name was inspired by this famous Deng Xiaoping-quote. 

If this nomenclature isn't sufficiently intriguing, the Good Cat's design is surely distinctive enough to draw you in. 

No arguing is needed as to whether it's the Porsche 356, Fiat 500, or both older and modern MINIs that the car's face calls to mind: It has flashes of all of them — in a good way — with its round, chrome-surrounded headlights, and bulbous front end. This being an EV, the lack of a grille is integrated seamlessly into its design. 

The Good Cat, while compact, isn't that tiny. For context, while the car is slightly shorter than a Volkswagen Golf, it's actually both wider and taller. Thanks to its dedicated EV platform, it also has short front and rear overhangs, which continue to contribute to its cutesy sheet metal. A two-tone paintcoat (an option one should definitely tick off) rounds off the package nicely. 

If it had gone for a wholly retro-inspired design, the Good Cat would perhaps have been written off as being slightly derivative, and even forgettable. A bait-and-switch tactic from its front to rear, however, keeps eyeballs on the car. 

Watching the car from a distance behind, you might be left wondering where exactly its taillights are to be found. Come closer — or continue observing as the car ahead brakes — and you'll finally notice a light bar hidden in the tailgate glass. 

This Cyclops-esque rear is decidedly modern, and faithful to the latter half of ORA's claimed 'retro-futuristic' design philosophy — although what appears to be a consequence of this design is the lack of a rear windscreen wiper. 

Retro-futuristic on the inside too

The exterior's faithfulness to retro-futurism is carried onto the interior, especially if the dual-tone colour scheme is opted for (this was the case for the car we drove in Malaysia).

But what makes all of it work is the particularly pleasing robustness in build quality found within the car's cabin. The door cards, both front and rear, are finished in a quilted texture, each criss-cross section hiding a generous amount of pliant foam beneath. Meanwhile, a suede-like material covers the dashboard, while the driver's elbows also rest on soft-touch materials. 

Finally, those MINI-like toggle switches for air-conditioning are not just nice to admire, but depress with reassuring weight. One peculiarity you might notice up front is the Good Cat's larger-than-average steering wheel — although this doesn't hinder ergonomics.

Climbing into the Good Cat is also the point at which you'll notice that it's surprisingly competent as a passenger carrier. While headroom is limited in the rear, the car's 2,650mm wheelbase means legroom is good even for passengers that are 1.75m tall. Like those in the front, the seats in the rear are also cushy and well-padded. The only notable shortcoming the car has is its limited 228-litre boot.

As a new car — and an EV, no less — the wealth of digital real estate on the cars we drove didn't disappoint. The Good Cat follows the trend of modern cars by using a single, uninterrupted panel to integrate a 7.0-inch digital driver's display and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Expectedly, across separate user interfaces for the Thailand and Malaysia markets, the system was not without the usual faults of hyper-digitalisation: A/C controls were buried in a separate screen, while adjusting multimedia volume as a passenger was frustratingly complicated. 

Nonetheless, these are less significant niggles in light of the fact that legibility, crispness in graphics, and intuitiveness are largely not sacrificed. I particularly enjoyed that the cylindrical battery-percentage and power meters of the instrument cluster had simpler light-up bars, and were not digitalised as part of the digital driver's display. 

Not just made for city streets 

The powertrains of the cars we drove are similar to what you'll find in the cars set to hit Singapore's roads. Here, a single motor produces 143bhp and 210Nm of torque, all sent to the car's front axle.

Official figures state that the Good Cat will complete the century sprint in 11 seconds flat, and this feels commensurate to the experience one gets behind the wheel. This is no sleepy, lethargic kitty; like other electric cars, the Good Cat has an immediate lightness off the line one welcomes with open arms in urban traffic. Power thereafter, however, is delivered in a linear, rather than nauseatingly-quick manner, making it easy and un-intimidating to drive.

There were a number of drive modes in the cars we drove — Eco, Normal, Auto and Sport — each doing exactly what you'd expect them to. ('Auto' can be taken as 'Adaptive' in other EVs.) Detached entirely from all of them, one-pedal driving is, interestingly, a drive mode too in itself. 

While some effort is still required to find the sweet spot between the car's regenerative braking and actual brakes, the deceleration felt when lifting off the accelerator is not harsh. Then, further cohering with the car's easygoing manners are its compact dimensions — especially appreciated along the narrower streets of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and amidst the bustling traffic of Penang Island. 

Out on expressways, the Good Cat doesn't feel too out of its element too, where it remains poised and unruffled. It rides just slightly on the firmer side, yet is not unsettled by rougher-paved surfaces, and ultimately remains a very comfortable carrier to cover long distances in. Helping this is the fact that the cabin remains relatively well-insulated at higher speeds. 

While the Good Cat feels quite planted thanks to its underfloor-mounted battery, its light steering doesn't really offer much in terms of feedback. (We didn't get to drive the more powerful, 'hotted-up' Good Cat GT.) Still, remember that this is a car designed not for B-roads, but city-driving. 

Here, it's worth assessing the Good Cat's range too, since the cars that we drove share the 'long-range' 63kWh battery pack as those bound for Singapore. 

On the one hand, the 500km figure quoted by ORA in both Thailand and Malaysia (following the more generous NEDC-cycle) is frankly quite difficult to achieve in the real world. Getting within the ballpark of 420km as per Singapore's stats, however, is actually very doable as long as you don't gun the Good Cat at length (... as we did on the North South Highway). 

While we'll have to drive the car here to be sure, it's not hard to imagine the car being quite the marathoner here given our lower average speeds. 

Verdict after 2,260km: Style and day-to-day usability in harmony

Of all the different aspects to it as a machine, styling is such a key part of ORA's Good Cat that immediate comparisons to the MINI brand — and thus the hard-to-match level of driving engagement in its cars — feel inevitable. 

It would, nonetheless, be fairer to throw that comparison aside and — using brand new eyes — instead see the Good Cat for what it is. 

At its core, this is an all-electric compact hatch built by a brand banking foremost on adorable good looks to draw consumers in. Dig just slightly deeper, however, and one will also find a decent level of space, practicality and good build quality completing GWM's vision of emission-free motoring — (mostly) within the city. 

We'll still have to drive the Good Cat here to better contextualise it within, well, the Lion City — Singapore's cars, after all, are priced and specced a bit differently, and will also exist in their own specific hyper-urban conditions.

On the account of what we've experienced over 2,260km and seven days, however, we'd say that the Good Cat is a flying, feline success.

Interested in other compact all-electric hatchbacks on the market today? Be sure to check out these cars! 

The pint-sized Dolphin's outsized equipment list and superb practicality make it a valuable addition to the BYD electric family

The MINI Electric retains all the fun qualities one expects from the brand, but continues to lack range when compared to its peers

What we like

  • Balance between retro-inspired and modern design cues
  • Well-built, almost premium-feeling interior
  • Good level of range
  • Easygoing manners
  • Well-rounded for an all-electric city car

What we dislike

  • No rear wiper
  • Small boot
  • Not the most engaging to drive

ALSO READ: BMW Test Fest 2023: A road trip around Singapore

This article was first published in sgCarMart.

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