ORA Funky Cat review

ORA Funky Cat

We road test the first car from a new brand to the UK – the ORA Funky Cat EV…

With its cool name and retro looks, this affordable electric hatchback is our introduction to ORA – one of five brands owned by Chinese car giant, Great Wall Motor.

Founded in 1984, GWM is China’s largest producer of SUVs and pick-up trucks, and the Funky Cat will be followed by more 100% electric siblings, probably all with cute feline names.

Apparently, ORA stands for “Open, Reliable and Alternative” and so far the strategy seems to be working well because ORA sold 135,000 cars in China during 2021 and several thousand UK motorists have already registered an interest in the Funky Cat.

ORA Funky Cat

Priced from £31,995, ORA has kept it simple at launch with just a ‘First Edition’, available in four colours, including Aurora Green and Nebula Green.

Featuring a 48kWh battery offering an official range of 193 miles, power comes from a 169bhp electric motor driving the front wheels, giving a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 99mph.

It can be charged via a 6.6kW home charger in five hours 24 minutes, or 3 hours 12 minutes using an 11kW public charger.

ORA Funky Cat

If you can find a rapid 100kW connection, you’ll be back on the road in less than 45 minutes.

The Funky Cat is bigger than it looks in pictures, so it’s more Golf than Polo, or Focus than Fiesta. Crucially, it’s also about the same size as the VW ID.3 – the electric vehicle ORA reckons is the Funky Cat’s closest rival (though we’d say the Citroen e-C4 is closer still).

With its blend of retro features and modern touches, this five-door family hatchback is a breath of fresh air on the road.

ORA Funky Cat

There are hints of MINI, VW Beetle, Nissan Micra and Alfa Romeo MiTo, with its round headlights, sloping nose and bonnet creases.

The Funky Cat’s wheel-in-each-corner profile is more unique with clever curves and a high waistline, while its pert rear is not unlike a Nissan Leaf, though the ‘Cat’ has low set lights, a full width lightbar along the bottom of the tailgate window and a sporty spoiler.

The interior is right up there with the MINI Electric in terms of build quality and the near-premium use of materials. It feels solid too (the doors close with a satisfying clunk).

ORA Funky Cat

It’s funky inside with a minimalist design and a trim matching the exterior colour. There’s a big two-spoke steering wheel, a row of toggle switches and a 10.25-inch touchscreen, plus a large digital driver’s display (also 10.25 inches).

Note: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will form part of an over-the-air update in summer 2023.

A special mention for the voice command system, which works surprisingly well. Simply say “Hello Ora” and you’re away. It recognises your voice too and it’s very good at opening and closing windows!

ORA Funky Cat

The Funky Cat is spacious too, with enough room for adults to sit behind adults, though the boot is a modest 228 litres (rising to 858 litres with the rear seats flipped down).

The heated and electrically adjustable leatherette seats are comfortable and even feature cool cross stitching usually found on luxury cars (check out the door cards too).

When it’s time to set off, simply select D via a centrally located rotating knob, release the parking brake and you’re away. Accompanied by a distant whine, the Funky Cat is as swift as you’d expect for a relatively lightweight EV.

ORA Funky Cat

Smooth, comfortable, fun, and easy to drive with light steering, visibility is good, while cabin refinement is admirable.

There’s also some decent performance (it’s not hard to spin the front wheels if you floor it, especially in the wet) and you can choose from various drive modes.

Stick to Eco for town driving, Normal on more open roads and Sport for occasional bursts of range-sapping run.

ORA Funky Cat

You can also select single-pedal drive mode, which almost eradicates the need for brakes – simply lift off and it slows down fast. Or you can choose between three levels of regen via the touchscreen.

However, despite its looks, the Funky Cat is no match for the MINI Electric in the handling department. Push it to the limit in faster corners and it becomes unsettled, but for everyday driving it’s a joy.

So, as long as you don’t go expecting hot hatch driving dynamics, the Funky Cat won’t disappoint, while a real-world range of 150 miles is way above the smaller MINI’s 100 miles.

ORA Funky Cat

Standard kit on the Funky Cat Launch Edition includes LED headlights, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system, a rear traffic cross alert and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

In fact, it’s so safe that Euro NCAP awarded it a maximum five stars in crash testing.

ORA Funky Cat

No car is perfect, and the Funky Cat is no exception., because it’s not without its irritations.

For instance, the indicators are tricky to cancel. They require an incredibly light touch and it’s all too easy to activate the opposite signal.

We’re sure it won’t be such an issue after a few weeks of ownership, but it’s not ideal initially.

ORA Funky Cat

The various bongs and safety warnings are slightly overbearing too, while the infotainment screen looks cool, but could be much bolder with a larger typeface.

Overall, the Funky Cat is an impressive debut model for GWM in the UK, and if it can keep its pricing competitive, it could be the cat’s whiskers.

Verdict: The all-new ORA Funky Cat is a welcome addition to the EV scene. Not only does it stand out from the crowd, but it also offers practicality, fun driving, good build quality, a useful battery range and a five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

GMM ORA UK

ORA Funky Cat

DS 4 review

DS 4 review

Once in a while I get to road test a new car I know little about, and it proves to be something of a revelation. The stunning DS 4 is one such vehicle.

A cross between a hatchback and a compact crossover, the five-door DS 4  challenges everything from the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class to the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

And if you’re new to DS Automobiles, then it’s probably best described as Citroen’s premium spin-off sister brand.

Sharing a platform with other Stellantis group cars (eg Citroen C5 X, Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308) the DS 4 is available with petrol and diesel engines, plus a flagship plug-in hybrid.

DS 4 review

Priced from £29,710 to £43,550, there are two trim levels (Performance Line and Performance Line ), plus a DS 4 Cross which complements the stylish design of the DS 4 with SUV-inspired styling cues, including side skirts, gloss black roof bars, front and rear skid plates and black bumpers.

You only have to look at the pictures to see that the DS 4 oozes kerb appeal. Its profile is rakish with a blend of smooth surfaces and elegant lines – there are also big wheels and flush-fitting door handles.

The front is dominated by a large diamond mesh DS grille, slim matrix LED headlights and sharp vertical, zig-zag LED running lights, delivering a unique lighting signature, while the rear gets a slim window and sexy rear light clusters.

DS 4 review

All in all, the DS 4 has an athletic stance and if cars were judged purely on style, it would go straight to the top of the class.

It’s the same story inside where there’s a classy, hi-tech feel mixed with top build quality. DS does things differently and the uncluttered interior is a treat with numerous clever design touches. Who else would have thought of integrating the electric window switches so beautifully into the top of the door trim?

A special mention for the seats too, which are easily the most comfortable you will find in this price bracket. There’s plenty of space too, though taller passenger in the rear may struggle for headroom if you opt for the panoramic sunroof which eats into the roof space. Boot capacity is a decent 430 litres, expanding to 1,240 litres with the rear seats folded down.

DS 4 review

Every DS 4 features a 7.0-inch digital driver’s cluster, plus a 10.0-inch central touchscreen which its flush with the dashboard, while higher trim levels get a head-up display that’s projected neatly onto the windscreen.

The infotainment system takes some getting used to, but after a while you get the hang of it. The home screen is customisable and there are short-cut buttons below, but sadly essentials like the climate control are not permanently accessible.

There’s also a twinkly 5.0-inch touchpad (‘DS Smart Touch’) down near the gear selector, which allows you to pre-set up to six shortcuts – each with their own gesture movement. It’s a bit gimmicky, but anything that avoids tapping and swiping menus on the main infotainment screen when driving must be a good thing.

DS 4 review

To summarise, the DS 4’s infotainment system isn’t without its frustrations, but it will grow on you. If nothing else, it’s a thing of beauty – like the rest of the cabin.

I tested the entry-level DS 4 Performance Line PureTech 130, which is fitted a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo driving the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It may sound weedy for a car of this size, but it’s surprisingly powerful.

Developing 128bhp, it’s a punchy little unit and a mainstay within the Stellantis group of cars (Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot too).

DS 4 review

On paper it’s capable of up to 48.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 132g/km. Top speed is 130mph and its 0-62mph time is 10.4 seconds.

There’s a pleasant thrum from the engine when pushed, but such is the refinement of the DS 4’s cabin, it’s hardly noticeable in everyday driving.

Naturally, it’s in its element darting around in an urban environment, but it settles down well on the motorway too. Push it on more challenging roads and the engine will become a little more vocal and it will run out of puff. There’s a slight hesitation getting off the mark sometimes, but generally it works well.

DS 4 review

If you want more petrol power, then move up to the 1.6-litre four-cylinder options, delivering 178bhp and 222bhp respectively, or the plug-in hybrid which offers up to 398.5 miles of electric only motoring.

The DS 4 rides smoothly and feels planted, while body lean is well controlled in faster corners. Just the job, considering this is a car that prioritises comfort over hot handling.

Drive it sensibly and it will deliver close on 50mpg on longer runs. What’s more, you’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed than many of its rivals.

DS 4 review

You’ll also feel special, because the DS 4 turns heads (for all the right reasons), the interior is a designer wonderland and it’s a joy to drive. The best DS I’ve driven yet, it deserves to succeed.

Verdict: Test drive the gorgeous DS 4 if you’re in the market for a premium five-door family car that stands out from the crowd and delivers a tempting alternative to its German rivals. One of 2022’s biggest surprises, you may just fall for its stunning design, classy feel, comfortable drive and twinkly charms.

DS Automobiles UK

Genesis GV80 review

Genesis GV80 SUV

It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new name to the UK car market, so let’s hear it for plush South Korean brand, Genesis.

Already successful in the US and South Korea (with 130,000 sales in 2020 alone), the luxury division of Hyundai (think Lexus/Toyota) initially launches in Europe with two cars – the GV80 SUV and G80 saloon.

Both face a tough task, especially when it comes to stealing sales from the German big three – BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Genesis GV80 SUV

Apart from competitive pricing, Genesis has another couple of tricks up its sleeve to entice buyers, most notably a unique buying experience, generous warranty and VIP aftercare package (of which more later).

The epic BMW X5-sized GV80 is likely to be the best-seller for Genesis until smaller, electrified models appear over the next few years.

Weirdly, when most new launches are either hybrids or fully electric, the GV80 is only initially available with a choice of 2.5-litre petrol or straight-six 3.0-litre diesel engines.

Genesis GV80 SUV

Starting at £56,815, both versions have four-wheel-drive as standard and you can choose between seven or five seats.

The GV80 certainly has road presence and its Korean origins and American appeal are obvious. The enormous chrome grille, bold winged badge and twin horizontal LED headlights are attention grabbers, while the general shape is classic SUV.

There’s even a hint of the Bentley Bentayga there, which is no surprise given that Genesis’s chief designer is Luc Donckerwolke used to have a drawing board at the luxury marque.

Genesis GV80 SUV

The beautifully finished interior is just as impressive with its blend of high-quality materials, comfortable seats and modern technology, including a panoramic 14.5-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 13.3-inch digital driver’s cluster and head-up display.

We tested the 274bhp diesel mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, configured as a spacious five-seater.

There’s lounge-like space up front and space for three adults in the back, while the boot can swallow 735 litres of luggage, or an enormous 2,152 litres of kit with the rear seats folded.

Genesis GV80 SUV

Naturally, there’s a commanding view of the road and let’s just say it’s swift rather than fast.

For the record, it can sprint from 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds, fuel economy is 33.1mpg and CO2 emissions are 231g/km.

You’re aware of its size, especially on narrower country roads, where it feels a bit of a handful.

The cabin is light, airy and refined, and it soon becomes clear that it’s been engineered as an effortless long-distance cruiser, perhaps more with the American market in mind.

Genesis GV80 SUV

The ride on motorways and A roads is pleasantly smooth, but it doesn’t feel quite so sophisticated on smaller, rougher routes.

Thanks to all-wheel drive, grip and traction are impressive, while the engine is suitably responsive, the steering is light and precise, and the brakes provide ample stopping power.

More spirited drivers can switch to Sport mode and try their luck on more challenging roads, but the combination of a large girth and moderate body control soon bring you back to your senses.

That said, if you live in the country or you want to stay in control during extreme weather, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a Terrain mode which can switch between Mud, Sand, or Snow conditions.

Genesis GV80 SUV

As you’d expect, the GV80 is generously equipped, not least in the safety department where it gained a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests (a claimed first-in-class central front airbag is fitted as standard) and goodies include active cruise control and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

So, the GV80 is a classy, distinctive, all-round package, but it’s the ownership experience that might swing sales. Not only is it likely to be as dependable as its sister brands, Hyundai and Kia, but the five-year/unlimited mileage warranty is tempting too.

Then there’s the transparent buying process. There are no dealerships. Instead, you visit a studio where you can interact with a Genesis Personal Assistant (GPA), who’s under no pressure to make a sale and is employed on a commission-free basis.

Genesis GV80 SUV

It’s hoped the GPA will remain a direct point of contact throughout your ownership experience, delivering cars for test drives and purchases, and collecting your car for servicing (providing a like-for-like Genesis while your car is away).

The Five-Year Care Plan also includes servicing, roadside assistance, courtesy car, mapping and over-the-air software updates.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a big, plush new SUV that stands out from the crowd, plus peace of mind and excellent customer service, then consider the all-new Genesis GV80. Spacious, safe, comfortable and generously equipped, it’s an effortless cruiser.

Genesis UK

Lexus UX 300e review

Lexus UX 300e review

Lexus was a part-electrification pioneer when it launched the RX400h self-charging hybrid SUV way back in 2004.

However, it’s taken until now for the premium car maker to bring its first all-electric vehicle – the UX 300e – to market.

Consequently, it’s a little late to the party, joining the likes of the similarly sized Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric and Peugeot e-2008, to name but a few.

Lexus UX 300e review

Starting at £41,745, the Lexus has an official range just shy of 200 miles (190-196 miles, depending on the wheel size) and looks much the same as its hybrid sibling (priced from £29,955).

“Compact, classy, comfortable and economical, it’s engaging to drive, distinctive and oozes badge appeal,” was our conclusion when we reviewed the regular UX (Urban Crossover) in 2019.

In fact, our only gripes were the CVT gearbox (short doses of uncomfortably high revs on hard acceleration) and the infotainment screen which is accessed via a fiddly touchpad down beside the gear selector.

Lexus UX 300e review

The infotainment system is much the same in the UX 300e, but going all electric means there’s no need for a CVT because it’s a one-speed like all EVs, so the new model is a smoother operator.

For now there’s just one power option and three trims levels. A 201bhp e-motor and 54.3kW battery pack combine to power the front wheels and it’s good for a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.5 seconds.

The UX 300e can be fully charged at home in just over eight hours or via a 50KW public charger (up to 80%) in as little as 50 minutes.

Lexus UX 300e review

Naturally, it’s also (modestly) charged on the move via regenerative braking (the levels are controlled via steering wheel paddle shifters) which converts much of the energy lost while decelerating back into stored energy in the car’s battery.

Talking of charge, we found the UX’s real world range to be closer to 170 miles, though this figure will always depend on driving style, terrain, whether you use items such as the heater and the outside temperature.

To look at, the sleek electric UX is definitely one of the most stylish compact SUVs available.

Lexus UX 300e review

In fact, it looks like no other car in its class with bold, sculpted lines, a full-width rear lightbar, roof spoiler and that unmistakable Lexus mesh front grille.

Slightly lower than most competitors and sporting a coupe-like profile, it’s full of innovative features including wheel arch mouldings which not only protect the bodywork, but also have a secondary aerodynamic function, just like the rear lights and the special alloy wheels.

Inside, it oozes class. There’s plenty of room up front, though it’s not as spacious in the rear as some rivals, no is there much space to stick your feet under the front seats, thanks to the batteries below.

Lexus UX 300e review

Luggage capacity is a useful 367 litres (more than the hybrid UX) expanding to 1,278 litres with the rear seats folded.

The cabin itself is stylish, beautifully finished and very Lexus with superb attention to detail. Up front it’s very driver-centric with the instrument panel, switchgear and infotainment screen subtly angled away from the passenger.

Despite its batteries, the UX 300e feels light on the road and even swifter than the official acceleration figures suggest. In fact, in the wet, the traction control system struggles to stop the front wheels spinning if you really go for it.

Lexus UX 300e review

There is a Sport mode, but the difference isn’t that dramatic, and while body control in faster corners is fairly good, the overwhelming sensation is one of comfort and refinement, which again, is very Lexus.

Like many electric cars, the brakes aren’t massively responsive, though the steering is light, making it easy to drive around town.

The 300e is packed with safety and driver assistance systems, and when the hybrid UX was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019 it achieved a maximum score of five stars.

Lexus UX 300e review

And for extra peace of mind, it comes with the standard Lexus three-year/60,000 mile manufacturer warranty for the car, plus an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

Perhaps the 300e’s biggest challenge is its price point and range. For instance, it costs significantly more than the e-Niro and Kona Electric (which both have a range closer to 300 miles) and is even nudging the bigger Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model 3.

Verdict: Refined, comfortable and offering a premium experience, the all-electric Lexus UX 300e is a class act. With a range best suited to urban ownership, it’s easy to drive and stands out from the crowd, but it’s also up against some serious competition.