We spent some time with the GWM Ora 03 - here are five things that stood out

Published Mar 8, 2024


With load shedding plunging South Africa into darkness, it’s not surprising that many South Africans get grumpy at the mention of electric cars, particularly given how expensive they are.

But for those willing and able to stretch their new car budget, and install the necessary solar panels and battery storage which many are doing anyway, there is an increasingly enticing array of electric vehicles (EVs) coming onto the market.

One of the more interesting new options, launched late last year, is GWM’s Ora 03, which we recently spent some time with.

Priced between R686,950 and R835,950, the Ora 03 also happens to be the least expensive electric car in South Africa at the moment. But cheap, it isn’t. Thanks to high local taxes for battery cars and the fact that batteries are still much more expensive than engines, the affordable EV that many are praying for, will remain a fantasy for the time being.

But if you think about it as an upmarket hatch of sorts, the Ora 03 is actually a very desirable option. Here’s what stood out for me during my time with the car.

It really stands out

The Ora 03 was penned by former Porsche designer Emanual Derta, and it shows in the cute frog-eyed front end that makes the little Chinese hatch quite a head-turner out on the street.

It got stared at more than any other car I’d driven in the past year. Not everyone liked it, but many bystanders were curious about the car and some had no idea what brand it was.

Dare we say it has a fun ‘ora’.

Not quite a hot hatch, but fun to drive

Electric cars are loved for their instant torque delivery that make them extremely quick off the line.

While it’s not quite a robot racer, the Ora’s electric motor, with 125kW and 250Nm, delivers brisk and effortless performance that makes overtaking a cinch.

I also got to spend some time with it on two racetracks, both on the launch and the recent Car of the Year test days. The Ora’s overall stability proved impressive. Although steering response isn’t the greatest, this vehicle is agile and very chuckable. That’s the thing with EVs - batteries packed into the floor mean a low centre of gravity.

The Ora does the everyday commuting thing very well too. It’s easy to drive and the ride is relatively comfortable.

Range anxiety wasn’t a problem

Due to my schedule that week, I never got to test just how far the Ora can go on a charge, but range estimates on the infotainment screen seemed to correlate with the mileage covered and I never felt range anxiety in my time of running around town and doing a few short freeway trips.

GWM claims a WLTP range of between 400km and 420km for the Ora ‘400’ models that make up most of the range. These come with a 63 kWh nickel-manganese cobalt battery. The base Ora, badged ‘300’, has a 48 kWh lithium-iron phosphate unit with a WLTP estimate of 310km.

Interestingly, during a test at Gerotek that simulated freeway conditions, AutoTrader managed to cover 200km (running from 90% to 10% battery capacity) in the Ora ‘400’ GT model. Although this is half the claimed range, keep in mind that EVs do have a much shorter battery life on freeway runs due to the lack of regenerative braking opportunities.

Speaking of regen braking, although the Ora does have a one-pedal function that can be activated on the infotainment system, it was among the least sensitive systems I’ve encountered and it didn’t enable true one-pedal driving. The upside to that, is that the driving experience feels a bit more akin to an ICE car.

Practical, except for the boot

Another big EV bonus, with batteries under-floor, is interior packaging and the Ora impresses with its generous rear legroom.

But the swoopy rear end design, which reminds us of the Nissan Leaf, does result in a disappointingly small boot, with a capacity of just 228 litres, albeit expanding to a more generous 858 litres when you fold down the rear seats.

Funky cabin, but some cheap plastics

Our Ora 400 GT Ultra Luxury test car came with a funky interior with red trim on the dashboard, steering wheel and seat edge piping. But some of the plastics inside the cabin do look a bit low-rent.

The cabin is certainly well appointed, as we’ve come to expect from modern Chinese products.

It’s also ergonomically modern, with a dual-screen set-up that incorporates most of the car’s functions. But it’s not the most user-friendly system we’ve encountered. For instance, some of the climate control functions require menu digging on the central screen.


With its funky looks and peppy performance, the GWM Ora 03 is a very likeable city hatch, with bags of character.

In base form, it makes a lot of sense, providing the range meets your needs, but the flagship versions do have their work cut out, where compelling newcomers like the Volvo EX30 and BYD Atto3 enter the picture.

GWM Ora 03 Pricing (March 2024)

Ora 03 300 Super Luxury - R686,950

Ora 03 400 Super Luxury - R775,950

Ora 03 400 Ultra Luxury - R805,950

Ora 03 400 GT Ultra Luxury - R835,950

IOL Motoring