DRIVEN: GWM Ora 03 excels as a battery powered ‘boutique’ hatch

Published Nov 15, 2023


The long-awaited GWM Ora 03 has finally landed in South Africa and we got to spend some time with it on the national launch in Gauteng this week.

Offered in four derivatives, priced from R686,950 to R835,950, the GWM Ora 03 is the country’s least expensive electric car, although it’s not the affordable EV that many are crying out for.

Think of it as a funky compact hatch alternative to the Mini Cooper SE and it starts to make sense.

We met up with the new EV hatch at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on a chilly Tuesday morning, where GWM executives ran us through all the specifics while also making us well aware that the car was penned by former Porsche designer Emanual Derta.

The Stuttgart influence clearly shines through in this little hatchback’s adorable looks, particularly in its pudgy face, but the back end strikes us as a little strange, with a few hints of Nissan Leaf evident.

Following the presentation it was time to get behind the wheel on a launch route that would take us to the the V8 Roadhouse in Hartbeespoort for a good dose of irony and a milkshake.

The round trip of just under 100km was not enough to put its driving range to the test, but we did arrive back with just under 80% battery capacity after GWM challenged us to an economy run of sorts.

For the record, the GWM Ora 03 is sold in two battery sizes, with the base ‘300 Super Luxury’ model fed by a 48kWh lithium-ion phosphate unit offering a claimed (WLTP cycle) range of 310km between charges. The other three versions have a 63kWh nickel-manganese cobalt battery that enables WLTP range figures of up to 420km in the ‘400 Super Luxury’ and 400km in the Ultra Luxury and GT flagship versions.

According to GWM’s calculations a full AC charge at home will cost you around R170 to R250, while juicing it up at a DC fast charging station will set you back by up to R300. The importer claims a cost-per-kilometre of 40 cents, versus R1.17 for a petrol car that consumes 5.0-litres per 100km.

That said, you also need to factor in the electric car’s steeper asking price. For instance a Toyota Corolla 1.8 XS hybrid hatch, which should offer similar interior space, starts at R531 200, meaning it could take around 200 000km worth of electric driving to make up for the price difference.

Speaking of cabin room, I was able to sit comfortably behind my front seating position, although there wasn’t a great deal of stretch-out space, and the 228 litre boot is small. Yes, this GWM is certainly more practical than the Mini Cooper SE, but it’s not particularly practical.

So let’s take a spin.

We got to try out the new Ora 03 on some rural roads outside Johannesburg, as mentioned, as well as on the Kyalami race circuit.

Power comes from a single electric motor that sends 126kW and 250Nm to the front wheels.

As you’d expect from an electric motor, power delivery is ultra-smooth and its instant torque delivery makes it easy to pick up speed when you need to overtake or steal a gap in traffic.

This is not pretending to be a performance car however and even under full acceleration around Kyalami we never got that ‘push you back in the seat’ sensation. But it’s got more than enough oomph for the average owner, as far as we’re concerned.

The Ora 03 also has an ‘e-pedal’ mode which maximises regenerative braking to help you recharge the battery on the move, but on our launch route it stopped short of providing a full one-pedal driving experience.

The screen-centric cabin is perhaps not the most user-friendly set-up for operating on the move, as we discovered en route to the V8 Roadhouse. You have to dig through menus to change the climate controls, for instance.

The cabin is generously appointed however, and standard in the Super Luxury base model is a pair of 10.25-inch (26cm) screens, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charger, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors and synthetic leather seats with power adjustment upfront.

There’s also a whole slew of driver assist gizmos fitted across the range, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Auto Emergency Braking, 360-degree panoramic camera and much more.

Aesthetically the base model rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels and comes with LED headlights as standard.

The Ultra Luxury version adds a panoramic sunroof as well as an electric tailgate, power-folding mirrors and heating, ventilation and massaging functions for the front seats.

Over and above all that the GT Ultra Luxury gains a unique exterior styling package with red trimmings and bespoke alloy wheels, and the cabin is endowed with a semi-autonomous parking assistant as well as Front Cross Traffic Assistant.

The after-sales deal includes a seven-year or 105,000km service plan as well as a seven-year or 200,000km general warranty, while the high-voltage parts are covered for eight years or 150,000km.

GWM Ora 03 Pricing (November 2023)

300 Super Luxury - R686,950

400 Super Luxury - R775,950

400 Ultra Luxury - R805,950

400 GT Ultra Luxury - R835,950