Quiz question: What do the Tesla Model 3, the Polestar 2, the laptop I’m writing this on and very probably the device you’re reading it off all have in common? Answer: they are all beautifully built, high quality electronic devices… that were manufactured in China.
Curious then, that when the subject turns to Chinese cars, much of Europe still seems to turn its nose up. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, a stigma of poor build quality continues to colour western perceptions of the Chinese car industry. Now granted, if you look at Chinese cars from previous decades, you’ll see that this accusation isn’t entirely baseless, but anyone who’s seen any of our man Elliot’s recent episodes on the channel will know that China has an awful lot more to offer these days.
Even so, with some Chinese brands now hungrily eyeing up the European market, that reputation is something they’ll need to address and disprove if they are to have any real success over here. And Ora, a new EV-only Chinese brand, appears to fully understand this. Which is why it’s latest model, the Cat, will be quite a lot posher than many were expecting it to be when it arrives in the UK and Republic of Ireland early next year.
Prices will start at around £25,000, probably climbing to 30-ish for the top of the line model with all the toys and a bigger battery. That’s not cheap compared to Ora’s previous model, the £7,000, China-only R1, but in the landscape of EVs currently on sale in Europe, it’s still right down the low end. In fact, it places the Cat firmly into VW ID.3 territory, a car it has much in common with on paper. Both pull off the same ‘small outside, big inside’ TARDIS trick thanks to bespoke EV architecture, and both offer extremely impressive range if specced correctly.
But inside, the two cars could not be more disparate. Where the ID.3’s cabin is let down by a sea of bland-looking, cheap-feeling plastics that leave you wondering if VW forgot to save any budget for the interior at all, the Ora cocoons you in premium materials. The seats are wrapped in a soft leatherette as-standard and finished with a diamond-stitched pattern not unlike that found in Bentleys. There are faux-wood inlays in the doors and centre console. Two large screens, also provided as-standard, serve the infotainment and gauge cluster. And it all feels good. The door shuts with a gratifying dull thud. The physical switches have a pleasing weight to them. Even the audible click that accompanies the indicator has a clipped poshness to it.
I’m sure many were hoping for a cheaper, more basic package from China’s first EV to land on UK soil. Those will come, but I think Ora has judged its first offering to perfection. No, it’s not dirt cheap, but it’s a very impressive offering for the price. Moreover it will serve as absolute proof to any remaining sceptics that Chinese car makers are more than capable of building products that can stand toe-to-toe with their European counterparts when it comes to quality.
For more information, watch this first look episode on YouTube now.
About the author
Jack is a London-based presenter, writer, and expert in all things automotive. A lifelong car fanatic and recovering petrolhead, Jack is a fully converted EV evangelist these days and, prior to joining Fully Charged, spent two years launching and fronting a new EV media brand called Electroheads.