One week with the 2023 Ora Good Cat - Is Malaysia ready for the funkiest EV on sale?
CY Foong · Sep 16, 2023 12:00 PM
Looking at the Ora Good Cat for the first time, I wondered if this Chinese-built (CBU) electric car is a fashion statement hopping on the whole EV wave that’s spreading all over the world or is it one that you can live with even after all that hype?
There’s no denying that EVs are becoming so important in the automotive industry that policymakers are siding with the assumingly “cleaner and greener” way of motoring. Many carmakers have pledged to shift their focus to EVs by the end of the decade while governments all over the world including in Malaysia have given incentives and rebates to encourage the purchase of EVs.
Yet at the same time, EVs are still mostly out of reach for the average buyer who would rather buy a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE). The Ora Good Cat is one of the more affordable EVs on sale in Malaysia with prices starting from RM 140,500 for the base 400 Pro while the top-of-the-range 500 Ultra which we have for our review starts from RM 170,500.
So, how does it feel like to be in the funkiest EV on sale in Malaysia? For this review, I decided to compile my experience in a diary to see how well I could adapt to an EV for a week.
Day 1 – It’s all about the looks
Picking up the Hazel Brown Good Cat from GWM’s office, I’m immediately smitten by its design. The cutesy exterior is a quirk on its own that immediately attracts attention. It’s an instant head turner as everyone that passed the Good Cat either pointed at it or whipped out their smartphones.
Perhaps it might be the electric kitty’s name and logo being splashed across the side which is (thankfully?) not what you will get when buying one. Earlier this year, we took this exact Good Cat for a video review but back then, it didn’t have “ORA GOOD CAT” written on the sides.
The Good Cat definitely scores marks on its design as the outside seems to be a combination of a Volkswagen Beetle and a MINI 3-door. Some comments on the looks that I received include playful, feminine, and something straight out of a children’s cartoon.
My fellow writer and colleague from WapCar BM, Ita compared the looks to a tortoise on the side profile. I cannot unsee it with the dual-tone colour and because of that, you might unsee the shelled reptile resemblance too.
Inside, the Good Cat or at least the one we took for a review welcomed us with its white and brown colour combination. As classy as this looks, the colour combo does attract some unwanted smudges easily if you’re not careful. The fit and finish on the Good Cat are actually decent that they are almost on the same level as the standard Japanese car.
The Good Cat doesn’t have a physical start button, something that might seem very perplexing for those who are accustomed to the basic procedure of getting a car running. To start the electric motor, you depress the brake pedal and the instrument display will indicate that the car is ready to go. Switching the motor off is done by pressing a kill switch button on the right side.
Certain things like that might seem complicated at first but that’s nothing compared to the complexity of entering the sub-menus on the driver’s display. Accessing it requires holding down one of the steering wheel buttons. Look at the photo above and guess which button it is. No cheating!
Searched hard enough? Well, if you didn’t want to play guesses, it’s the “OK” button; not the button that has what looks like a list which was what I first thought. Being user-friendly though doesn’t seem to be a priority for a fashionable car it seems.
The same can be felt in the rotary-type gear selector. It might look cool but the selector doesn’t lock the gear into place like most selectors do. Just when you thought you engage drive from reverse or neutral, it turns out you didn’t which can be awkward, just like mentioning the car's name during a date.
Also being an EV meant that I have to adapt to a new lifestyle change of downloading and registering various applications and charging services. Since I reside in a high-rise that doesn’t allow installing a wallbox charger let alone overnight charging, public chargers are the only way for me to juice up this electric kitty.
Still, this was only day 1 of a week-long experience with an EV, regardless of origin. The Good Cat rested easy as it will be enduring a long trip in the coming days.
Day 2 – Beeping through
Initially, I planned to top up the Good Cat for our 100-km energy consumption test at the free-to-use ABB charging station in Subang Jaya. Seeing the cars queueing for the one charging station and the security guard estimating it would be 5 hours before my turn, I decided to head off to the one in Sunway X Park.
Good thing the DC fast charging station was empty and It took about 15 minutes to charge the Good Cat up to 80% from 71%. To pass the time I was busy doomscrolling on social media but patience seems to be a habit you have to pick up when living with an EV. Charged up, it’s back on the road for the Good Cat and despite the plush interior, the ride is quite harsh.
Maybe it’s typical for Chinese cars to be harsher on the suspension side but on Malaysian roads, the bumps soaked directly into the steering wheel which made an uncomfortable driving experience. At least the seats are thick and comfortable enough that passengers might not feel the harshness more apparent.
The Good Cat is also wider and more massive than it looks; almost like an SUV than a compact hatchback. It shares the same Lemon platform as the Haval H6 and Haval Jolion which is also why it doesn’t have a frunk in front though the rear boot space is pretty small.
Driving through the usual traffic jams of the capital during rush hour meant plenty of beeps chiming into the Good Cat along with the cameras turning on and off as the motorcyclists weave around and some drivers suddenly cut into the lane without indicating.
These are some of the safety warnings that are played out from the Good Cat’s ADAS suite that includes AEB, lane-keep assist (LKA), and Wisdom Dodge System (WDS) which is an extension of LKA. In terms of safety, the Good Cat is comprehensive enough but those incessant warning chimes might put some people to turn it off eventually.
By the end of the second day, the Good Cat travelled around 30 km while the battery level showed that it had 73% of charge remaining.
Day 3 – Is the novelty wearing thin?
The stares at the Good Cat continued into the third day as it caught the eye of all sorts of people – young, old, guy, girl – perhaps it’s just a joy to see one out on the roads but it’s also a bit of a testament as to how quirky the EV looks even if it’s been on sale since early this year.
From the perspective of someone who has been in the car for 3 days though, the Good Cat feels and drives like an everyday car. Not that it’s a complaint since it just proves itself to be a well-off daily commuter.
Suddenly, it started raining heavily and as my rear visibility worsened, I thought of turning on the rear wiper. Except that despite the hatchback look, the Good Cat did not come with one! Instead, I turned on the rear demister to clear up the increasing amount of raindrops trapped on the rear windscreen.
I find it rather odd for a hatchback to not be equipped with a rear wiper, perhaps the designers wanted a very clean rear. Another minor setback I experienced in our Hazel Brown unit is the keyless entry sometimes had difficulty locking and unlocking.
This might be an outlier issue on our unit which has went through nearly 13,000 km of mileage when I took it.
Halfway through the day, the Good Cat had been driven around 160 km (50% highway, 50% stop-start traffic) for our energy consumption test with 50% of battery charge remaining. Charging up at a nearby DC fast charger station took around 40 minutes and the Good Cat recorded an average reading of 12.85 kWh/100 km.
Day 4 – Melaka road trip!
Having been in the city, the Good Cat did its job as an urban-centric EV but what if you decide to take it out of the city where EV chargers, especially the faster DC chargers are few and in between? That’s part of my mission during my week spent in the Good Cat.
During our Melaka trip, I went alongside Ita and decided somewhere along the way to try the back seats. Needless to say, it's pretty spacious in the back with ample legroom but headroom is a bit compromised due to the sloping roof design.
I’ve covered more on our experience in the Good Cat in Melaka alongside Ita in a standalone review and while the overall journey is pretty seamless with the feline fashionista able to make it to and back with only one charging stopover in between, we did face some issues – some with the country’s EV infrastructure and some with the Good Cat’s safety nannies.
We’ll start with the infrastructure and while there have been many more charging stations popping up, especially in the major cities outside of the Klang Valley, good luck finding one outside of the North-South Highway.
It’s not as bad as what Shaun experienced when he and a convoy of EVs went to the East Coast but still, it’s probably why you don’t see many EVs outside of the Klang Valley and Penang.
While charging the Good Cat at the Ayer Keroh rest stop, we met a Mercedes-Benz EQB owner who only topped up his EV for about 15 minutes. He said he was heading down to Johor Bahru from KL that day and was adding some charge to his ride since there aren’t many DC fast chargers in the southern city.
Another EV owner we met during our Melaka trip was Faisal and Yunis who had just bought the Good Cat a couple of days before our arrival in the historical state. Their reason for getting it over a BYD Atto 3 or other EVs was that they already have an SUV at home, a Lexus NX, and the family was interested in getting a smaller EV.
Before we left Melaka, Faisal told us there was an EV charging station that had just opened near Klebang Beach. We thought instead to charge the Good Cat on the way back to Kuala Lumpur. In hindsight, that was a daring decision even though the EV showed that it had just enough range to head back.
As we exited Melaka, it started to get dark and a group of Mat Rempits were racing on the highway, darting around the passing cars and trucks. We had the Good Cat’s adaptive cruise control (ACC) turned on at the time and amidst all the pests on their two-wheels’ reckless behaviour, the car started overreacting with all the beeps and warnings as it tried to keep itself on the lane.
Eventually, we faced a bigger worry than those errant bikers later on. While cruising on the middle lane with ACC on and our hands still on the wheel, a trailer truck slowly meandered onto our lane and as Ita who was driving then tried to swerve aside to avoid a collision, the Good Cat’s LKA detected our manoeuvre and forced the steering wheel to turn back into the lane.
It’s a good thing that we managed to regain control but this is essentially a bit of a lesson to not completely rely on the vehicle’s ADAS. So far in my experience with the system whether it’s on the Good Cat or any other car, being in control of the car is much better and ACC is best for long-distance journeys but only for a brief period.
On our way back to KL, we decided to stop over at the Seremban R&R just to top up a bit of the Good Cat’s charge. The rest area only has a couple of regular AC chargers and yet both chargers weren’t operational.
With the charging stations down, we decided to head back to KL to recharge our Good Cat. After a journey of 211.5 km since our last charge, we arrived at the charging station in Subang Jaya with 20% battery charge remaining. Our Melaka trip seemed feasible for the Good Cat but what should’ve been a 2-and-a-half-hour drive stretched out to nearly 4 hours as we decided to charge the EV on the way to the historical state.
Day 5 – Swapping drivers
Returning back from our KL-Melaka-KL trip, I decided to let WapCar BM Editor Zamil have a go at the Good Cat for the day. So without further ado, I’ll let him share his one-day experience living with the electric kitty cat.
“For my day with the Good Cat, I only travelled around Puchong, Petaling Jaya, and KL. As a regular car driving around the highways in the city, I find the acceleration to be good and manageable. Just don’t expect it to be an electric rocket like a Tesla since this is supposed to be an urban EV.
But being an urban EV or even a city car EV might be a bit of a mislabel since it’s actually a wide car to drive around the city. It has a large turning radius and when my partner took it out for a drive, she finds it difficult to go even around small spaces.
The Good Cat’s steering ratio is too big and around tight manoeuvres, this seemingly adorable EV starts to show off some of its size. Like what CY had mentioned before, it is built on the GWM Lemon platform that underpins some Haval SUV models.
I would also much prefer a gear stalk a la Mercedes-Benz over the rotary gear shifter which is not so intuitive. Other discomforts include the pedal positions that I find too close to each other and the infotainment screen that is too far to reach. Aside from the steering wheel, there are no other physical buttons to control the audio and the same goes for the A/C controls which are mainly on the screen.
The Wisdom Dodge System can be a bit too sensitive as well, borderline annoying actually. When I want to overtake at one point, the Good Cat forces me to stay in my lane thinking that it’s not safe to move when there are barely any vehicles.
Still, I wouldn’t want to entirely fault the Good Cat because as a daily driver, it is a manageable car to be in. The firm ride is absorbed mostly by the comfortable seats which occupants wouldn’t even tell if the ride is actually not so great.”
Day 6 – Still turning heads
After a day away with the Good Cat, Zamil returned it to me with the EV’s gauge showing it has around 240 km of range remaining. It’s fine anyway since I would only be driving around the city and not going anywhere further.
Yet, the staring continues from the public. On that one day, I probably noticed at least 10 people reacting to the Good Cat such as an Avanza driver looking amused as he drove past and a Grab rider on his superbike who turned around to stare at the car as he was speeding along.
To outsiders, the Good Cat is a quirky car but to me, having spent nearly a week in the car, the novelty is wearing off. All the quirks and features seem normal, maybe it’s the acceptance of… Hang on, the massaging seats are actually pretty good so why didn’t I notice it earlier for my Melaka trip?
Well, because the Good Cat still has that essence of a Chinese car that is all form with not much function. Never mind that the infotainment is hard to reach as Zamil described, the A/C shortcut controls on the screen disappear when you connect via Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and it gets cold in the Good Cat pretty fast.
At least those massage seats are relaxing. It’s just a shame that the function has a weird translation from Chinese. "Off" is "Close".
Day 7 – Goodbye, Good Cat
Having experienced some highs and lows living with the Good Cat for a week, I have very mixed feelings for the cutesy-looking car. With its weird name and adorable looks, it feels more like a novelty EV.
It is more form over function from the lack of a rear wiper when there's a sudden downpour to the complicated accessibility functions like the air-cond controls being hidden the moment you turn on smartphone connectivity.
Even as an urban EV, the Good Cat suffers from a surprisingly large turning radius which makes moving around feel more like an SUV than a MINI-aping hatchback.
While it is possible to bring the Good Cat for a long journey out of the city, just like any EVs on sale at the moment, this requires plenty of planning around it given how little the charging infrastructure in most parts of the country. Besides, as a daily, the harsh ride might not be suitable for everyone nor are the oversensitive ADAS sensors.
Yet, the Good Cat very much stands out and that's really all that it's good for - a stylish automotive accessory that also happens to be powered by electricity. When EVs become a more affordable norm in the future, will we look back at the Chinese EV with cute looks and a feline name as an early fad or a game-changer?