Earlier this year, Ora, the electric vehicle subsidiary of Great Wall Motors, unveiled the Ora Punk Cat, an electric car that stole the limelight from other established car brands at Auto Shanghai 2021 in April and the 2021 Chengdu Motor Show, due to its striking similarity to the iconic Volkswagen Beetle.
I personally have wanted a Volkswagen Beetle since I was a teenager. Since I have a family consisting of a wife and two teenagers, none of whom can drive, convention and practicality dictate that I need a more spacious vehicle to shuttle this trio around. In about six years, though, my younger child will have completed university, and I will be at a place where I may consider a Volkswagen Beetle for my wife and myself. The only issue? Most Beetles will be at least two decades old by that time, since Volkswagen has discontinued this model.
Enter the Ora Punk Cat.
The Ora Punk Cat is decidedly Beetle-esque, and ticks all my boxes for retro look and feel. Ora has already secured European Union exterior design patents for the Punk Cat–and its sister model, the Ballet Cat–and the rumour making the rounds on Aussie electric vehicle online fora is that either or both of these may make it to Australian shores to duke it out with other small electric vehicles like the Hyundai Kona and Ioniq, the Tesla Model 3, the Renault Zoe, and the Nissan Leaf. Volkswagen doesn’t appear to be contesting the design at this point in time, so it appears to be all systems go.
So let’s look at the Ora Punk Cat and what makes it a must-have car for people considering an electric car in Australia. The initial set of images you’ll be seeing are from the concept car showcased at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show.
The Ora Punk Cat exterior offers a decidedly retro look and feel that definitely hearkens back to the days of the Volkswagen Beetle. This potentially Australian electric vehicle is longer than the Beetle, with four doors instead of the original two. (It will be noted that the Volkswagen New Beetle did have a four-door variant, but the Ora’s retro design inspiration is clearly the original.) It accomplished this by slightly over-extending the roofline, and sloping the two-toned colours gently down the back, giving it a modern yet vintage flair.
The rear of the Ora Punk Cat is sleek and satisfying. The roof of the car appears to be black panoramic, with white on the sides, then another colour proceeding from the bonnet through the lower half of the car, extending towards the rear bumper. A panoramic roof! The A-line
This Chinese electric vehicle appears to be two-toned and, from the banner below from one of the China shows, may be available in a variety of colours. The colour schemes displayed in the banner don’t match with the initial concept car images, so until the car is actually released, the jury seems to be out on the final colours of the Ora Punk Cat and which parts of the car will retain that and which parts will keep the sleek black curvature we initially saw on the concept car.
Having stepped into both Classic and New Beetles, I noted wistfully that the interiors were rather austere–read: bland–which was a hallmark of the German model. The Ora Punk Cat takes this mindset and blows it to smithereens. It’s almost as if the designers thought to themselves, “the Beetle was supposed to be fun but the insides were dull AF, so let’s smoke some crack and see where it takes us!”
According to Ora promotional material, the Ora Punk Cat is envisioned as a car for “princesses,” although believe you me, I know that this retro feel and the Beetle influence will speak just as much to men as women, so I would caution the Ora marketing team to explicitly market this car as a vehicle for women.
This princess feel carries over into the interiors of the car. While key features include creature comforts that may speak to women, like seat warmers, a “magic mirror and chrome or rose-gold trim, the Ora Punk Cat’s interior is a retro-meets-the-future kitsch-fest and I am here for it. From the parquet floor mats to so many circles across the dashboard that you’d be tempted to find a hidden Mickey, it is a lot. And I love it.
The vintage feels are strong in the Ora Punk Cat, from that Beetle-esque three-spoke steering wheel (with touchscreen buttons presumably to control the sound system) to the gold-trimmed round air conditioner vents and instruments. The two-tone colours of the exterior carry through to most of the dashboard, with accents in cream and red. A digital touchscreen display sits front and centre of the dashboard.
Because of its strong retro influence, a lot of the bells and whistles that you would otherwise see and expect in Australian electric vehicles is done away on the Ora Punk Cat, and replaced by chrome–lots of it. The chrome and rose-gold accents of the car do give it a rather feminine feel, but it shouldn’t have to be a deal-breaker for someone looking for a Volkswagen Beetle with a 2021 touch.
Because the Ora Punk Cat is longer than the Volkswagen Beetle, we know there will be slightly more seating room in the former than the latter. I’m also sure that at least one of the seats will come with a warming feature.
At the moment, we don’t appear to have final specifications on the Punk Cat, but many EV websites are placing their bets on the car’s being built on an all-electric power train and a frame similar to the Ora Good Cat, which comes with a 47.8 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack or a 59.1 kWh ternary-lithium battery pack. Depending on your usage and weight–ahem!–you could run up to 400 km on a single charge.
The production image of the Ora Punk Cat (below), released sometime around the time of the Chengdu show, shows some difference from the Shanghai concept car, and I’m half-and-half on the changes. On the plus side, they’ve updated the bumpers to a more retro feel. They’ve thankfully kept the headlights and tail lights–unlike the Ballet Cat, which has rather ugly tail lights IMHO. The licence plate holder is now positioned atop the bumper. On the negative side, they did away with the two-tone look across the body and applied the colour instead to the headlight and wheel area, which I feel made it lose some sleekness. And they replaced the cute retro side mirrors with a more generic and bland mirror. But we can’t all tick our design boxes–and the Ora Punk Cat is a smorgasbord of designs that will appeal to a certain kind of driver i.e., me.
What I’m naturally hoping for is a price point that will make the Ora Punk Cat very, very attractive in Australia. At the moment, the Hyundai Kona is the cheapest name-brand EV on the market at $28,990, which is a great price for a small EV. According to Ora, though, the Punk Cat may start at a little less than AU$16,000 and top up at $22,000. At a price like that, everyone can have access to and reap the benefits of driving an electric car.
Now should Ora bring the Punk Cat to Australian shores, you can bet I’ll definitely want a chance at reviewing–and hopefully buying–one of these bad boys. I’ll keep you posted!