Monday 5 December 2011
Chevrolet Orlando MPV (2010 – ) first drive
The Chevrolet Orlando is a big car which fills a big gap in its maker’s range.
The Orlando features a deep grill and large lamp clusters, a short bonnet and a squarish passenger compartment with a distinct, shallow downward plunge to the side window line.
With its short overhangs and tall stance, the Orlando might almost be mistaken for a 4×4.
Getting into the car is a synch. With large doors and high, big seats, climbing on board is a painless experience.
Getting to the rearmost seats requires more of a stretch, but is less hassle than some rival people carriers. Once installed, a pair of adults would find it perfectly comfortable, with a decent amount of head, shoulder and legroom.
This applies to the centre seats, only more so, as they offer plenty of lounging about room. On the other hand, the folding armrest makes the seat in the middle distinctly less comfortable, although its occupant is held in place by a proper three point seatbelt. Rear passengers also have their own air vents.
Chevrolet has come in for some stick for the quality of its interiors. The words ‘hard’ and ‘plastic’ are often used when describing them, and the company has clearly had a serious go at glamming up the Orlando’s cabin.
The gently swooping facia now has a ‘piano black’ insert –very trendy amongst carmakers apparently- and the steering wheel is soft and comfortable to use. There aren’t many shiny finishes, a giveaway when it comes to cheap plastics, but a lot of hard surfaces remain.
The end result flatters to deceive slightly, but this is a car intended to offer metal for money, and the end result is far from unpleasant.
The minor controls work well, and are sensibly laid out, while the instruments are well placed, in a rather fussy binnacle that looks, just a bit, as if it came from a Chevrolet circa 1972.
There’s a petrol 1.8-litre Orlando and a pair of 2-litre diesels, (a 128 and 160bhp), which are likely to take the bulk of sales, so we concentrated on these.
We drove the less powerful engine with a six-speed gearbox, which had well chosen ratios, but a rather clunky action, although finding the right gear was never a problem.
The engine lets you know when it was exerting itself, but did this smoothly, and punted the car without strain (think a rather good 9.9sec 0-60 and 121mph top speed). It would happily lug the car along in top gear at city driving speeds, although this made for understandably flaccid acceleration. On the motorway there was usually sufficient torque to leave the Orlando in top when winding it up for overtaking.
The rest of the time the engine was turning over at a gentle sub 2,000rpm, which made for very relaxed cruising.
There was a certain amount of tyre roar and wind noise, as the bluff-fronted Orlando has to push a fair bit of air out of the way.
We also tried the more powerful diesel with a six-speed automatic transmission, which went about its work unobtrusively, kicked down quickly enough when required, and was a relaxed cruising car.
The Orlando is perfectly comfortable, but is not blessed with sophisticated riding qualities. On poor surfaces it sometimes pitches gently, like a dinghy in a light swell, and occasionally there’s some residual movement after it has traversed poor surfaces that would leave some of its rivals completely unruffled.
The car rolls a fair bit when pushed, but the steering is accurate enough, so the end result is something that drives in a painless, rather than engaging way.
Worth the trip?
Given the Orlando’s name, has it got a sunny disposition? Well, viewed as a practical means of toting a large family or as something that will earn its living as a private hire vehicle, this Chevrolet is perfectly effective.
It’s spacious, practical, well equipped and offers a comfortable environment for its occupants.
For them, the Orlando’s passively underwhelming dynamics will be an irrelevance.
Model tested: Chevrolet Orlando 2.0 VCDi LT
Date tested: November 2010
Road tester: Martin Gurdon