Versatility makes compact Orlando a magic kingdom
"When the time to carry cargo comes, Orlando transforms into a flatbed of utility, with all rear seats locking down flat."
The Chevrolet Orlando is just another example of a vehicle trying to be all things to most people and like every other vehicle that thinks that way, you have to be willing to compromise in certain areas if you want it all.
That basically means you’re not going to get it all, no matter what.
Orlando is a little vehicle; built on the same platform as the widely-successful Cruze, it’s easy to drive and easy on fuel, and it has four doors, making it ideal for moving several people in and out without too much mussing and fussing.
Due to its narrowness, it’s relatively easy to load and unload passengers in today’s tight parking spots, but there’s no denying that sliding doors (a la Mazda5 – one of its prime competitors) would make those tasks so much easier.
Like the Mazda 5 (and Kia Rondo), Orlando has a third row of seats primarily meant to handle passenger overflow on short trips and ideally by smaller passengers. However, what it has in its favour (as do the Mazda and Kia models) is ideal foot position that makes leg room for those in the rear seat so much more comfortable than in some other larger six- and seven-seaters.
The middle row seats flip well out of the way to allow loading of the rear row, and middle row passengers (realistically two, though there is a centre position) have the added comfort variable of a reclining seatback.
When all seats are in use, there is barely enough trunk room for one or two overnight bags, so Chevy’s claim that a trip to the cottage with the nuclear family and couple teenage friends is achievable is a bit overstated unless you can strap their bring-alongs to the roof or on a tow-along trailer. Having all seats in use, it also knocks out rear-view for the driver considerably (even having all the headrests up impedes it significantly).
However, when the time to carry cargo comes, the Orlando transforms into a flatbed of utility, with all rear seats locking down flat. The square overall presence makes it ideal for loading up with stuff (the best cargo carrying vessel is still a box, so it’s conceivably better than the more rounded Mazda5 and Rondo), especially if you can play Tetris. The biggest obstacle is the gap between the middle and rear, into which small mobile items like a Chihuahua can slip, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Up front is an interpretation of the modern Chevrolet dual cockpit design, which tends to be a bit claustrophobic due to the narrowness of the Orlando, but everything is where the driver needs it for efficient control. The footwell is especially tight for larger winter footwear, so choose your driving boots accordingly.
There is the typical array of storage spaces, with the cupholders located low between the seats, but it does feature the first iteration of the space-behind-the-radio (we’re going to have to come up with a simpler, catchier name).
Power is provided by a 2.4-litre four cylinder engine, which is good enough for everyday driving but tends to bog down significantly once the vehicle is loaded up (fuel economy, which isn’t great to begin with, also suffers with the increase in weight). Transmitting power to the front wheels is the job of a six-speed transmission – standard manual; optional automatic in our test LT model. It performs it with ease and smoothness, and when it’s needed, manual shifting allows the driver to get more oomph relatively quickly.
So to sum it up, Orlando is not a replacement for a six-person mover, but rather a compact car that can perform expanded duty (better for cargo than for people) on a limited basis.
2012 Chevrolet Orlando
Trim level: LT
Price as tested (before taxes): $24,715
Options on test vehicle: Automatic transmission ($1,450); 16-inch aluminum wheels ($510); vehicle interface pkg. ($460) inc.: Bluetooth, USB port, leather steering wheel with audio controls.
Configuration: front engine/ front wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.4L 4-cyl./ 6-spd. auto with sequential shift.
Power/ torque: 174 hp/ 171 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Regular (64L)
Fuel economy ratings: 10.1 L/100km city; 6.9 L/100km hwy.
Observed economy: 9.9 L/100km over 760 km
Warranties: Exp. 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/160,000 km (powertrain).
Competitors: Kia Rondo; Mazda5
Strengths: versatility, flat-floored cargo area; acceptable roominess
Weaknesses: looks; rear access in tight spots; power under full load; claustrophobic front seats