2012 Chevrolet Orlando Review | National Post

2012 Chevrolet Orlando Review
2012 Chevy Orlando Review
By Annette McLeod, National Post, Toronto
The name is synonymous with family fun (and mouse ears) but tinged with irony in the case of the 2012 Chevrolet Orlando, as you can’t buy it there – or anywhere else in the United States. The European model is coming to North America, but only to Canada. Our southern cousins were in on the planning discussion, but, with a myopic eye on the future of gas prices, they declined to participate in the Orlando program. So, while it may be a perfect vehicle to load up and trek to Disney World, your only starting point is north of the U.S. border.
As a European, it seems awfully wide and blunt-nosed. But once you’re inside, it feels both roomy and reasonably compact of driving dimensions, with a decent turning radius and park-ability. The toggle to lock or unlock the doors is impractically and annoyingly placed on the centre console, its only overtly European touch. It is otherwise what it is – a capable Chevy with a hint of personality, an OK price point (except at the top end) and aspirations of taking out the imports.
It’s aimed squarely at the Mazda5, a mini minivan enjoying a thorough overhaul for this model year, but it lacks both the Mazda’s sliding doors and its great-for-a-tall-vehicle driving dynamics. The Orlando feels boxier, but it doesn’t offer the planted, corner-hugging capabilities of the Mazda. It isn’t bad, merely fine, which is about as much faint praise with which I can damn it. The whole vehicle is perfectly fine, if not chock full of whiz-bang excitement. One thing it does have over the Mazda is traction control, an important family-segment feature the import overlooks.
The PR folk cite the Mazda as well as the Kia Rondo (smaller) and Scion xB (huh?) as its major competitors, overlooking the obvious – the Dodge Journey. Which you prefer will likely boil down to taste, as each is decent but not mind-blowing. Ford’s C-Max doesn’t make the list, either, expected only in hybrid form.
General Motors fans are loyal, and the segment is small enough that the Orlando should be able to carve out its corner if not exactly carve corners on the road. It comes off the Cruze platform and offers seven seats over three rows. The back two rows are usable if not voluminous; third-row access is fine, too, by flipping and folding forward the second-row seats. When not needed, the third row easily folds flat from the back to offer additional cargo space and a flat load floor. Behind the front seats, there’s 56.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
For me, the front seats are the interior’s biggest disappointment. I wriggled around so much in the passenger seat, my driving partner noted it a couple of times. “Wow, are you fidgety! Not too comfortable over there, eh?” To boot, only the driver’s seat offers an armrest. I spent about nine hours in it in one day, and by the tail end, I felt like I’d been folded in half – and not in a sexy way. The headrest tilted my neck at an uncomfortable angle and my back screamed for straightening out.
The interior design is attractive, with piano black accents and a handy, out-of-sight cubby tucked away behind the stereo faceplate. Judge for yourself, but I think the exterior is good-looking, too, with much more of an SUV/crossover than minivan feel.
Because it won’t be sold in the United States, there won’t be any testing by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the European counterpart, NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme), gave it a five-star rating. Safety features include disc brakes with ABS, panic brake assist and cornering brake control, Stabilitrak stability control, traction control, six air bags and, as in all 2012 Chevrolet vehicles, standard OnStar.
Price-wise, the Orlando is all over the place, with a $19,995 point of entry for the LS, which comes with a six-speed manual transmission, the above-noted safety features, XM radio, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, CD with MP3 playback and auxiliary input, tilt steering, open centre console and block heater. Air conditioning is optional, while a six-speed automatic is not.
The expected volume seller is the 1LT, starting at $22,295 for air conditioning, tinted windows, cruise control, premium cloth, body-colour door handles and power, heated mirrors, telescoping steering column, driver armrest, centre console with lid and optional six-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, vehicle interface package, remote start, tire pressure monitoring and cargo management.
Next up is the 2LT starting at $24,895, which makes standard the alloy wheels and tire pressure monitoring and adds USB port, fog lights, Bluetooth and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. An automatic transmission is optional as are 18-inch alloys, remote start, six-way power driver’s seat/heated seats, rear park assist, sunroof and cargo management.
The top of the heap is the LTZ, which makes a bunch of that stuff standard and adds an appearance package as well as optional leather-appointed seats, sunroof and navigation system. It starts at $29,735, but the LTZ we tested rung in at a hefty $33,340. The only engine is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 175 horsepower that labours under hard acceleration.
Fuel economy is part of the value story, with an estimated 10.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 6.7 L/100 km on the highway for the manual transmission (not that anyone will buy one) and a very decent 10.6/6.9 for the automatic.
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