2012 Chevrolet Orlando Road Test | National Post

2012 Chevrolet Orlando Review
Road Test: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando
By Graeme Fletcher, National Post
The list of cars sold in Canada but not in the United States is depressingly short. Over time, it has included some good rides such as the Acura EL and Toyota Echo along with some real dogs. One only has to look back to the bad, old days when the Ladas and Skodas of this world were using Canada as the launching point for a foray into the U.S. market.
The latest to join this abbreviated list is the Chevrolet Orlando. It is another product from GM Daewoo (yes, that Daewoo), one that is heavily based on the Chevrolet Cruze. In this case, it is large enough to accommodate seven riders yet small enough to be a city-friendly conveyance. As such, it swells the ranks of the mini-minivan market.
As with the other contenders in the segment, namely the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo, the Orlando is an either/or proposition. With seven riders aboard, cargo capacity is limited to just 3.6 cubic feet of space – it is essentially a vertical load area with little depth to it. Dropping the third row flat, which is a one-handed operation, opens up a large cargo area (General Motors does not provide a number) while providing enough space to carry five adults – four if they happen to be of the large variety. Lowering the middle row reveals a commendably flat floor and 56.3 cu. ft. My lone wish is for a fold-flat front passenger’s seat – it would allow much longer items to be accommodated inside the Orlando with the tailgate closed.
Up front, the Orlando is very Cruze-like in its layout. The anomaly is the plastic that rings the cabin. While it is of decent quality, it is a mismatch of types. Some of it is textured, some not, some is piano black, other bits are titanium-like. Then there are the chromed door handles and air vent surrounds. It makes little sense. Likewise, forcing someone to move up to the top-level Orlando to enjoy toasted buns in not a wise move either.
THE SPECS: 2012 Chevy Orlando
Type of vehicle Front-wheel-drive compact crossover
Engine 2.4L DOHC four-cylinder
Power 174 hp @ 6,700 rpm; 171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,900 rpm
Transmission Six-speed manumatic
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P215/60R16 (optional winter)
Price: base/as tested $19,995/$24,815
Destination charge $1,495
Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km 10.6 city, 6.9 hwy.
Quibbles aside, there are two very cool features. The first is a small button by the power window switches. When depressed, it not only locks out the rear windows, it also activates the childproof door locks – someone was obviously thinking. The second feature is something that’s destined to catch on and not just within GM. On the radio’s faceplate there is a button – push it upward and the whole faceplate lifts to reveal a fair-sized compartment that houses USB and auxiliary inputs. The beauty is that it allows an iPod to be plugged in and the face closed, which keeps it hidden and away from prying eyes.
The Orlando is powered by GM’s ubiquitous 2.4-litre Ecotec engine. It puts out 174 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. In this application, the available oomph is up to the task of ferrying a couple of riders around with the desired punch. From a standstill, the Orlando runs to 100 kilometres an hour in 10.4 seconds and accomplishes the more important 80-to-120-km/h passing move in seven seconds. The nit has to do with the noise the engine makes when it’s pressed to redline. Thankfully, this is an infrequent occurrence. Using the Orlando to capacity does blunt the edge noticeably – this is where the turbocharged torque of GM’s 2.0L peppy turbo four would pay big dividends.
The tester fired its power to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that is typical GM – smooth and refined. There is a manual mode, but, given the Orlando’s station in life, it is not going to see much use. In somewhat of an unusual move, the Orlando arrives with a manual transmission as the base unit on all but the range-topping LTZ. This begs the obvious question – why? This is not a speedster where stirring one’s own gears amps up the fun; it is a utility vehicle that keys on its multi-passenger/cargo ability.
The Orlando’s ride and handling characteristics are surprisingly good. Unlike many seven-passenger rides, the suspension has a planted feel that limits body roll almost as well as it cushions a rough road. Likewise, the steering delivers great feedback and it is nicely weighted across a broad speed range. The brakes are also up to the task of hauling the Orlando down from speed without fading into oblivion. This holds true when there is a full complement of passengers aboard. At last, here’s a multi-passenger vehicle that does not bore the driver to death.
The Orlando cannot do what a full-on minivan does, but that is not where it comes into its own. Its forte is found in its availability to carry seven people without feeling like one is driving a bus. In somewhat of an irony, the original Honda Odyssey minivan failed in the mid-’90s because of its size; the Chevy Orlando is likely to succeed because of it.
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