25 Jul 2013

Chevrolet Orlando – Driving Impressions by Josh Ross

Chevrolet Orlando 2.0 VCDI (163) LTZ Auto review by Josh Ross

Background and First Impressions

Glancing through Chevrolet’s collection of vehicles and running one’s eyes over their exciting designs and you could be forgiven for thinking that the marque is on something of a roll. Alongside highly competent vehicles like Aveo and Cruze that sit in the B and C segment Chevrolet has brought us the Orlando which occupies the Crossover class. This model is unique in the seven seat sector in combining the attributes of Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV).

Traditionally buyers wanting a considerably sized cabin and heightened safety (both actual and perceived) would look to genre defining SUVs from Land Rover, BMW and Volvo. While Land Rover’s 1998 – 2004 Discovery did offer two pull down seats in its rear compartment their design often meant that adult passengers felt squeezed for head and shoulder room. The first SUV to offer two rear seats that fall independently into the boot floor to create a flat load space, and a middle row that folds and connects near seamlessly, was Volvo’s 2003 launched XC90. In 2004 Land Rover provided a similarly practical solution on their Discovery 3, continued to great affect in Discovery 4, while Audi’s 2006 debuting Q7 and BMW’s 2007 X5 also feature this brilliantly practical solution.

Like those Four Wheel Drive SUVs Chevrolet’s front wheel drive Orlando offers seven seats. So confident is Chevrolet in its segment defying Orlando that this interior feature is the only homage to these aforementioned vehicles. In design Orlando bears little resemblance to other vehicles. The visual impression is inimitably modern; imposing but not aggressive and broad without an overbearing angle from any of its four sides.

Chevrolet’s distinctive, mesh grille and dazzling gold logo are similar in this application to how they are on other vehicles in the brand family. This emphasises a consistent design theme. A cab forward stance, progressively rising waist line and flared wheel arches complete the Orlando’s emboldened exterior profile.
Like the version pictured the Orlando which I evaluated featured these sporty, five spoke 18″ alloy wheels. Sensibly all the wheel designs and sizes that Chevrolet has chosen for Orlando flatter the broad set body and gently bulging arches.

Inside Story

Standard Equipment on Test Model Includes:

- Electric Front and Rear Windows
- Electric Mirrors
- Alloy Wheels
- Climate Control
- RDS Radio and CD Player with MP3 connectivity
- Cruise Control
- Rear Parking Sensors
- ABS and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)
- Split/Fold Rear Seat
- £2,200 Executive Pack was also added to the test car. This features: 18″ Alloy Wheels, black, heated leather seats and Satellite Navigation with Rear Parking Camera

Logically ordered switchgear, a high quality finish and decent construction characterise this successful Crossover interior. Cleverly the transmission tunnel is positioned at a 40 degree angle so the lever falls instantly to hand. This moulding continues to ascend and features a bank of clearly designated climate controls, switches to lock and unlock the doors and a slot for the CD player. Covering this minimalist dashboard is Chevrolet’s piano black strip of faux wood which looks as authentic as any plastic variety that I’ve encountered.

Above the CD player in the upper section of the dash moulding is the cabin’s most innovative and practical feature. Press the grooved, plastic switch that sits beneath the stereo unit upwards and this interface slides back to reveal a deep ledge which is lined in grippy felt and houses a USB port and SIM card for the Sat Nav. This is in an ideal storage area for items like phones, currency and confectionary.

As I’ve encountered on the higher specification Chevrolets and we’ve come to appreciate from many mid to highly specified vehicles, the Orlando has a series of steering wheel mounted controls that operate the music system, trip computer and cruise control. Due to the higher dash placing of its primary controls changing radio stations, altering the stereo volume or checking mpg/distance to empty while on the move and stationary is an uncomplicated process.

Designed to seat seven people in comfort with several small/medium suitcases or bags and five people with greater stores of luggage, the Orlando acquits itself well as a family holdall. Seat comfort and quality is good and despite the smooth surface of the seat it always provided sufficient grip. The middle row of pews can seat three 6 foot + adults with ease while younger adults and children are well catered for in the rearmost pairing. Conveniently the seat backs of the middle row can be dropped and Orlando’s two individual rear chairs collapsed into the floor. This creates a near flat load space. In addition to the vehicle’s ability to transport a family’s luggage this configuration uncovers its property or office moving capability.

On the Road

There was a time when the dynamic expectations of a vehicle designed to carry a large family were among the lowest of any class of car. Suspension settings tuned primarily for comfort, or simply to offer sufficient cushioning when the vehicle was laden with a multitude of goods and people, long wheelbases and narrow bodies usually denied the driver any sense of joy.

Since the body and frames used for many four wheel drive vehicles became unified, dynamics progressed massively and the models began to tackle estates and saloon cars in the sale charts. In the MPV segment Ford’s S Max and current Galaxy provide a level of dynamism and quality that rightfully had journalists and owners reaching for new superlatives while VW’s latest Sharan and Seat’s most recent Alhambra are no less impressive. This latter bunch are all the more remarkable as they offer increased practicality over their predecessors. It’s against these strong contenders that the Orlando Crossover competes for showroom sales and fleet favour.

After little more than ten minutes behind the wheel I felt Orlando ‘shrinking around me’ the vehicle’s squat stance and low centre of gravity paying dividends through a series of bends. Turn in was surprisingly eager and the body well controlled even during the wetter weather of the test period. Both primary and secondary firms err on the firm side though for a vehicle with 18″ wheels the ride was commendably forgiving. Larger, multi-rippled surfaces or mid corner deviations in surface quality can send a shimmy through the body but this is never disconcerting and can quickly be quelled by reducing one’s pace over more challenging roads.

While I get the impression that the narrower tyres of the LS and LT specification models wouldn’t bring the same level of adhesion at the front and rear of the vehicle, one feels that the body control would be similarly resolute in these versions.

The linear and hushed 2.0 diesel and six speed automatic box are another fine pairing from GM. There is no hesitation between depressing the accelerator and motion nor can I recall a time when the box clumsily dropped a gear rather than using the available torque and remaining in its current ratio. Changes through the box are as well coordinated as you’ll experience in many executive saloons and appropriately spaced ratios allow for settled progress at motorway speeds – 70 mph equates to around 2,500 rpm. Activating the box’s manual function does little to interrupt this unruffled drivetrain though it feels more in keeping with Orlando’s character to allow the transmission to self shift.

Underneath this consistently decent package are strong, fade free brakes. They are quick to respond to both light and firm actions and the Orlando is slowed or brought to a halt with negligible dive.


The word expectation is used and/or alluded to several times in this evaluation and that’s for good reason. While I’d have been surprised not to feel admiration for Orlando’s practicality and packaging the completeness of the driving experience delivered beyond expectation. And in its drivetrain too Chevrolet has equipped Orlando with robust artillery with which to conquer offerings from marques such as Hyundai and KIA. As a new or used choice buyers could also feasibly consider one over a three to four year old Land Rover Discovery.

While its combined fuel consumption of 25 mpg didn’t match the claimed figure experience suggests that this would improve to over 30 once the vehicle exceeds 3 – 4,000 miles. Opt for the added convenience of an automatic box and the vehicle emits 169 grams/km CO2. If you’re planning to run an Orlando as an company car or prefer to shift gears yourself then a version equipped with a manual box is the better choice. Thus endowed the 2.0 VCDI’s emissions fall to 139 grams/km CO2.

The stats:

Price – £22,910 ( test car features the additional £2,200 Executive Pack)
Power – 163 bhp @ 3,800 rpm
Torque – 265 ft lbs @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission – 6 speed automatic
0 – 62 – 11 seconds
Top Speed – 121 mph
Urban (MPG) – 34.8
Extra Urban - 51.3
Combined – 44.1
CO2 emissions (g/km) – 169
Vehicle Excise Duty – £143 (six months)
£ 260 (12 months)
Boot Capacity (litres) (with seven seats in place) - 101
(with all seats reclined) – 1594
Towing Limit (braked) (kg) – 1,500
Kerb Weight (kg) – 1,659
Warranty – Five years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first)

Thank you to the Chevrolet Press Office for their friendly and helpful approach

Josh Ross is a motoring blogger.  You can read his own blog, Fuel for Thought, here.