Downsizing - whether it be it for cars, SUVs or minivans, is the fashion these days. Buyers are looking for smaller, more fuel efficient transportation, while still maintaining the capability to haul people and cargo. Some manufactures like Mazda and Kia have been quicker to respond to this emerging demand, and others are now jumping in by offering smaller vehicles with 3 rows of seats.
The all-new 2012 Chevrolet Orlando is GM’s entry into this segment. Its direct competitors currently on the market are Mazda5, Kia Rondo (which is still offered in Canada but was discontinued in the US for 2012), and Dodge Journey. What they have in common are 3 rows of seats for 6-7 passengers, a relatively small footprint, and 4-cylinder engines. The body styles though reflect each manufacturer’s interpretation for this type of vehicle; Mazda5 has sliding rear doors and a minivan look, while Rondo has a more car-like appearance with conventional doors. Orlando hits the middle ground with a tall, boxy body, and conventional rear doors so no one can call it a minivan (Sic!).
The 2012 Orlando LS starts at $19,995 in its most basic form (without A/C and with a 6-speed manual transmission). My tester was a Black Granite Metallic 2012 Orlando 2LT (1SC Package) with 6-speed automatic transmission, 6-way Heated Power Adjustable Driver’s Seat (which in fact is 8-way adjustable) and Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist. The MSRP for my tester ringed in $26,485 before fees and taxes. Save for the additional options included in my tester, the Orlando is slightly more expensive than the similarly equipped Rondo and Mazda5, but it offers a 6-speed automatic transmission and an all-aluminum 2.4L 4-cylinder Direct Injection engine.
The Orlando wears the familiar Chevy front clip and its shape suggests function over form. The body is well proportioned and doesn’t look massive as one would expect from a 7-seater. The rear doors are fairly big for easy access. One interesting exterior detail is the single clear reverse light on the rear bumper.
The biggest surprise is once you get inside the vehicle. The interior feels very spacious from the driver’s seat and there is a lot of room all around. The seat has a lot of travel in all directions and those who like to sit up high will be very pleased. My tester had the optional power tilt cushion which makes it even easier to get very comfortable behind the wheel. The seats have moderate bolstering and they seem to be designed to provide maximum comfort during long trips and for a wide variety of body frames rather then keep you in place on twisty roads. There is an adjustable armrest for the driver’s seat but there isn't one for the front passenger seat. I found the armrest too narrow to be comfortable and the lack of an armrest for the passenger an annoying oversight.
Visibility all around is good, except for times when the third row seats are up. In those situations, visibility through the rear window is greatly reduced. The optional rear park assist on my tester came in handy when backing up in all situations. Like in any respectable people hauler, there is a mirror in the overhead console that allows you to keep an eye on the little passengers in the back seats without turning your head.
The second row space is generous with enough head, leg, and shoulder room for adults. With a car seat installed, there is enough space for an adult front passenger without compromising comfort. I wasn’t expecting too much from the third row given the relatively small footprint of the car, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover two average size adults can fit back there, ideally for short trips mind you. As usual, leg room is the culprit as you have to sit with your knees up to your chin, but it’s bearable for a ride around the block. On the other hand, kids won’t have a problem sitting back there and I bet it will be their favorite place in the car; I know if she wasn't confined to her car seat it would be for my daughter.
To allow access to the third row, the 60/40 split second row seats tumble forward. Make sure whoever climbs up to the third row is flexible enough to make it; don’t try that with your 80 years old grandma if you love her.
What got me to scratch my head is how to use the third row seats if you have two car seats installed in the second row? Well, it appears you can’t since the second row bench doesn’t slide. The work around would be to load up your less fortunate passengers through the rear hatch, which would be a fun scene to watch from the sidelines; however, it may work for kids though.
When not in use, the third row seats, which are 50/50 split, fold seamlessly into the floor making for generous cargo space. With the third row up, there is precious little space for anything more than a few small items.
In 2LT trim, the Orlando comes well equipped with most of the convenience features I believe the majority of buyers would want: 16” alloy wheels, fog lights, auto on/off lights, tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel with cruise and remote audio controls, Bluetooth, XM radio, USB port and rear HVAC vents on the back of the center floor console.
The instrument cluster is Chevy standard fare, but I wasn't too fond about the way it's divided. The center console layout, apart from the fact it screams “minivan”, is well laid out and functional with all the buttons within reach and where you’d expect them to be. One thing I found awkward is the traction control on/off button placed on the passenger side of the center stack while there is a symmetrical blank on the driver’s side - they should be reversed.
The Driver Information Center provides useful information including fuel used, average, and instantaneous fuel consumption. One notable feature is the tire pressure monitoring system that displays the tire pressure of each individual wheel. The Bluetooth hands-free system worked without fuss and it was easy to setup and use.
While there is a covered storage compartment in the floor center console and front/rear door pockets with bottle holders, there is no alternate choice in terms of storing small items like a cell phone or iPod, other then perhaps in one of the cup holders. One notable interior feature though is a very unusual storage space, lined with velvet-like material all around, hidden behind the radio controls. You push up a switch on the center stack and the radio faceplate lifts up revealing a good size cubby where you can store valuable items out of sight. This cubby also houses the USB port.
My week-long experience with Orlando reinforced my positive impression about the build quality of the new crop of Chevy vehicles. The car is very well put together and feels solid. The cabin fit and finish is good and the only thing I could nit pick about is a larger than it should gap between the front door panels and dashboard. The buttons and knobs are the same as in other new Chevy vehicles and they are nice to the touch and smooth to operate. Plastics used throughout the cabin are of the hard variety, but it's reasonably nice to touch and it doesn't feel flimsy or cheap. The trim used on the center stack is black versus silver painted plastic commonly used these days in many cars. One nice touch I appreciated in Orlando is the well padded elbow rests on all doors too.
It is obvious that GM used a generous amount of sound deadening materials in Orlando as the interior is very quiet at any speed with little wind, engine, or tires noise making its way into the cabin.
Driving the Orlando could be a love or hate affair depending on the driver's expectations, but I suspect more people will love it than hate it. Driving Orlando like your typical buyer would do is a rather pleasant experience. It's easy to drive, the ride is comfortable, the steering is light making it easy to maneuver, and it has enough power to move along with the traffic and the transmission shifts seamlessly. It's a quiet and comfortable highway cruiser turning about 2000 rpm at 100 km/h. So what's not to like? Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise, but if you like a quick transmission, a strong brake pedal feel, sharp and communicative steering, or an engine that provides instant power and a pleasant sound, you might need to look elsewhere.
One of the reasons people are giving up their full size minivans for these smaller people movers is fuel economy. During my week spent behind the wheel of Orlando I observed fuel consumption of 11.8 L/100km. To me it seemed a bit on the high side from what I was expecting (somewhere around mid 10s), but the weight, shape, and perhaps the driver took their toll on fuel economy.
To sum up my take on the new Chevy Orlando, I think it's a well built, comfortable, and practical vehicle for young families that can occasionally carry 6-7 passengers or a good amount of cargo every day. It's definitely worth a good, hard look for anyone shopping for a sensible people mover.
Pricing and Specifications:
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LS: $19,995 CAD
2012 Chevrolet Orlando 1LT: $22,295 CAD
2012 Chevrolet Orlando 2LT: $23,595 CAD
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LTZ: $28,495 CAD
Destination: $1,495 CAD
As tested: $26,485 CAD
2012 Chevrolet Orlando 2LT (1SC Package): $23,595 CAD
6-Speed Automatic Transmission: $1,450 CAD
6-way Heated Power Adjustable Driver’s Seat: $880 CAD
Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist: $365 CAD
Black Granite Metallic: $195 CAD
Engine: 2.4L 4-cylinder with Direct Injection
Horsepower: 174 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 171 lb.-ft. @ 4900 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed Manual or 6-speed Automatic
Base Curb Weight: 3563 lbs.
Cargo Capacity (1st/2nd /3rd row): 56.3/26.1/3.6 cu. ft.
Fuel Tank: 64L
Assembly Location: South Korea
Thank you to General Motors of Canada for providing this vehicle for review purposes.
For more information, please visit... http://gm.ca/
Photo credit: Rob Smith http://bdfd.com/AutoExposure