Chevrolet Orlando LTZ 2.0 VCDi
Friday 11 March 2011
Top speed: 121 mph
Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 10.0 seconds
Fuel consumption: 47.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 159 g/km
Rivals: Ford Grand C-Max, Mazda 5, Vauxhall Zafira
On the face of it, you can't get a more American name for a car than Chevrolet Orlando. Chevrolet is General Motors' main US brand and Orlando is the name of one of Florida's biggest cities. But it's not quite as simple as that. Louis Chevrolet, the founder of the company wasn't born in America, but Switzerland, and Chevrolet's latest model, the Orlando, isn't really a product of Detroit, but of Korea. The Korean connection arises because General Motors bought the former Daewoo car operations in that country and rebranded its products, for Europe, at least, as Chevrolets.
At first, the idea of the muscley Chevrolet Corvette sharing the same badge as the tiny runabout formerly known as the Daewoo Matiz took some getting used to, but it's slowly becoming clear what the new, internationally diverse Chevrolet is all about. First we had the Cruze, a saloon that originated in Korea but shares a platform with the European Opel/Vauxhall Astra, and is being built around the world, including in Chevrolet's homeland, the USA; now, we have the Orlando, an impressively complete small-to-medium sized MPV based on an extended version of the Cruze's platform. With Cruze and Orlando, the Korean branch of Chevrolet has achieved in two steps what Kia achieved in one jump with the cee'd; it has moved from also-ran products designed to appeal mainly to a domestic Korean audience to cars that are able to compete convincingly with mainstream European models.
Drive the Cruze and it feels like there's a pretty good car in there somewhere trying to get out; it has a slightly dull saloon body, with a somewhat drab interior, but it impresses with good refinement and noise suppression, and also with sound handling that feels a bit like it's deliberately had a little of the underlying sharpness dialled out of it. A hatchback body and a few other updates, due in a few months, will unlock more of the Cruze's fundamental appeal as far as European customers are concerned, but no such tweaks are needed to make the Orlando more attractive, because Chevrolet's latest car has pretty much hit the target straight away.
The Orlando has the same air of competence, comfort and refinement as the Cruze but feels much more European when it comes to all the important stuff you can see and feel. That means a handsome body and a pleasant cabin with the darker shades and softer sorts of plastics that Europeans prefer. The Orlando is also one of the roomiest and most practical cars of its size or price as well; three rows of seats mean you can carry seven (including the driver) and an enormous 1487 litres of load space is available when the second and third rows are folded down.
The Orlando is available with three engines; a 1.8-litre petrol producing 141 horsepower and two diesels delivering 130 and 163 horsepower. The more powerful diesel engine is pretty refined and strong, and a better choice than the petrol, which sometimes feels like it could do with a bit more mid-range torque, a feeling that is likely to grow if you use the generous space available to load the Orlando up with people and their stuff.
The most recent European entries in this part of the market, Ford's five-seat C-Max and seven-seat Grand C-Max, still have a bit more dash than the Orlando – the Ford pair have sharper handling for one thing, and the Grand C-Max's handy sliding rear side-doors also appeal - but the Orlando is a good, strong, solid effort. The most expensive diesel-engined versions just breach the £20,000 barrier, but prices start at £16,395; at those levels, Chevrolet's newcomer represents conspicuously good value for money.
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