by David Finlay (7 August 2012)
We last published a review of the Chevrolet Orlando seven-seat MPV in November 2011 (here it is). The car tested here differs in that it's the higher LTZ trim level, which in the Orlando range means £800 on top of the price of the LT, and has a 1.8-litre petrol engine.
Chevrolet says that this unit is more popular among its UK customers than either of the available diesels, suggesting that those people like the lower purchase price and generally don't do enough mileage for the superior economy to overcome the extra cost of buying a diesel model in the first place.
While it's difficult to argue against any of that, I must say - as a reviewer rather than a buyer - that I greatly preferred the diesel. The petrol engine is quiet (except on the motorway, where relatively low gearing in the five-speed gearbox means that it's whizzing round at 3100rpm when the car is travelling at 70mph) and on paper it's quite powerful, with a maximum output of 139bhp. That's not a great deal for a fairly large MPV, but it should be enough for the job.
But to get all 139bhp you have to rev the engine to over 6000rpm, and you're probably not going to do that. At more sensible everyday speeds the 1.8 feels strangled - I would have said tight, but the test car had 4500 miles on the clock when I got into it, so it must have loosened off. If you want to accelerate in a hurry you have to change down a gear and floor the throttle in circumstances where the diesel would have produced the same effect in response to a much more gentle application of the right foot.
The petrol Orlando is less satisfactory than the diesel in other ways which may have something to do with the weight of the engines and the way the suspension had to be tuned to suit. The petrol car is very good in town, responding precisely to small steering inputs, but it starts to feel wobbly on country roads and motorways in a way that the diesel simply doesn't.
As an MPV, the best that can be said of the Orlando is that you get quite a lot of it for the money. The 1.8 LTZ costs £18,725, and even if you add on the cost of the optional Executive Pack, which consists of leather upholstery and satellite navigation, the price is still only £20,625. Not too bad for a big seven-seater, you may say.
True, but the front row is the only place where six-footers will be able to sit in comfort. There's much less space behind, and as for the third row, it's strictly for smaller children. Not that I'd want to put a small child there myself, since the gap between the seats and the rear window is only about five inches, which isn't going to be enough if the driver of the bus behind you gets on the brakes too late.
Before Chevrolet starts spluttering about that, I'd better point out that the Orlando was given a five-star rating by Euro NCAP last year. But the game has changed since then, and the Orlando's 49% rating for pedestrian protection means that it would be given no more than four stars now. And Euro NCAP's interest in rear-end shunts extends only to investigating whiplash protection - for which the Orlando scored very highly - and does not take rear-passenger injury into account.