My first experience of the Chevrolet Orlando was a very brief drive earlier this year - not sufficient for a road test report, but enough at least to make me decide I wasn't going to give it my vote for an award of which I was one of the judges.
I still think that the correct car won its category, and it wasn't this one, but I have come to like it a lot more than I did at first. Initial impressions (that it seems to be made of fairly cheap stuff, and that its front-end styling is over-fussy in a typically Chevrolet way, as if in an attempt to convince us that it's really an American car rather than a Korean one with an American badge) have given way to more favourable ones.
The thing I like most about the Orlando is the way it drives. Of the various engines offered in the range, the car tested here uses a two-litre diesel engine producing 128bhp; there's a 161bhp version too (though not in LT trim with a manual gearbox, as here) and I'm sure it's lovely, but in 128bhp form it will do me just nicely.
Although its maximum output may not be spectacular, it pulls well from very low revs - not much above tickover, in fact. It's also very quiet, except at a cold idle, and despite no attempt on my part to drive any more economically than usual it used fuel at the rate of just over 45mpg, not so very far from the official combined figure of 47.1mpg which I'm sure I could have beaten if I'd tried.
Apart from the gearchange, which isn't bad but could be a little less notchy, the major controls are a delight to use, the steering and brakes in particular being superior to the industry average for any vehicle of any kind whatever. The ride quality is excellent for a car with a high centre of gravity, and the roadholding is, with the same caveat, far better than I thought it would be, with only an occasional hint that the front end will eventually start to run wide if you overdo things on a damp road.
Fine. Thing is, though, not many people are going to buy the Orlando because they're attracted by an unexpectedly good drive. It needs to work well as an MPV, and really there are better examples on the market (though most of them are very much more expensive).
There are seven seats, but only the two in the front row can confidently be expected to accommodate adults of generous size. Outer passengers in the middle row don't get much in the way of legroom unless the people ahead of them are very short, and the seat in between is strictly for children.
Seats six and seven, which make up the third row, are almost impossible to reach unless you tumble the ones in the second-row forward - not a particularly easy process, and one that could take valuable seconds if you needed to get people the hell out of there in an emergency. They're also very close to the tailgate, and I don't want to spend much time thinking about what the effects of that could be in a rear-end shunt.
I haven't sat in the third row (impossible - too tall) but I imagine that the itty-bitty windows back there won't be welcomed by anyone with claustrophobia. They are certainly of minimal help to the driver when he or she wants to reverse the car.
One helpful feature of the second- and third-row seats is that they all fold flat to create a very useful load platform. Maximum capacity to roof level in this configuration is 1499 litres, which seems like quite a lot when you're standing there looking at it. However, the admittedly more expensive Ford C-MAX and Mazda5 have more (in addition to sliding rear doors which are not part of the Orlando specification) and even the much shorter Citroen C3 Picasso beats the Chevrolet for interior space, though only by seven litres.
I like the Orlando quite a lot, but not for reasons that are important to its success. Most of its relevant appeal lies in the fact that it is some sort of MPV - definitely not the best on the market - which costs considerably less to buy than its most obvious rivals.
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