Chevrolet’s Orlando blooms...
Iain Dooley drives Chevrolet's new family-friendly, value-for-money, seven-seater Orlando people-carrier.
For many, the humble people-carrier isn't viewed as a fashion item. More of a necessity for anyone with children, belongings and anything else associated with family life, big-box MPVs used to rule.
Its dominance was eventually challenged by various alternatives – crossovers, SUVs and smaller but more versatile people-carriers. However, if you need the space but struggle to justify all-wheel drive or a gimmicky seating arrangement that sacrifices load space, there's not a lot to choose from.
Chevrolet's Orlando is a big-box MPV although you'd never guess from its streamlined profile – the designers have done a good job of disguising its size. As a genuine seven-seater the Orlando is a rare beast. Discounting lumbering 4x4s and those cars with five seats and two extra hidden in the boot floor for children, it's hard to find something these days that doesn't cost arm and leg money but delivers in the seat department.
As General Motors' value brand, Chevrolet's products are priced competitively and tend to offer a higher standard specification than its more established rivals.
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This is true of the Orlando, with prices starting at the same level as a well-equipped family hatchback. Factor in petrol or diesel plus manual and automatic gearboxes and, for cost-conscious families, this big Chevrolet starts to make sense.
A key element of the Orlando is accessibility. Apart from the asking price, this also includes getting into the third row of seats – if you can't do that, even as an adult, – then the car has failed in its role as a people-carrier. The Orlando delivers, with even adults able to tolerate more than just a quick trip to the pub.
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The same is true for occupants of the two regular rows of seats – middle occupants will struggle to find fault, while those up front are blessed with plenty of head and elbow room. The lofty driving position is also welcome for its better visibility.
Aside from the abundance of cabin storage options – always good in an MPV – the cabin ambience is pleasingly upmarket, as is the quality of the trim and seat fabrics.
Engine choice is split between 141bhp 1.8-litre petrol and 130 manual and 163bhp automatic 2.0-litre turbo diesels. Realistically the latter makes the most sense with lower running costs. CO2 emissions for the lower power diesel are 159g/km and 186g/km for the higher power model. Fuel consumption is 47.1mpg and 40.4mpg respectively.
Diesel refinement is also hard to ignore, mainly because it's so good. The engines are quiet yet responsive, and only make themselves heard when you accelerate hard. The high power motor's laid-back attitude to performance makes for a relaxing experience on long motorway journeys, and there always appears enough in reserve when you need it.
Saying all that, don't be too hasty to right off the petrol alternative. Fine for low-mileage motoring, refinement is also good and it's rare that you'll feel wanting more performance during everyday driving duties. Factor in the option of a six-speed auto gearbox to replace the six-speed manual for both fuel types and the Orlando proves itself to be competent all-rounder on the road.
Chevrolet's big people-carrier also looks good value with generous standard kit. From the generous amount of safety equipment to the wide range of convenience items, the Orlando's long list of toys irrespective of trim level will put many rival offerings to shame.
Having started out as a brand offering cut-price cars for those on a budget, Chevrolet's cars and the company's strategy has steadily evolved into a business model that should have the more established makers worried. Value remains a core selling point, but time has seen Chevrolet's various products mature into genuine contenders.
The Orlando is just the latest to benefit from this strategy, and it shows in the way it drives and the way it's built.
CHEVROLET ORLANDO 2.0 VCDi 130 LT
Price: �18,645 on the road
Engine: 2.0-litre, 130bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving front wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 9.9 seconds; top speed 121mph
CO2 Rating: 159g/km