This is one of those rare occurrences when Canada receives a brand new product that will not be going on sale in the United States. The Chevrolet Orlando was originally scheduled to be sold all across North America, but at some point, the decision was made that our southern neighbours wouldn’t appreciate the qualities of the Orlando. Claimed to be the most fuel-efficient seven-passenger vehicle on sale in Canada, the Orlando packs three rows of seats into a fairly compact package. We’re typically of the opinion that vehicles smaller than a Suburban shouldn’t be forced to make an attempt to carry more people than it really has room for, so we were sceptical about the usefulness of that last row in the Orlando. Our tester was a 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LTZ finished in Summit White with Medium Titanium Leather seats and Mineral Silver interior accents. Can this truly qualify as a useful seven-passenger vehicle, or is that just a gimmick to attract small families?
The Orlando, as a small crossover-ish family hauler, comes into a tough and competitive segment against best-sellers like the Ford Escape, Dodge Journey, and Honda CR-V, which are the top three small crossovers on sale in Canada this year. In its first two months on sale in Canada, the Orlando hasn’t made any major inroads yet, but it has already managed to outsell the now-defunct Dodge Nitro and slow-selling Nissan Cube, and is closing in on the Chevrolet HHR. As it gains traction in the marketplace, the Orlando looks to go into 2012 with more gusto. With a new Ford Escape and Honda CR-V coming shortly, these leaders don’t look to be giving up any ground anytime soon, but the Cruze-based crossover will be looking for inspiration from the popular compact and perhaps make an impact for Chevrolet next year.
The Chevrolet Orlando appears to borrow some styling cues from the cutesy-tough GMC Granite concept from a few years ago, but the compact box design of the Granite has been biggie-sized to squeeze more people inside. The Orlando rides on the same underpinnings as the popular Cruze compact sedan, which definitely makes it a crossover, but the profile creeps into the its-not-a-minivan territory. The Orlando stares at you with big eyes and that familiar bow-tie split grille, and our LTZ tester adds foglights into the mix at the bottom corners of the front bumper. As you move around the side of the vehicle, you see the 18-inch wheels of the LTZ package that look much better than the standard 16-inch wheels on the Orlando. Our white tester hid most of the sculpting on the side of the vehicle, making it appear a little slab-sided, but on a darker colour, you would actually see some character lines.
The beltline is high, and when paired with the sloping roofline, the windows appear small, especially towards the rear of the vehicle. If you did manage to coerce someone into the third row seat, they wouldn’t have much of a window to peer out of. The squared-off, angular taillights match the simplified design of the Orlando overall, but it’s a clean look.
If you’ve seen the interior of the Chevy Cruze, the Orlando will make you feel right at home, as the styling of the dash, center console, and steering wheel are almost identical. This is by no means a negative comment, as the Cruze has a friendly interior with well-placed, clearly marked buttons. The most obvious detail missing in the Orlando is the mesh-cloth on the dash which we liked in the Cruze. Instead you’ll find an expanse of hard-knock plastic that doesn’t look as catchy as the Cruze, but chances are it will hold up better over time. The most interesting interior feature, or so we thought, was the little cubby hidden behind the multimedia buttons. A quick depress of the centermost button on the bottom of the unit will allow the face to spring upwards, revealing a small, hidden compartment that serves as useful storage for your phone or iPod, and cleverly, GM has opted to place the AUX and USB connections inside for easy hook-ups.
The leather seats in our LTZ tester, while not of the highest grade leather, served to be comfortable anywhere we went. One point of frustration is the seat adjustment levers, and no, you don’t get power adjustable seats, not even in this loaded model which prices north of $30 grand. The lever for adjusting your seat back is placed at an uncomfortable and awkward location just behind the seatbelt attachment. After one attempt at finding a comfortable seating position, you will pray that the only other potential drivers will have your exact height and build, as to avoid having to set it again.
GM has produced a prolific amount of 2.4 liter four-cylinder engines, but this is not your garden-variety Cobalt 2.4L. The Orlando, like the Chevrolet Equinox, uses a direct-injected 2.4L, which in this application produces 174 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque on regular unleaded gasoline. The Orlando is a bit of a porker, tipping the scales at 1,637 kg/3,609 lb, which means that the available 174 hp will need to be used efficiently to get around. Surprisingly, the Orlando exhibits spritely acceleration, never feeling sluggish or tired. Power is distributed well off the line, and although it has to work a little harder to pull up to highway speeds, the engine doesn’t feel strained doing so.
The Orlando is equipped as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission on lower trim levels with a 6-speed automatic standard on our LTZ tester and optional on LS and LT trims. This 6-speed is smooth at any speed, and does offer a manual shift mode, but we didn’t want to scare the proverbial kids, so we decided it was best left in ‘D’.
While the Orlando does provide a smooth and drama-free ride, its slab-sided panels do tend to catch the wind on the highway which does two things; wind noise is significant on the highway, and as you get up to speed, you’ll find the light steering allows you to get pushed around easily, forcing you to make constant small corrections to stay center in your lane.
Chevrolet promises the best fuel economy for any seven-passenger vehicle on sale in Canada today, and while we were sceptical, the Orlando is a relatively small crossover with a relatively small, and modern powerplant. On paper, the Orlando LTZ with automatic transmission is rated at 10.6/6.9 liters per 100 kilometers (city/hwy). We judge our good, average, and not-so-good based on how far under, close to, or over 10 L/100 km a vehicle returns, and anything in this class under 10 is a good thing. On that note, we’re happy to announce that we managed to squeak under the bar at 9.8 L/100 km after our week of driving.
The base Orlando starts at under $20K. That is value defined, but as all value propositions go, you get what you pay for, meaning, you’ll get four doors and seating for seven, but anything else will cost you. So then, our LTZ tester with all the goodies rang in at $32,000 including options and destination charge. If your prerogative is to carry seven people, you’d better hope at least two of them are really small. If you want a small crossover with decent room for five, and the option for an extra seat to punish your kids in, the Orlando provides a stylish package that can be had for a low starting price. Just watch your wish list, as the options can add up in a hurry.
- Surprising power from DI 2.4L
- Hidden compartment behind multimedia unit
- Simple, contemporary styling
We don’t like…
- Pointless 3rd row
- Awkward seat adjusters
Quick Spec Summary
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LTZ
Summit White with Medium Titanium w/Mineral Silver Accents w/Leather Seats
6-speed automatic transmission
2.4L I4 – 174 hp / 171 lb-ft
Curb Weight – 1,637 / 3,609 lb
64 L tank – 10.6 / 6.9 L/100km (city/hwy)
Recommended Fuel – Regular
Base MSRP – $28,495
Options – $2,010
Destination - $1,495
Total MSRP – $32,000
Options on Tester
- Leather Seating Surfaces – $910
- Power Tilt-Sliding Glass Sunroof – $1,100
Chuck Reimer for Auto Addiction