Chevrolet Orlando: The future of everyday motoringBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
People want a car that is practical, versatile, fuel-efficient and interesting to drive, to say the least. For years this dumbfounded me until recently, when I got to try Chevrolet’s latest MPV, the Orlando.
Built atop the Chevrolet Group’s Delta II platform in GM Korea’s Kunsan factory in South Korea, the Orlando is a true global vehicle. The MPV was made popular in Europe, with the Opel/Chevrolet Zafira being the predecessor of the Orlando. But while the Zafira tried to be a slightly taller station wagon, the Orlando realized that the trick to creating a feeling of space and luxury is a tall roof/ceiling.
The Orlando has 7-seat capacity, but the 3rd row seats are truly token at best. Perhaps it can accommodate small children for medium-length trips, but that’s about it. I kept it flat and loaded it up with my personal effects throughout the week I had the Orlando.
The doors are equally tall, to help getting in and out of the MPV easy, which isn’t that much higher off the ground. MPV’s, and the way they are designed are the global trend as the global population who can afford to buy cars ages, car designers need to design cars that match the needs of this aging market. Once you get in, you literally sit on the chairs. This makes the Orlando a perfect grocery getter and the best car to do errands with as it allows you to get in and out with ease, and a rear-view camera makes parking a breeze.
Grey and black, particularly for the supportive seats, with a sprinkling of silver splashes on the dashboard give the interior a chic, upbeat and modern feel, if a bit too IKEA-ish at times. Thankfully the driving position is truly excellent with height adjustable seats and a steering wheel that adjusts for both reach and rake. You can set the seat at MPV-height, or touring car low, and daydream you’re Alain Menu or Yvan Muller driving a WTCC Cruze (which the Orlando shares its platform with) in a busy street circuit.
The on-board multi-media system has SATNAV-GPS, along with MP3 device connectivity, CD/DVD and of course a radio tuner. It honestly felt rather complicated to operate, and the multi-media system takes too long to boot up, gets confused if you press one or two buttons or icons on the touch-screen monitor too fast (or simultaneously by mistake). Interestingly, I never realized that the keypad display of the said-system lifts up to reveal a hidden cubby-hole to store personal belongings. It’s got a lot of high-end features too: rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and cruise control and of course traction control and airbags to keep you safe should you forget it’s an MPV, and not a race car you’re driving.
Motivation comes from the 1.8-liter Ecotec engine with 141 PS and 176 Newton-Meters of torque, attached to a 6-speed automatic transmission, a very welcome drivetrain as the small gasoline engine, though willing, is at times overwhelmed by the 1655 kg heft, more so when it’s loaded with 4 passengers and going up inclines. Put it in manual mode and that helps significantly too as it allows you to tap into the engine’s full-potential. The 6-speed helps keep the Orlando responsive, especially in slow stop ’n’ go traffic driving. The drive-by-wire system can also be a bit jerky at very light throttle inputs but smoothen out as speeds pile up. Out on the open road, the Orlando has no problem cruising comfortably between 100-130 kph out on the expressway. Because of the heft, fuel consumption was a rather deplorable 5.75 km/liter in the city, but improves to just under 7 km/liter out on the highway.
The suspension has a good balance of comfort and control, keeping body roll and chassis pitching in check with good high-speed stability and composure. A drive going up to Tagaytay with my siblings and my Dad for a bit of work helped cement the impression that Chevrolet engineers did their homework with the suspension, steering and the ABS-equipped brakes were all tested on the snaking Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Highway. No fade, even with sudden turns and decreasing radius sweepers, the Orlando kept its cool.
Overall, the Orlando is an impressive package. It has very good driving dynamics, a versatile interior that allows you to fold seats and load up more cargo, is loaded with toys and gadgets to help make every day motoring more enjoyable and convenient, and looks truly unique, with its bold 2-box shape and aggressive front grill that is so in your face, in a way an American-branded car can get away with for being so brash. It is priced well too, at P1.188 million, comparable to a typical c-segment sedan.
For the most part, it answers most people’s needs in the car, except for the fuel economy part but that can easily be fixed. Chevrolet should bring in the diesel-powered variant and slap on bigger wheels so Daddy-cool can live out his motoring fantasies with more power and torque, and get better fuel efficiency in a package that is truly unique and truly practical.
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