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Meet Orlando, the Cruze’s MPV sibling

THE ORLANDO is built boxy, upright and muscular by GM Daewoo. PHOTO BY AIDA SEVILLA MENDOZA

Is the 2012 Chevrolet Orlando a multipurpose vehicle or a crossover? Whichever, it is built on the same GM Global Delta Platform by General Motors Daewoo in South Korea, as the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan has the same 1.8-liter Ecotec engine as the Cruze.

Given the seven-passenger capacity of the Orlando and its bigger, flat cargo area (1,594 liters) when its second and third row seats are pushed down into the floor, it qualifies more as a MPV than a crossover, which is how the seven-seater Chevrolet Captiva is categorized. Viewed from the side, the Orlando appears to be longer and broader than the Captiva and its exterior styling indicates that it is a family carrier rather than a sport utility vehicle. The flexible seating configuration inside further confirms this.

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The Orlando’s ace card is its utilitarian versatility. The big doors swing wide open for easy ingress and egress. During the time a test unit was with me, we were able to load four bulging suitcases and three heavily packed carry-on luggage in the back by merely folding down the third row seat. The second row seat was left open and vacant to comfortably accommodate my visiting daughter and her Canadian boyfriend on the long drive to the airport.

Fold flat

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The second row seat splits 60/40 while the third row splits 50/50, allowing you to fold down flat one-half of both or either one for the cabin to accept longer cargo. However, the front passenger seat does not fold down flat. The second and third rows are raised theatre style so that all rear seat passengers get a decent view of the road and environs. But the third row seat is cramped, has barely adequate headroom and would not be comfortable for adults.

Aside from offering one of the largest and most flexible cargo areas in the compact MPV segment, the Orlando has many cupholders, cubbyholes and convenient compartments to stow small belongings. The neatest one is a compartment behind the radio fascia that houses the USB and auxiliary inputs. You can plug in your iPod and close the fascia to keep your gadgets hidden and safe from prying eyes. Aside from a radio/CD player with six speakers, MP3 input jack and iPod connectivity, there are 12-volt power sockets in the second row and load areas.

THE 3RD row seat folds down flat, ditto the 2nd. PHOTO BY AIDA SEVILLA MENDOZA

The Orlando’s Corvette-inspired dual cockpit interior resembles the Cruze’s in layout and design with an infotainment display, large, logically arranged and user-friendly controls, easy-to-read analog clusters in ambient blue backlighting, an integrated center stack and a blend of jet black and titanium trim. The plastics are harder than the Cruze’s but the cabin parts are well-fitted like the exterior’s excellent fit-and-finish. The build quality of the Orlando is so solid that I thought at first it was made in America like the Chevy Traverse.

Practical

Add to all these conveniences and practical features the smooth, comfortable and stable ride provided by the Orlando even when fully loaded with passengers and/or cargo, what with McPherson struts up front and torsion beam, compound crank axle rear suspension supplemented with ride and handling Automatic Electronic Control. The electronic power steering guarantees rather light but fairly good handling characteristics with decent feedback from the road. The Orlando cushions its occupants when driven on uneven and rough road surfaces.

In choosing the 4-cylinder powertrain for the Orlando to be sold in the Philippine market, General Motors Southeast Asia Operations obviously took into consideration the fuel efficiency and retail price factors when they decided on the 1.8-liter, double-continuously variable valve timing, 16-valve, twin cam 141-hp Ecotec engine that propels the Chevrolet Cruze instead of the 2.4 liter, 174 hp engine of the Chevrolet Equinox in North America. In Canada, where the Orlando was also launched last year (it is not sold in the United States,) the powertrain is the same as that of the Equinox.

With the 1.8 liter Cruze engine, The Covenant Car Company Inc. (TCCCI), the exclusive importer and distributor of Chevrolet automobiles and parts in the Philippines, is able to retail the Orlando at P1,188,888 and at the same time brag about its fuel efficiency. Like the Cruze, the Orlando’s engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic feature.

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LARGE taillights and beefy C-pillars. PHOTO BY AIDA SEVILLA MENDOZA

Adequate

But even with the bigger 2.4 liter engine, the Orlando in Canada was panned by many Canadian motoring journalists for being lackadaisical in performance. Nonetheless, I found the 1.8-liter Orlando here to provide adequate, reliable power for urban and highway driving. Nothing exciting or spectacular in terms of speed, but then the Orlando was created to be a family vehicle, not a high-performance ride.

Being a family carrier, the Orlando is equipped with a suite of safety and security features such as driver and front passenger airbags, ABS, disc brakes on all four 16-inch alloy wheels, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, rear parking distance sensors, fog lamps front and rear, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Crash Sensor Technology, tire repair kit, child proof locks on rear doors and Child IsoFix restraint system.

Summing up, the Orlando is a handsome, sturdy, comfortable, family-friendly compact MPV with class-leading cargo space, practical seven-seating interior flexibility and above-average fuel economy offered at a reasonable price. If it had a diesel variant, it would surely be a bestseller.

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TAGS: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando, auto, Motoring
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