The new Chevrolet Orlando is Chevy's first foray into the mid-sized compact MPV market in Europe. CAR's just driven the Orlando people carrier in Spain to see how it compares with the new Ford C-Max, Renault Scenic, Vauxhall Zafira and their ilk. Read our first road test review of the new 2011 Orlando to see if it hits the spot.
Chevrolet Orlando: the big picture
The Orlando is a product of GM's Delta architecture. All new Chevys are being engineered for world sale, give or take a budget car for south America. So the Orlando seven-seat MPV is spun from the same box of bits as the Cruze C-segment car, or Vauxhall Astra for that matter.
It's an appealing proposition for the typical family buyer. The Orlando is a seven-seater MPV only - no five-seater will be offered - yet is priced from an attractive sounding £16,395 for a 1.8 petrol LS (diesels kick off at £17,645).
And wait until you hear the full Chevrolet after-care package: this thing comes with a five-year warranty, servicing, breakdown and MoT insurance cover. As standard. Just think about that for a moment, and you'll realise how Joe Bloggs will find that pretty tempting.
You'll only have to budget for fuel and insurance for 60 months. It's like Daewoo all over again.
Orlando in the metal
While there's no arguing with the brilliant ownership package, the Chevrolet Orlando still presents something of an eyesore at first sight. Each to their own, and all that, but we didn't find its bluff lines and awkward proportions as convincing as many rivals' designs.
It's better inside, mind. The Orlando has five conventional doors, rather than the sliding doors favoured by the new Ford C-Max. Access is good to all three rows of seats, especially since the middle row tumbles 60:40 to allow you to step into the rearmost pair of pews.
As standard, all five rear seats in the Orlando tumble into the floor at the tug of a lever. Depending on how far back the front seats are slid, you may have to fiddle the headrests for a flush fold but you won't need a degree in advanced leverage to work the Orlando's pews.
Boot space is gigantic as a five-seater, shrinking to surprisingly weedy when configured as a seven-seater. But the good news is that even gangly adults like your 6ft 2in correspondent can sit comfortably in the third row.
Enough sensible chat! What's the Orlando like to drive?
This is an MPV, remember. So the milieu is important. The driving position is good and the ambience inside a reminder just how far Chevrolet has come. It's easily on a par with a Zafira's cabin: switchgear is logically laid out (and identical to Vauxhall's in many instances), the degree of seat and wheel adjustment is generous and apart from a whopping D-pillar blindspot, the Orlando is not at all intimidating to drive. Moreover, the materials and build quality are fine.
We tested the 2.0-litre diesel, which will be the most popular UK seller. It'll come in 128bhp or 161bhp trims, and we drove the higher powered derv. Performance is lively enough for what is a heavy car, but watch out for the tall gearing, which has the four-pot spinning over at a barely awake 1500rpm at 60mph. On the M-way, you'll change down from sixth.
Lazy gearing aside, the Orlando is an accomplished all-rounder. Ours was in the inevitable media-spec top LTZ trim with the optional £2000 Exec Pack, which adds 18in rims, full leather, sat-nav and heated front seats. The good news is it rode really quite well, with a plump quality even on the outsized alloys; there's some patter at motorway speeds, but it absorbs most corrugations.
The Orlando can be hustled along, but let's face it few buyers will drive like that. Of rather more importance is the quiet refinement, the light steering and the little touches to ease family life on the road: an extra rear-view mirror for monster patrol, and a clever pop-up stereo panel to plug in and hide MP3 players behind the radio panel.
Chevrolet knows which side its bread is buttered. The Orlando is good, simple family fodder. It doesn't pretend to be anything more, and the accent is firmly on good value and no-nonsense practical virtues.
Even base models come with stability control, air-con, electric windows and mirrors, remote locking, tinted windows and more sockets than you'll have phones to plug in. Add in the unrivalled aftercare package, and many buyers will be thrilled.
But Chevrolet still has to overcome brand snobbery. And those bluff, Atlantic looks will hardly help endear the Orlando to European sensibilities.
Ultimately, what holds back the Orlando from a near-four-star rating is the equally well priced competition: a seven-seat C4 Grand Picasso starts at £17,745 a Renault Grand Scenic £16,970, while Ford's new Grand C-Max kicks off at £18,745. The old 'Daewoo legacy' Chevrolets used to be priced 20-25% below the competition, but the newest models have crept up in cost.
Take your pick between sharper dynamics, lower CO2 and more cutting edge engines; but for many buyers, the Chevy's killer spec and price advantage will outweigh such considerations. They won't be disappointed by the Orlando one jot.