By Car & Driving
With its spacious Orlando seven-seater family-sized MPV, Chevrolet sought to tempt families out of their 7-seater Zafira, Picasso, Scenic and C-MAX MPVs and into a more affordable an better-specified alternative. Unfortunately for Chevrolet, sales were modest and the car was eventually withdrawn as part of the brand's departure from the British market at the end of 2015.
It makes a great choice for budget-minded families as a used buy though. Seek out one that's led an easier life and you could get yourself a real People Carrying bargain. Here's what to look for.
If you've a growing family, then you've probably a growing need for one of those relatively compact people carriers that still somehow manage to offer up to seven seats. But the problem with a growing family is that growing costs also come as part of the deal. And what you don't need in a world of forgotten PE kits, cash 'n carry nappies and trips to the zoo is an expensive asking price for such a car. Yet list price-wise, that's exactly what families are often saddled with when looking at MPVs like Ford's Grand C-MAX, Renault's Grand Scenic, Peugeot's 5008, Vauxhall's Zafira and Citroen's Grand C4 Picasso. It was in response to this that the Chevrolet Orlando was launched in 2011 as a better-value alternative to such models.
If the name evokes feelings of fun-filled days at Uncle Walt's holiday resort, then Chevrolet will be pleased: it's supposed to. More important through is the practical thinking that lies behind the badgework, thinking that'll strike a chord with many harassed mums and dads. It's all about offering them a slightly bigger car at a significant saving over comparable rivals. At the launch of this car, the established brands predictably sneered at that, pointing out that bargain basement models always look good on paper but in practice are lower tech, pricier to run and nastier to own. Chevrolet reckoned differently and throughout the Orlando's four year model life, proved that it could be a viably efficient family choice. Let's check out whether that'll carry through to the used car market.
What You Get
Chevrolet claimed that this Orlando brought 'swagger' to the historically rather conservative MPV segment with a styling flavour that's part MPV, part SUV. The 'SUV' bit rather escapes us but there's no denying that, from the front at least, this car does at least have a bit of personality, its Chevrolet 'face' depicted by the brand's familiar split radiator grille and bow-tie badge. The MPV trend for sliding side doors has been ignored in this case, as to some extent, have the market conventions when it comes to size. The Orlando is about 10cms longer than a typical Grand Scenic or Grand C-MAX compact 7-seater MPV and about 20cm shorter than a Ford Galaxy or VW Sharan-style large 7-seater MPV.
Which means that you won't be putting any basketball players in the third row of rearmost chairs, accessible by using a 'roll-out-and-fold' facility that enables both left and right outer middle row seats to fold more easily and allow access to the back row. Having said that, despite the fact that the high floor means that your knees usually end up higher than your hips, more ordinarily-shaped adults will be OK back in the third row for short-ish journeys and kids will have no problem, appreciating the 'theatre-style' seating which sees all second and third row seats raised to give passengers a better view, both forwards and to the side.
That's something you'll also be thankful for should you find yourself in the second row. It was to benefit passengers here that Chevy's engineers decided to stretch this car's Vauxhall Astra-sourced floorplan by an additional 85mm and the result is decent standards of head, leg and shoulder room. Which to some extent makes up for the slight lack of innovation: unlike some rivals, the bench doesn't slide backwards and forward to increase legroom, nor can the centre middle row seat be folded away to create a more luxurious-feeling four-seater. But there are plenty of thoughtful touches for those up-front.
Here, you'll find one of our favourite MPV features - a second rear view mirror that enables you to keep a close eye on the antics of your squabbling brood behind. This isn't unique, but its fitment as standard equipment was, typical of Chevrolet's attention to detail with this car. Somewhat strangely for a car called an 'Orlando', this Chevy was never sold in the States and was designed with a European audience in mind. The South Korean factory built this car like a European rather than an American product too, with decent materials, tight shutlines and no significant acreage of elephant-grey plastic. It's easy to get comfortable too, with both height and reach adjustment on the multi-function steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver's seat.
The designers claimed that the fascia design was inspired by their Corvette supercar - though we can't really see how. Its blue backlit lighting is nice though, and the overall design seems more reminiscent of modern Ford models, with a bullhorn centre console, in this case topped by an LCD display that houses a rear view camera in upper specification models. Another touch we especially like is the way that the front fascia of the audio system flips up to reveal a concealed storage area big enough to house your iPod or wallet. There's also a USB port in there for charging on the fly. Other storage areas include a coin holder, two large cupholders in the centre console, map and bottle holders integrated into the front and rear doors and a number of individual compartments in the cargo area.
And talking of the cargo area, what about luggage room? Well, that'll depend of course on which of the 30 seat-folding permutations you choose. As with all cars of this kind, if you've all seven seats in place, your luggage capacity pretty much ends at a rolled-up newspaper: that's why people pay so much more for something Sharan or Galaxy-sized. But for family holidays, a roof box would solve that problem and for the majority of time when the third seating row isn't in use, you can fold it neatly into the floor to free up 454-litres of space. If you want to go further and fold the second seating row (which you can't do when the front seats are fully back), you'll find that it only folds 60:40 rather than in three individual parts as with some rivals. What's most important though, is that when folded, it does go fully flat and offers up a huge 1,499-litres of fresh air (or 856-litres if you only load up to the windowline).
What to Look For
When buying a Chevrolet Orlando, have a good look at the trim. The materials used on the inside may not stand up to wear and tear as well as some rivals in the sector. Make sure you have a close inspection. The ride from new was a little crashy, so it would be a good idea to ask for a mechanical check that'll give the bushes or suspension arms a once-over. Look out for kerbed alloys and supermarket parking door dents, using these as negotiating tools. If the seller won't budge, go elsewhere.
(Approx prices based on a 2010 Orlando 1.8-litre petrol) A set of front bushes will set you back around £60, whereas a set of rear brake discs will cost you around £65. Other parts will cost a similar amount to those you'd buy on a rival Vauxhall Zafira - in other words, maintenance costs will be competitive.
On the Road
If you're new to the Chevrolet brand, then you might approach a drive in this car a little uncertain as to what to expect. Will you get a slice of V8 Americana or be treated to a cheap Korean cast-off? Fortunately, neither is true. Modernday Chevys aren't based on thirsty Yank Tanks or out-of-date Daewoos but on the latest Vauxhall products. So this Orlando rides on the floorplan of the MK6 Astra family hatchback, which dynamically, is a Very Good Thing. But no Astra has to deal with bodywork 1.6m in height weighing in at 1.75 tonnes using relatively unsophisticated torsion beam suspension. So what'll you get on the road?
A surprisingly competent experience as it turns out. No, there's no particular enjoyment to be gained from throwing this car about, but then, we can't really imagine why you would want to. Still, for those occasions when you're late for school / you've left something burning in the oven / you've forgotten to record your favourite soap and it's just about to start (delete as appropriate), it is good to be able to report than in this car, Chevrolet's design team have engineered in quite as much grip and composure as you're likely to need.
And a surprisingly refined engine. We're talking here of the 2.0-litre diesel that most will want. There is another powerplant available to Orlando buyers, a 1.8-litre petrol unit, but unlike the diesel, it has rather vague electric assistance for its power steering and its 141 braked horses aren't really enough to shift a car of this size with any kind of alacrity. As a result, this variant can be a bit noisy, not helped by the lack of a 6th gear in the manual 'box. The engineers have also developed a 1.4-litre petrol Turbo for this model and it's a much better bet. But the VCDi diesel is better still, offered with either 130bhp or 163bhp and in both instances, offering a significantly more refined drive than a comparably powered Vauxhall Zafira. Sixty from rest is between ten and eleven seconds way, depending on the version you choose, on the way to a top speed of around 112mph. Diesel drivers who get themselves a version of this car fitted with a 6-speed auto gearbox will be treated to an even more relaxing drive.
One of the benefits of buying C-MAX or Scenic-sized compact 7-seat MPV-class People Carrier like this one rather than something from the larger Galaxy or Sharan-sized sector is in-town manoeuvrability. Though it's around 10cm longer than many of its rivals, this Orlando shouldn't require too much adjustment if you're coming to it from something family hatchback or Mondeo-sized, but the chunky rear pillars and tapered side windows that slightly affect rear three-quarter visibility mean that the rear parking sensors fitted on all but baseline models are a welcome inclusion.
If you're looking for an affordable used seven-seat family MPV, this Chevrolet Orlando probably won't be high on your shopping list, but perhaps it should be. It goes without saying that it's a practical thing but the amount of care that has gone into making this car easy to live with on a day-to-day basis is obvious. Most importantly, it's also great value for money.
And all of this has been achieved without sacrificing something that very often goes out of the window with models from value brands: a bit of character. This Chevy has a distinct personality of its own, as back in 1911, company founder Louis Chevrolet decided that all his models should. It's a car families will warm to - for a price that makes sense. Which makes it a People Carrier that ought to be pretty hard to ignore.