Second Opinion: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT. Click image to enlarge

Not that the Orlando necessarily needs more power, but the turbocharged 2.0L motor used in the Regal would be a good fit here. Even tuned down from the 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque it makes in that Buick, the turbo’s extra low-end grunt would be a good complement to the Orlando’s capacity for bulky cargo.

Power delivery complaints aside, the Orlando delivered impressive real-world fuel efficiency, averaging 11 L/100 km, in mostly city driving, punctuated by a few trips around Ottawa’s suburban arteries, against Natural Resources Canada’s estimates of 10.1 L/100 km city and 6.7 L/100 km highway. That Regal averaged 10.4 L/100 km with the benefit of warmer weather and more highway driving; I call the Orlando’s result a win considering its less aerodynamic shape (the Orlando and Regal weigh about the same).

Second Opinion: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
Second Opinion: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
Second Opinion: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
Second Opinion: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT. Click image to enlarge

I second Grant’s positive comments on the Orlando’s suspension: as a contrast to the unsatisfying drivetrain, the Orlando’s underpinnings are everything they should be. Its dampers have enough starch in them to control body movement over big waves in the asphalt, but the compliant springs make the ride comfortable. In a week of driving on some of the poorest roads in my part of Ottawa, this suspension did everything right. And for its tall body, the Orlando handles commendably, with (relatively) little body roll and a chassis that seems perfectly content tackling twisty roads with some enthusiasm. Nicely weighted steering is offset by a spongy feeling brake pedal.

A tall roof means headroom is never an issue; even the tight third row has enough to keep adult heads away from the ceiling. The front seats are comfortable, but the top of the backrest hit my shoulders awkwardly. Second row legroom is about equal to what’s found in most compact sedans; the third row, as expected, is small, but useful for smaller adults. Aside from the tendency to squish knees up against the seatbacks in front, the biggest problem is the low bottom cushion, so shorter is better (both in the rider’s stature and the duration of the trip) for those who wind up back here.

Cargo space measures out to a maximum of 1,594 L with second and third row seats folded, or 739 L behind the second row. With all three rows in place, the number shrinks to a tiny 101 L.

Interior lighting could use a boost: the dome light is way back over the rear seats, and the map lights up front don’t light up when a door is opened, leaving the front seats dark when getting in and out of the car at night. In fact, the cargo hold is better lit than the front seating area.

The neatest interior feature might be the flip-up radio panel, which reveals a storage cubby and the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that location of auxiliary and USB inputs. It’s an ingenious touch. No need to pocket or hide a music player every time you get out of the car; just leave it tucked away, out of sight, in what is a very intuitive location.

For a family car with the ability to move seven people in a pinch, the Orlando is as well executed as they come. The well-sorted suspension is an unexpected plus; I only wish GM could have put something as impressive under the hood.

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