2012 Chevrolet Orlando 2LT. Click image to enlarge
No matter how you load up the features, all Orlandos come with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with direct injection, good for 174 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. It has no problems getting going with traffic or picking up enough speed for highway merges, and though I wasn’t blown away by the power or refinement, it’s definitely sufficient for this size, and the six-speed auto slips through the gears without drawing attention to itself, which is just about par for the course in this segment. The driving experience is similarly adequate, but still lacking in polish. The Orlando’s composure does its Cruze roots proud taking to corners with a solid, planted reassurance. The steering’s lightweight, which serves it well in crowded parking lots but becomes completely vague and loose through turns. And when cruising along the highway, the lack of on-centre feel led me to wander more than I would like.
After my time in the Orlando, I can’t say that the lack of steering feedback would in any way influence my shopping process in this segment. On the other hand, safety will be a huge concern for families with young children and many others, and the Orlando comes well equipped with standard ABS and 11.8 front and 11.5-inch rear ventilated disc brakes, supplemented by hydraulic brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (controlling braking power at each corner to ensure shortest braking distance), traction control and most importantly, electronic stability control, which will attempt to correct the vehicle’s path through braking if it starts to travel off its intended course.
In concert with the good front and side visibility (the ‘D’ pillar is a challenge), the Orlando comes with the basic tools to avoid trouble that you would expect in this class of vehicle. In the event of a collision, six airbags (front, side and curtain), head restraints and a high-strength steel frame proved themselves in the rigorous European crash testing program (Euro NCAP), earning 5 stars for the Overall rating with a stellar 95 per cent score for Adult protection, though its Child score was a less impressive 79 per cent. Those scores match or beat vehicles like the VW Tiguan, Mazda CX-7, Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and Volvo XC60, to name a few (of those available in our market) that have undergone the same testing procedure. One last item that can be of crucial significance in the event of a collision is GM’s OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, which opens a line to an OnStar advisor, who can contact emergency services and provide a location for first responders to fix on. GM’s latest adaptation, Injury Severity Prediction, uses vehicle information from the vehicle’s array of electronic sensors to alert paramedics if a collision was likely to have caused serious injury.
The best way to summarize the Orlando is a safe bet. It’s already good enough to hold its own in a competitive small MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) market in Europe, and with little cost to meet Canadian safety regulations, it was worth the effort to bring it to Canada to see if GM could conquest a few thousand more customers from the Kia Rondo, Mazda5, Dodge Journey and other small family vehicles that find plenty of customers in this market.
The prospect of compact-car fuel efficiency (and dynamics), small SUV utility, minivan seating capacity and fresh but safe styling should attract many new shoppers to Chevrolet showrooms, and a quick drive will show consumers that this is an easy vehicle to live with.
Pricing: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando 2LT