Test Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT. Click image to enlarge

The seats have been positioned high, allowing easy access and giving the driver an upright seating position with a commanding view of the road. Visibility to the side and back is also excellent. My number one access and exit tester, my 91 year-old disabled father, declared that getting into and out of the Orlando was the easiest of all the vehicles I have tested in recent years.

The third row is also easily accessible as the two outboard seats in the second row tumble and fold to allow easy access into and out of the third row. Both rear doors open normally — they do not slide like a minivan or the Mazda5.

The Orlando is powered by a 2.4L four-cylinder engine, rated at 174 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. With the automatic transmission, the Orlando is rated by EnerGuide at 6.9 L/100 km on the highway and 10.6 L/100 km in the city. My combined fuel consumption for a week of mostly around town driving was 11.7 L/100 km.

Power to the front wheels is managed by an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission with electronic range select. The transmission has a wide selection of shift patterns that adapt to the style and habits of the driver. The electronic control also adapts to the prevailing road conditions, reducing gear shifting when climbing and using engine braking during descents.

The automatic also features ActiveSelect manual control, which allows the driver to select gears sequentially using the shift lever. You will use this once, like I did, and probably never use it again, unless stuck in snow, when a higher gear can help prevent wheel spin. Up shifts and down shifts were just too slow to make this feature entertaining. Left to its own devices, the transmission shifts quickly and appropriately both for spirited driving and for saving fuel.

Around town the Orlando proved to be both quick and nimble. Acceleration from a standing stop was more than sufficient as was power to pass and to merge into freeway traffic. You won’t feel like the King of the Road at a stop light, but you will be far from embarrassed. This little wagon can hold its own.

Test Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
Test Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
Test Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT car test drives reviews chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando LT. Click image to enlarge

With its McPherson strut front suspension and compound crank axle in the rear, both adopted from the Chevrolet Cruze, the Orlando corners remarkably flat considering its higher centre of gravity. Steering is light and direct, and with great visibility in all directions, lane changes are quick and parking is easy. Hydraulic bushings in the McPherson front suspension help isolate passengers from uneven road surfaces giving the Orlando a ride that balances comfort and agility.

Inside, the Orlando is very quiet, one of the quietest four-cylinder-powered cars I’ve driven. Even under hard acceleration, engine noise is muted. Wind noise, when the weather is calm, is negligible and minimal when running against a strong headwind.

Safety features include large, effective disc brakes with 11.8-inch rotors in the front and 11.5 inches in the rear with electronic antilock brakes (ABS) on all four wheels. And pure stopping power is supplemented with electronic brake force distribution (which governs the amount of braking at each wheel to ensure the shortest stopping distances), traction control for wet or slippery conditions, electronic stability control to help prevent skids on slippery surfaces, and hydraulic brake assist.

Standard passive safety features include six standard air bags — two front, two seat-mounted side and two curtain air bags — head restraints for all seating positions, power rear child security door locks, child-view mirror and standard OnStar with six months of Directions and Connections service. Crash sensor technology automatically unlocks all the doors in the event of a crash.

Since the Orlando is not sold in the United States, it has not been crash tested by either of that country’s crash testing organizations. However, the Orlando has been tested in Europe where it received a Euro NCAP 5 Star rating, one of the top scoring cars in Europe in 2011.

The car is not sold in the US because GM feels that Americans would not buy a compact minivan like the Orlando. But with fuel prices rising fast in the US — it may not be long before we reach par on fuel as well as the dollar — that may change. How well the Orlando sells in Canada may well be a test of its viability south of the border as well.

Pricing: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando 1LT
  • Base price: $22,295
  • Options: $2,420 (Six-speed automatic transmission, $1,450; 16-inch alloy wheels, $510; Vehicle interface package, $460)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,495
  • Price as tested: $26,310

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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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