First Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando reviews first drives chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2012 Chevrolet Orlando

Windermere, Ontario – In February 1996, Windermere House, a historic hotel originally built in 1870, burned to the ground during the filming of a Hollywood feature (The Long Kiss Goodnight, starring Geena Davis and Samuel Jackson). It was a devastating blow to the community of Windermere located on the shore of Lake Rosseau in Ontario’s Muskoka region.

Windermere House’s owners could have walked away into a comfortable retirement with a sizeable insurance settlement, but instead they decided to reinvest and rebuild the Victorian style hotel to its original grandeur. The massive project took just 18 months to complete and in the spring of 1997, Windermere House re-opened.

We could find some parallels in the experience of Windermere House and General Motors, a company that was driven into bankruptcy in June 2009. Out of the ashes of the old GM emerged a new, smaller, leaner General Motors Company. Non-productive brands were sold or closed and the company refocused its energy on developing the cars and trucks that consumers would buy in the 21st century. Its motto is “design, build, and sell the world’s best vehicles.”

First Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando reviews first drives chevrolet
First Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando reviews first drives chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando. Click image to enlarge

Eighteen months after its Chapter 11 filing in a New York courtroom, the same amount of time the owners of Windermere House took to rebuild their business, General Motors reported it had earned $4.7 billion in 2010, its first profit since 2004.

Just as GM has become smaller, leaner and more agile, so have its vehicles, with new cars to meet consumer demand in the mini-car (Spark) sub-compact (Sonic) and compact segments (Cruze). While the Spark and Sonic will be arriving soon in Canada, the Cruze went on sale in 2010. It has been a big contributor to GM’s bottom line. Since its international debut in 2009, Chevrolet has sold more than 800,000 worldwide and is on track to exceed one million units by the end of 2012. The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada voted the Chevrolet Cruze as Canadian Car of the Year for 2011.

Now GM is rolling out a Cruze variant, the Orlando, a seven passenger compact minivan that will compete primarily against the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo. GM views this as an underdeveloped segment, one that will have increasing appeal to young, cash-conscious families. With four-cylinder fuel economy, more modest monthly payments and full-size minivan seating options, the Chevrolet Orlando provides the flexibility to carry a family’s precious cargo without breaking the budget.

When it goes on sale this fall, the Orlando will start at just $19,995 in base LS trim with seven-passenger seating, power windows, locks and remote keyless entry, four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, stability control and traction control, CD player with MP3 and auxiliary audio inputs, block heater, tilt steering, three auxiliary power outlets, manual transmission and 16-inch steel wheels. Air conditioning can be added for $1,250.

First Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando reviews first drives chevrolet
2012 Chevrolet Orlando. Click image to enlarge

The Orlando is as compact as the Cruze, yet with its tall wagon design, has room inside for seven passengers and a bit of luggage – a lot more luggage with the rear seats folded flat. It doesn’t look too tall, with its long swept roofline and bulging wheel arches. The wheel arches give the Orlando a classic fendered look, albeit less classic than the outgoing retro HHR that it replaces.

But the Orlando does look compact and one would be surprised to open the doors – and all four doors open like normal car doors; the rears do not slide – and find so much passenger space within. Up front are two captain’s chairs with such long forward and back movement that even seven-foot-two-inch Toronto Raptors centre Alexis Ajinca, would have no trouble finding a comfortable seating position.

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