"The Chevrolet Orlando offers chunky looks, a comfortable ride and plenty of space, but it's the low price that will attract most buyers"
American manufacturer Chevrolet has been working hard over the last few years to give its cars a more European flavour in order to compete more in the UK market. One of the results is the Chevrolet Orlando MPV, a seven-seater designed to genuinely challenge competitors such as the Citroen Grand Picasso, Ford Grand C-MAX and the Renault Scenic. Its chunky off-road exterior styling conceals a spacious and practical interior that has lots of well thought-out touches, including a hidden panel in the dashboard for your valuables and a convex mirror that lets the driver keep an eye on rear-seat passengers. The build quality and equipment levels are very good across the board, and the Orlando actually undercuts most of its rivals. It comes in three specifications – entry-level LS, mid-range LT and top-of-the-range LTZ.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
If you’ve got a strong environmental conscience, the Orlando may not be for you. Although Chevrolet claims that the 1.8-litre petrol engine will return 38.7mpg, in reality you’ll really struggle to meet that figure out on the open road. The diesels are much more viable, returning close to 50mpg, although that does drop to 40.1mpg if you go for the automatic gearbox over the manual. Insurance on MPVs is normally quite pricey, too, but the Orlando actually sits in the lowest groups of any MPV, ranging from 10-16, depending which model you buy. Servicing costs should be fairly low, too, with repairs able to be carried out at Vauxhall dealers if there's no local Chevrolet outlet near you, with standard checks required every 20,000 miles.
Interior & comfort
The Orlando's ride is definitely firmer than the likes of the Citroen C4 Picasso, with large bumps jarring the interior somewhat. Overall, however, it does match its rivals for comfort, depending on which engine you go for. Of the engines, the petrol is pretty noisy and very intrusive, while the diesels are much quieter and make for a much more relaxed journey. There's quite a lot of wind noise when driving at motorway speeds because of the high windscreen, but body roll is well controlled without the ride ever becoming harsh or truly uncomfortable. We’d recommend avoiding the 18-inch alloy wheels because they really can make the ride jittery. There's plenty of room in all seven seats for adults to get comfortable, especially since all the seats are supportive.
Practicality & boot space
Once you’ve folded down the back seats and the Orlando offers a pretty massive 1,499 litres of boot space. This is good, because with the seats in place, you only get a very sparse 79 litres, which is barely enough room for the weekly shop, let alone a family's luggage. The third row of seats fold and roll easily with one pull of a handle, however, and while the middle row doesn’t slide like in some rival MPVs, there is enough legroom to make sure even tall passengers can get comfortable. The big doors and square rear-end were definitely designed with families in mind and it shows in how easy they are to use – much better than a Citroen C4 Picasso. The extra rear-view mirror is also ideal for keeping an eye on kids in the back, and there are lots of storage cubbies, including a place to keep your MP3 player behind the stereo.
Reliability & safety
Chevrolet doesn’t get any of its cars into the top 100 models in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the company itself has made a pretty triumphant return to the poll by placing 20th in the manufacturers list after failing to rank in 2012 and coming last in 2011. This reflects its dedication to improving the quality of its cars. You get a five-year warranty as standard, which includes a servicing package and roadside assistance to provide peace of mind and hassle-free ownership. Only the seven-year deal offered by Kia betters it. Chevrolet doesn’t have a good reputation for sturdy build quality, but the current Orlando does seems like a step in the right direction. Some of the interior plastics do still feel flimsy, but the mechanicals are certainly built to last. In terms of safety, the Orlando secured the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and six airbags all fitted as standard. You also get crash sensor technology that unlocks the door automatically if you’re in a crash.
Engines, drive & performance
The Orlando comes with a choice of engines from a 138bhp 1.8-litre petrol (with manual or automatic gearbox), 128bhp 2.0-litre VCDi diesel, and a 160bhp 2.0-litre VCDi diesel (with manual or automatic gearbox). The petrol engine may well be the cheaper option, but it just doesn’t feel powerful enough to cope with the Orlando's sizable MPV dimensions and it burns fuel more quickly. The diesels, on the other hand, have plenty of acceleration, with the top-of-the-range 160bhp 1.8-litre going from 0-60mph in less than 10 seconds. Plus, the 1.8-litre TDCi also manages to return 47mpg and emit a reasonable 159g/km of CO2. The choice of six-speed manual or conventional automatic gearbox is surprisingly redundant, with both proving solid rather than anything special. The Orlando performs much better on the motorway, where it proves quiet and well controlled but with a surprising amount of grip going through corners, too. The main negatives are light steering that doesn’t offer much feedback to the driver and thick pillars that really do make visibility more difficult than it needs to be.
Price, value for money & options
The Orlando is a real bargain, undercutting its key rival, the Ford C-MAX, by nearly £4,000 and offering a lot of car for its starting list price. Even the top-of-the-range LTZ models cost less than rivals from Citroen and Ford by over £2,000. They’re well equipped, too, with cruise control, parking sensors and six airbags all fitted as standard. The higher specifications get more attractive interiors. The only real downside is the poor resale values on the used car market, with Chevrolets generally losing 65 per cent of their original value after three years of ownership.