Love at first sight
For starters, the Orlando looks absolutely gorgeous. Now, I don't expect everyone to agree with me at first, so spare me a few lines to explain what makes the bow tie brand's latest MPV so dreamy. It's built like a powerlifter - big, buff, and bursting with muscles - but with the play of complex curves and lines, it gives the Orlando an illusion of being short and stubby, just like a cute little bulldog.
The boxy backside is tough enough to threaten anyone who dares tail behind, but nifty little details such as corner reflectors, a rear fog lamp, and a small roof rail manage to mellow it down. Meanwhile, the bulbous front end, big clear head lights, and Chevy's signature dual-port grill are always there to happily greet you with an adorable smile. Add the big side mirrors that stick out like Shrek's ears and handsome low-profile 16-inch rims and you've got a good blend of cuteness and brawn.
As it’s based on the same platform as the Cruze, one would expect the Orlando to carry over some of the sedan's renowned ride and handling. We're reasonable enough, however, not to race it around bends, as we don't think anyone buying an MPV would take it to track days anyway. Still, we were quite astonished by how maneuverable this thing was despite its 2.76 meter wheelbase and 4.65 meter length, so going through the city was a breeze. In fact, even with its small rear window and thick c-pillars, we had no problems parking it into tight slots; the rear view camera and parking sensors were a big help, of course.
Driving solo, the ride around town was definitely stiff and a bit unforgiving. But fill it up with at least three more passengers and the difference is night and day. Obviously, Chevrolet had to beef up the suspension to cope with a full load of seven passengers, so don't be too disappointed when you're out alone.
Another component it shares with the Cruze is its four-cylinder 1.8L DCVVT engine. Honestly, we didn't think that 139 horsepower and 176 Nm of torque would have enough grunt to pull seven people, but it did. Just make sure to allot some extra time in your trip because it's not meant to carry a full load at speed.
From previous experiences with the Cruze, we were quite optimistic about its fuel consumption. Surely, a small 1.8L engine couldn't drink that much fuel, could it? Well, apparently it could. Driving around the city in light traffic, we only managed 6 km/L. And if you think that Chevrolet learned anything from the Cruze's sluggish transmission, look away now. The six-speed auto is as slow as we remembered it and jerks when it shuffles between first, second, and third gear.
Not all vehicles advertised as seven-seaters can actually hold seven passengers. In reality, some third row seats are only meant for small children or amputees. So the first thing we verified was if the Orlando can really fit two adults at the back. And after some fidgeting, I managed to find my 5'9” frame a comfortable position at the back with good elbow and leg room. The Orlando's “theater style” third row seating, however, compromised a bit of the headroom, so I can't sit fully upright like a lady. Instead, I just sat in a more relaxed slouched with legs wide open position like a real man would.
Speaking of positions, sitting behind the wheel also proved to be quite good and the driver's arm rest was definitely a plus. And while you might recognize the steering wheel, gauges, buttons, and head unit borrowed from the Cruze, the Orlando has a much much bigger center console for reasons we couldn't understand. But after fiddling with it for a good few minutes, we finally figured out that the radio panel actually opens and functions as storage for your iPod, cellphone, or wallet. Very clever, Chevy.
The perfect blend
Who would have thought that you can successfully combine the comfort of a sedan, the versatility of an MPV, and the brute looks of an SUV into one practical package? Defying the norm of MPV's, the Orlando is comfortable, fashionable, and most importantly, fun. And while it’s big on the inside, it's just a wee bit bigger than the Cruze, so garage space shouldn't really be a problem.
Be prepared with some extra cash, though, as prices have increased to P1,238,888 since its launch back in November 2011. But for the price, just think of it an investment because you are getting a touch screen infotainment system with navigation, headlight leveling, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rain sensitive windscreen wipers, cruise control, ABS with ESC, Traction Control, and dual front airbags.
Now if only you could get it with a diesel.