TEST DRIVE: Chevrolet performs some Orlando magic
- Manny N. de los Reyes (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - I’ve always liked the functionality and versatility of minivans. Compared to SUVs, they seat the same number of people (usually seven) but are vastly easier to drive and more comfortable to ride in. The downside? They’re not exactly the type of car you’d drive to a high school reunion—even if you’re a soccer mom carpooling Little Leaguers. (No offense to soccer moms out there.)

Well at least until the Chevrolet Orlando came along. Here is one people mover that I would venture to call a crossover even if it’s not necessarily so. Viewed in the sheetmetal, the Orlando looks like it’s part minivan and part-SUV. It doesn’t have the exaggerated wedge-like sloping hood and windshield that’s a dead giveaway of all minivans. Instead it has a chunky front end that, thanks to the bold front grille with Chevrolet’s signature dual-port design, looks like it belongs to an SUV.

I also like the side view. It may not have the raised look of most SUVs, but it does have a hunkered down look that, coupled with big and sporty-looking 16-inch wheels filling out the fender openings, give the Orlando an aggressive, lowered stance.

The rear end of most minivans is perhaps the most boring design aspect of that genre. Yet the Orlando manages to escape that, too. Instead of the usual vertical taillights, the Orlando sports big horizontal ones—just like most SUVs. Chevy also avoided the boring generic convex-shaped rear tailgate by giving the Orlando an extremely flat fifth door—almost like it was cleaved by a giant chopping knife. It’s bold and distinctive. Other functional styling tricks are the front and rear fog lamps and the nicely integrated roof rails.

Under the hood resides a 141-ps (with 176 Nm of torque) 1.8-liter DOHC DCVVT 4-cylinder engine. It’s mated to a 6-speed automatic with manumatic feature for manual transmission-like control. It’s a fairly refined motor that delivers adequate power even when fully loaded.

Safety-wise, the Korean-made Orlando has ABS and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), an IsoFix child-restraint system, child-proof locks on rear doors, and a Seat Belt Warning Indicator. The Orlando is also equipped with driver and passenger front and side airbags as well as Crash Sensor Technology that reinforces the safety of the driver and passenger in case of a vehicle collision.

Inside the very upscale-looking cabin (with a dashboard and console that looks like it came from a luxury sedan), the Orlando’s second-row seat is capable of 60:40-folding while the third-row seats can be folded individually to give occupants maximum space flexibility. It may not have the higher roofline of say, the Toyota Innova, but headroom and legroom are nonetheless more than adequate, even for the third-row seat. Indoor comfort is even more enhanced with a climate control system and an entertainment system that includes an advanced infotainment display, a 6-speaker audio system that has an RD radio, CD player with MP3 compatibility, Aux input and iPod connectivity via USB port. The Orlando also provides perks like cruise control, automatic rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, and even a tire repair kit for families that are becoming ever more Do-It-Yourself in their everyday dealings.

What’s not to like? Well it would be nice to have a lower-end spec’d down manual transmission model priced in the P900,000 range. As it is, there’s only one variant of the Orlando and it’s the fully equipped one with a retail price of P1,188,888. The Orlando does undercut the Kia Carnival by as much as P350,000—although the likewise Korean-made Carnival is decidedly in a more upmarket segment and has even more features (like leather seats and the cool power sliding doors and tailgate). In contrast, the more pedestrian Innova ranges from P800,000 to just over P1 million. So I suppose the Orlando has its own niche between those two.

Perhaps the biggest item on Chevrolet’s to-do list is to slip in a CRDi diesel engine under the Orlando’s hood. That would probably drastically increase its desirability among families looking for fuel efficiency and low operating costs—even if it will inevitably bump up its sticker price. (A CRDi Orlando is available in Europe and in other markets.)


• handsome, upscale styling

• lots of comfort, convenience and safety features

• generous cabin space

• eminently easy to drive

• excellent riding comfort

• high levels of overall refinement/build quality


• needs a lower-priced lower-end version

• a diesel engine option would be really nice


An impressively equipped minivan that offers style aside from practicality and versatility

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