Car Reviews: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando Test Drive

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Can You Hear The Drums, Orlando?

This week for our Car Reviews we tested out a brand new vehicle – not just as in 2012 brand new, but brand new as in first year on the market. Thanks to GM Canada, we road tested the Chevrolet Orlando, an interesting crossover that has seven seats and is fuel efficient. I loved the idea that we could still have a lot of room without emptying our wallet at the pumps each week. 

And now it’s over to Mr. HBWT for his comprehensive review!

2012 Chevrolet Orlando Review & Test Drive:

-Efficient use of space makes it roomy up front and the best 3rd row option for its size
-Economy on both purchase price and gas (we averaged 10.3L/100km in the city)
-fairly peppy for a 4 cylinder

-Price of decent 3rd row is a cramped 2nd row
-Reliability yet to be seen as this is the first year available
-Quality of build

I like the Chevy Orlando. It does what needs to be done in the fact that it is an efficient people hauler with seating for 7, is an easy size to maneuver in the city, and the price tag doesn’t involve a 7 year payment plan. I like its styling for the crossover field. And I like that it is being marketed towards Canada, Europe, India, and Australia (it is not available in the US) which means Chevrolet is starting to grasp the need for more fuel efficient vehicles in places where gas is more than $4 a gallon (a LOT more).

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Peppy 4 Cylinder With Looks To Match

As I usually do, I will start on the inside and make my way out. the Orlando was a surprise addition to our car shopping as this is its first year on the market and it satisfies one of the key features I was looking for – a useable 3rd row – kind of / mostly. With the driver and front row passenger seat full back there is loads of room up front – enough room to put it in competition with much larger vehicles and by far the most room I have had in any vehicle in this class. The 3rd row is highly useable as well – I fit in there at 6’7” (though not a ton of room to spare of course). The one drawback to all of this space at the front and the back is the 2nd row is definitely where they find the room. With the front seats full back there is about 2” between the back of the front seats and the front of the 2nd row which basically negates anyone sitting behind you in this configuration (my will-o-the-wisp 6-year-old didn’t). So all of this means the front seats have to come up to make the 2nd row useable which is not a big deal but certainly is a shame as it now feels like all the rest for room up front.

The Orlando of course comes with all of the tech and gadgets (the more as your price goes up) and our 2LT was nicely trimmed with pretty much everything other than a satellite / screen in the dash. And speaking of the dash they do have a neat privacy feature – the face plate of the stereo swivels up for a little cubby that has a usb and is a great place to put stuff of more value (though I presume thieves will know about it soon enough). Layout in the cabin was good and it is easy to access all of the features.

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The Kids Loved The Colour, Which Is Perfectly Valid 😉

Moving outside, styling is next. I like the looks of the Orlando. It is not amazing, but considering some of the ugly ducklings in this class (I am looking at you, Calibre) it has nice lines that are somewhat reminiscent of the CX9 we had a few weeks back. Unfortunately it also shares reasonably poor visibility out of the back like the bigger Mazda but doesn’t have the nifty sensors or backup camera for added safety that the CX9 does. I think it is something you could get used to and is somewhat compensated for by its smaller size for maneuvering. Rear-view mirrors are big, and access to the trunk (which is pretty small with 3rd row up but this is forgivable considering the vehicle’s size) is easy-peasy. And, while this may be a small note, it is important nonetheless… my wee man (2 yrs old) loved our red Orlando and thought it looked like Lightning McQueen. A car could certainly be called worse.

Driving the Orlando is pleasant – the standard 4 cylinder engine is surprisingly peppy. I found the handling – from steering to cornering – reasonably mushy though, and had to remind myself this is not an SUV with 4 wheel drive or offroad suspension. The Orlando felt, to me, like a big car where you sit fairly low. Fuel consumption was excellent real world, and we were bang on 10L/100km with mostly city driving which was much better than the other vehicles we have driven in this class.

As you may have noticed throughout my review I have numerous likes for this vehicle, but I am never able to say the word LOVE. To me the Orlando is utilitarian and not something you drive for the experience or to show off to your friends. I am a self-confessed non-car-guy guy, never scratched “FORD: Fix or Repair Daily” or “JEEP: Just empty every pocket” (I have no doubt every carmaker has one of these sayings) into a high school desk and I have no allegiances to any of the manufacturers or countries of origin, and I am saying this because what I am about to state sounds like it is picking on the North American car makers. I see they are getting better but there were a lot of things on this car that felt, and there is no other way to put it, cheap. The key in the ignition wiggled more than my six year old’s tooth. The folding seat in the 2nd row had an alarming wobble at its foundation when you lifted it to access the 3rd row. The air vent dials also wobbled. Now these may seem reasonably trivial but this car had 3000k on it – what is it going to be like in 5 years… or 10? Hopefully this is getting better and they will prove me wrong, but if you are in any doubt about what many North American cars vs their foreign counterparts will be worth down the road just take a scan through the auto trader.

It is not, of course, fair to compare the Orlando to cars ten thousand dollars or more in price – you hope they are built better. But this is my final concern with a car like this – how much does it really cost? To me the Orlando is a great people hauler and if one could forgo the bells and whistles you should be able to drive one of these off of the lot for well under 25k all in. You then get 10 years of service out of it, and it owes you nothing. With that said I am irritated by what seems like a bait and switch the North American cars have for new purchases. A base Orlando – with 5 speed manual transmission – comes in under 20k and , surprisingly enough, no dealer carries this optioned vehicle so the “base” is now the next level and thousands of dollars more. So it is not hard to walk out of a dealership with an Orlando closer to 30k with tax, and to me it is not worth that money. It is certainly better than the Dodge Journey that runs 20K to 40K + (ridiculous if you ask me – it’s like they couldn’t decide what they wanted that vehicle to be) but I think they will miss out if they attempt to sell this car head to head with much more revered rivals like the RAV-4 and CRV.

I like the Orlando because I think it does what it is supposed to do, it’s good on gas and can haul more than the standard 5 passengers, and I am glad Chevrolet is offering a vehicle like this.

Ultimately the Orlando is not a vehicle we are able to purchase at this time, as the price tag for a new one that has the features we would want is above our budget; even with GM’s tempting 0% financing, car payments are something we are looking to avoid. Now, if there were Orlandos on the market a few years old with a reasonable amount of mileage, we may be giving the Orlando a much more serious look. 

Next week? We take the 2012 Honda CRV for a spin!

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4 Responses to Car Reviews: 2012 Chevrolet Orlando Test Drive

  1. How well would multiple baby seats (we have twins) fit inside the Orlando? I know that many of these types of vehicles can create challenges when it comes to getting your baby in and out of the vehicle.

    • Corinne at #

      Honestly, two baby seats (especially rear facing) might be a real squeeze in the back seat of the Orlando. Unless the driver and the front passenger sit pretty close to the dashboard. I’d recommend bringing your seats to the dealership and doing a rough install to see how they work for you. Most dealers will have no issue with you doing this.
      Good luck!

  2. Moe at #

    I realize this was 2 years ago. Fantastic reviews just the same. Any Idea what the reliability is now on the Orlando. Still difficult to find info. Although now really worth buying used.

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