Auto review by Veeno Dewan

The new Chevrolet Orlando is a compact European-style MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) designed to replace the retro styled HHR in the Canadian line up. However with its three rows of seating seven-seater it does offer more passenger capacity and flexibility.

Most impressive of all, it is based on the underpinnings of the excellent Chevrolet Cruze sedan. With a low boxy shape and a generic Chevrolet front fascia the Orlando looks good from all angles, however it features conventional hinged rear doors, not sliding affairs. The Orlando is powered by a GM direct-injection 2.4-litre EcoTec engine, a larger unit than either of those available in the Cruze. It develops 174 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. All models get five doors, 3 seating rows and 7 seats. There is no V6 engine option, rear power doors or power tailgate option.?

Pricing for entry level LS model starts at around $19,995 and includes power windows and remote keyless entry, tilt steering, OnStar, XM Radio, MP3 playback, and an aux input jack.

The 1LT, model adds standard A/C, cruise, power heated mirrors, telescopic steering, deep tint glass, premium cloth and a driver armrest. The 2LT adds bluetooth, USB ports, fog lamps, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and a leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls. The top LTZ ($29,735) offers 18-inch rims, auto climate control, ambient lighting, and heated seats with six-way power for the driver, remote start, rear park assist, and extra chrome accents on the exterior.

Our tester was a 1LT model priced at $22,285 with the following options- 16 inch wheels, automatic transmission and the vehicle interface package with Bluetooth, voice recognition and controls, USB port, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls bringing the price up to $24,815 plus taxes and destination charges.

Interior wise the Orlando is very impressive with a neat well presented dash and simple to use logical controls. The front seats are comfortable with a flip down armrest for the driver and easy to use manual controls for the seats. Thoughtful touches include a small covered storage area on the centre console and in the cargo area, as well as the concealed cubby for your cell phone, iPod or other small gadgets.

The second and third rows seats are tiered, theatre-style and the second row feature split 60/ 40 row seat which although do not slide fore and aft do have an adjustable backrest and provide adequate legroom. The second row seats tilt and fold and tumble offering decent egress to the rear third row.

Third row seat in most vehicles are usually kid-only affairs however the Orlando’s twin third row seats would work for adults on short trips in any case. Clever tilt and fold headrests allow the 50/50-split third-row seats to fold flat and offer a flush flat floor so adding to the versatility.

On the road the Orlando has much the same vehicle dynamics as the much awarded Chevrolet Cruze and this means a good blend of smoothness, refinement and comfort. Also of note is the responsive steering and low noise wind and road noise. The Orlando feels tight, solid and composed in terms of ride and handling. With power and torque at: 174 hp/171 lb.-ft the Orlando has enough grunt to keep motivating, However it is no tire screaming performer and won’t dazzle you with acceleration with a full complement of passengers and cargo.

On the up side, if you look a t the overall package and the value for money at this price point it’s a no- brainer to consider it if you want to upgrade to a people carrier, but don’t need a thirsty, bulky minivan on your driveway. It is a sensible, refreshing and more efficient smarter take on the people mover segment.

GM claims the Orlando has the best fuel efficiency of any non-hybrid seven-seater – 10.1 L/100 km city and 6.7 highway with the manual transmission, 10.6 and 6.9 for the automatic and is so makes sense on that front too. Also according to GM the Orlando was one of the top-scoring cars in official 2011 European crash-testing. Couple that with its fine suite of attributes and the Orlando is very enticing and highly recommended entry into the compact MPV segment .One of my top picks so far of 2012.

2012 Chevrolet Orlando Price: $19,995 – $29,735

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