A Chevrolet for when you need something more sensible

It's impossible to hide from the fact that, in all probability, one day you will have to trade in that entertaining sports car or hot hatch of yours for something a little more sensible.

It's impossible to hide from the fact that, in all probability, one day you will have to trade in that entertaining sports car or hot hatch of yours for something a little more sensible.

By Matt Joy

Squeezing a child seat into the back of a Porsche 911 just comes across as being deeply inconsiderate, even though the thought of owning an MPV gives you sleepless nights. But give them their credit: car manufacturers are extremely perceptive when it comes to keeping up with our needs and wants, and now Chevrolet have rolled up with their answer to the problem - the Orlando.

The rest of the Chevrolet range is a familiar site in the UK now, and the quality of the product has been improving healthily with each new car.

That bodes well for the Orlando, which not has to cope with the quality of the opposition, but also the hard life that kids, dogs and life in general will throw at it. But before you even get inside, the Orlando should have managed to pique your interest with its looks.

It's a little hard to pin down in words, but it is something of a crossover between an SUV and a people carrier. Except it's much more appealing than that sounds - it is chunky but not hefty, distinctive but not ugly. You won't lose it in the car park but neither will you have to explain it away to your friends.

The combination of big windows and an SUV-like height brings another advantage when you drop into the driver's seat: an excellent driving position. Once you've made all the seat and wheel adjustments, the view out is very good indeed, and although you are sat slightly raised it sits happily between conventional car height and SUV, so there is the advantage of a little loftiness but without the feeling of altitude sickness. Whatever the reasons, behind the wheel of the Orlando is a pleasant place to be.

Pushing buttons is no chore either, partly because the equipment level is good regardless of which model you choose but also because the cabin quality is the best yet to come from Chevrolet. The design itself is smart, with a deliberate deep centre panel dividing the space between the two front seat occupants. Higher spec models have tasteful piano-black trim and leather on the steering wheel, all of which help to push up the classy feel.

Of greater importance to a buyer in this segment however is space, and the Orlando is certainly not short of it. Three rows of seats means this is a seven-seater with ease, and even with the third row in place there is a respectable 89 litres of boot space on offer. Drop to five seats and this goes up to a generous 727 litres, and a giant 1487 with two rows folded. Folding isn't the hard work it could be either, thanks to a simple mechanism assisted by a little strut that helps to push the seat for you. There's another piece of clever design with the audio system, which flips up at the touch of a button to reveal a useful cubby complete with USB and auxiliary sockets.

That would be sufficient for a number of buyers: space, equipment and good value. But the good news is that the Orlando has a few more talents. For a start, the 2.0-litre diesel unit is exactly what you would expect from a good quality, modern unit. There is power easily accessible through much of the rev range, and the gearchange on the standard six-speed unit is slick.

But even more surprising than that is the way the Orlando responds to your inputs. The steering isn't mushy or vague, and the suspension being slightly firmer than you might expect means it won't loll around in corners either. It's not become a hot hatch and it will still swallow bumps without upsetting everyone on board, but the fact that it will do as it is told rather than vaguely reinterpret your actions is a rare commodity in MPV-land.

It makes a difference, and difference is what this Orlando offers. There is a huge choice of seven-seaters out there for a range of budgets, but not every driver will be happy with a soulless box. Thankfully for those of you with a little more personality and a keen eye for a bargain, the Orlando has arrived.

Facts at a glance

Model: Chevrolet Orlando 2.0 VCDi LTZ, 20,195

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel producing 161bhp and 266lb.ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels

Performance: Top speed 121mph, 0-62mph in 10 seconds

Economy: 47.0mpg combined

Emissions: 159g/km of C02