By ERIC PHIRI AND BRENWIN NAIDU
THERE was a time when Multi-purpose Vehicles, or MPVs, were all the rage. People were enamoured by the practical benefits they promised, in a package slightly bigger than your average hatchback, but not as large as cumbersome as a full-on mini-van. But, as with the nature of most fads, MPV’s popularity seems to have toned down a bit – Crossovers seem to be the latest in-thing: boasting SUV looks and enough interior space for the family.
Still, MPV’s hold a practical virtue that can’t be denied: their inherent roominess and large door apertures are ideal for carting around kids and prams, as well as recreational toys. The styling of these vehicles have always been a sore point. It’s a diffcult task, making an MPV look attractive – it’s a compromise, where the need for space takes priority over aesthetics.
Chevrolet have managed to do a stellar job with their Orlando. This car has muscle and presence – shattering that idea that MPVs need to be soft and effeminate, only appealing to a female audience. The Orlando is an MPV that fathers can drive too, without having to feel any embarassment when dropping their youngsters off at school. What strikes you first, is that front-end: the characteristic Chevrolet dual-port grille a square-like profile give it an air of attitude and brawn.
When we drove the Orlando at the media launch last year, we were impressed by its road manners. It moves along with confidence, while some bodyroll in the corners is expected in a vehicle of this kind, the Orlando manages to tackle twists and undulations with sure-footedness. Over the December holiday period, the Sports Focus team spent a greater length of time with the Orlando, and our sentiments about its stable driving character remain the same.
Our test model was the LT specification, which is the grandest in the range. Presently, only one choice of engine is available in the Orlando – that’s a 1.8-litre with an output of 104kW and 176Nm of torque. Performance is as you would expec in a vehicle of this type: it doesn’t set the road alight, but it’s adequate for the application.
We still think that a high-torque diesel engine should be offered in the Orlando, this might not only boost performance, it will also give consumers more choice. Same goes for an automatic transmission – you can only have the Orlando with a manual gearbox, and the choice of two pedals would really be convenient in a car of this kind.
Its exterior size is not deceiving, as the Orlando is truly roomy on the inside. Its practical merits were put to the test – on trips to places like Tzaneen over the holiday season, to even being put to work carrying some of the items for the big end-of-year Sports Focus office party. We like Chevrolet’s dashboard template, which you’ll see in the Cruze, new Sonic and the Orlando: it resembles a cockpit, with seperate quarters for driver and passenger.
The radio and its display is placed high in the centre of the dashboard, below you’ll find the controls for the air-conditioning system – all the dials fall to hand easily, ergonomically, it’s pretty good. Another cool feature of the radio face, is that it lifts up, revealing the auxilliary port to connect your digital music player. Buttons for the audio system and the cruise control are also on the steering wheel.
You can choose between the LS and the top-spec LT, which we tested. While being the entry-level model, the LS is actually decently-specced – most people really wouldn’t know that you’ve opted for the cheaper of the two. Alloy wheels, park assist and cruise control are all thrown in as standard on the LS and of course, it being a family-orientated vehicle, there are a host of passive and active safety features.