Orlando blooms!

THERE has always been a market for inexpensive family-friendly vehicles and the queue only grows if a manufacturer can inject an element of style into the mix.

Chevrolet’s Orlando isn’t a particularly innovative seven-seater mini-MPV, but its keen pricing and chunky styling will endear it to many.

As befits its role as a cost-effective people mover, the Orlando doesn’t pack anything too exciting under its stubby bonnet. There’s a 139bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine which will attract heavy discounting and allow Chevrolet to post an eye-catching price tag in their ads, and then there are the engines that most UK buyers will want. These comprise a pair of diesels, both of two-litre capacity, producing either 139 or 161bhp. The 1.8 petrol is a fairly inoffensive unit but it’s worth remembering that it’s got a lot of bulk to haul here and it lacks the torque to pull a typically laden Orlando with any sparkle.

The diesels are a far wiser choice and they’re even acceptably refined. The driving position is acceptable with plenty of adjustment, although the chunky rear pillars and tapered side windows mean that rear three-quarter visibility isn’t the best. If you’re worried about this, best to specify the reverse parking sensors to help you navigate into tight parking spots. At 4470mm long, the Orlando is a mere 3mm longer than a Vauxhall Zafira, and is exactly as long as a Citroën C4 Picasso, so it’s fairly easy to get a handle on the size of vehicle you would be edging into a parking bay.

The received wisdom is that any mini-MPV stands or falls by the quality of its seating layout. To this end we’ve seen all manner of ingenuity, with seats springing from all sorts of orifices but there’s only so much you can do with a given wheelbase and the Orlando copies the homework of the current cleverest in class, the Vauxhall Zafira. While it’s never going to win any prizes for originality, the Orlando’s five seats plus two that pop out of the boot floor work very well. Yes, the rear seats look like something erected from an IKEA flat pack at first, but they’re extremely sturdy. With an additional 85mm in the wheelbase compared to an Astra, there’s plenty of legroom in the first two rows but the final pair of seats are, as usual, best left for smaller children. In all there are 30 seating combinations and a rear seat mirror will allow you to keep an eye on the kids.

Chevrolet has had a rather hit and miss record in its attempt to assimilate itself into the European market. That said, it’s hard to see how the Orlando can possibly fail. Not only is it great value for money, but it also has a distinct personality of its own. Quality is better than you might expect and, as long as you choose a diesel engine, ongoing running costs are encouragingly modest. It goes without saying that it’s a practical thing, but the amount of care that has gone into making this car easy to live with on a day-to-day basis is obvious.

It’s undeniably good looking to boot, with its bluff front end, low-rider roofline and chamfered edges. Couple that with Chevrolet’s strong warranty and plenty of safety kit and you have a package that family buyers looking for something a bit more covetable than the usual mini-MPV distress purchase will warm to.