Chevrolet Orlando driven

* New compact MPV tested * On sale next year * Shares platform with next Zafira...

Chevrolet Orlando driven

What is it?

The MPV, or minivan as the Americans say, has become a staple of family life on both sides of the Atlantic, so it's strange that Chevrolet that most American of American car companies has largely ignored them. It's certainly never had a compact 'minivan' capable of competing in Europe.

It's got one now, though - the Orlando - and it's more significant than you might think. Beneath that brash Chevy body is an extended-wheelbase version of the current Vauxhall Astra platform, so much of what you see in the Orlando will carry over to the next Vauxhall Zafira in 2012.

What's it like inside?

The Orlando even uses the Flex7 seating system from the current Zafira a two-three-two layout in which the rearmost seats disappear into wells in the floor when not needed.

It's an arrangement that has its good points (decent space in rows one and two and all the seats always stay in the car) but also its limitations. It can be a real faff letting people into and out of row three, and the seat-folding system means the maximum load deck length isn't as great as in some compact MPVs.

The Orlando is not as sharp-looking as other Chevys in the pipeline, but handsome MPVs are few and far between. Interior quality is acceptable rather than appealing, particularly with lower-end trim, although we don't yet know what you'll pay: it doesn't go on sale until mid-2011.

What's it like to drive

That's why our first drive was brief and confined to a Korean test track. There'll be a 139bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine which, not to put too fine a point on it, is so gutless as to be barely worthy of mention, but there's also a 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel that does a much better job and is pretty refined with it. In-between there'll also be a 128bhp 2.0-litre diesel that we haven't tried.

The Orlando is an uninspiring car to drive, with flaccid steering, a vague gearshift and what feels like a potentially lumpy ride, but body motion is well enough controlled to avoid upsetting your kids or your dog. Wind noise starts to shatter the calm at quite modest speeds, though.

The car's success or otherwise is going to depend on what they charge for it. If it's cheap enough it might tempt people who need an MPV and aren't trying to pretend they're buying a GTI or a limo.

Read the Chevrolet Orlando review for parents at Mumsnet Cars

What Car? says

Okay, but that's about the best you can say for it