Having recently invested in an all-new global compact car, the Cruze, it was inevitable that Chevrolet would eventually come out with an MPV based on the Cruze’s underpinnings. When the unavoidable people-mover debuted at the 2008 Paris Auto Show as the severely handsome Orlando Concept, its clean yet distinctive look certainly got our attention. And with initial plans calling for US production (Hamtramck), it seemed that The General really was ready to put up to seven Americans in a compact-car-based vehicle. But after we called the Orlando “The Cruze To Wait For,” GM entered bailout hell and the Orlando was canceled and uncanceled for the US market with every new executive that passed through the RenCen.Now, with the first images of the production Orlando hitting the web, the post-concept reality of Chevy’s “Delta MPV7″ reflects its troubled development.
The very European-looking concept has been softened into what looks more like a US-market crossover (i.e. something you might spot in Orlando)… but it’s going to be made by Daewoo in South Korea, and is focused on the European market. And based on the current plans, Americans looking for this kind of car from GM will have to spring for a GMC Granite “Urban Utility Vehicle.” Because apparently GM’s product planners think Europeans are into generic, American-named people movers, while Americans are looking for over-the-top designs and an upmarket brand from their fuel-efficient kiddy haulers. On the other hand, as little sense as that premise makes, the production look of the Chevy Orlando won’t exactly inspire anyone to contradict it.
As Europe moves towards ever more premium subcompact cars, Opel has sought to hop on the bandwagon by giving its Corsa-based Meriva Micro-MPV stylish suicide doors. And with Buick moving towards simple rebadges of Opel’s product, the suicide-doored Meriva seems almost certain to arrive stateside as the so-called “Baby Enclave” MPV, expected to debut in the US market in 2012. There’s little doubt of the suicide door concept’s gimmick value, and we’ve said before that this factor alone could get Americans excited about the first-ever Buick subcompact… but just how much of a difference do the rear-hinged doors make in real life? According to the first German-market comparison test (by Auto Motor und Sport print edition), the Meriva’s suicide doors are still just a gimmick.
At the Beijing Auto Show, they had a fine-looking and well-appointed Buick MPV, called the “Business Concept” (shown above.) I gave it no mention. After all, who cares about a concept MPV that will never see the light? Big mistake, Schmitt: It will see the light faster that I thought, namely by the end of the year.
Chevrolet has had a difficult time deciding if its Cruze-based MPV, known as the Orlando, is a good fit for the US-market. Initially, Chevy debuted the Orlando concept at the Paris auto show, and said it had no plans for a US-market version. Then it was approved for the US ahead of the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, and now, according to Automotive News [sub], it’s off again. The (up to) seven-passenger MPV, built on GM’s “Delta II” compact architecture will be sold in Europe, Asia, and even Canada… just not in the US. Chevy spokesfolks explain:
The best thing to do for Chevrolet is to focus on the brands we’ve already brought to market: the Traverse, Equinox, Malibu and, soon to come, the Cruze. We feel that with those vehicles, Chevrolet has plenty of options for the modern family.
Of course, Chevy sells all three of those vehicles in Canada as well… so how are these three options “plenty” for US consumers, but not for our friendly neighbors to the North?
Look everyone, it’s a Chevy Volt that can seat more than four people! Official images of the Volt MPV5 concept have leaked today [via AutoblogGreen], confirming what recently-discovered line drawings hinted at: a people-carrying version of Chevy’s Volt is under development. The extra rear seat and the 30.5 cubic feet of storage space (62.3 cubic feet with rear seats folded) does come at a price though, as GM says the MPV5 comes up 8 miles short of the Volt’s marketing-mission-critical 40 miles of electric range using the same drivetrain. On the upside, it will almost certainly be classified as a light truck (despite its compact, FWD underpinnings), making it the perfect vehicle to goose increasing CAFE standards.
We should have seen this coming when Mazda first called its Furai and Nagare concepts “design studies” instead of “the unfortunate results of a savage brown-acid-and-Lovecraft bender at Mazda’s design studios.” New direct-injection, stop-start engines are approved for the European version of the new Mazda5, but as usual there are no guarantees they’ll make it to the US market version. More details when Mazda5 comes alive at the Geneva auto show.
The production version of the Opel Meriva has debuted, and as promised, the suicide doors made the cut. But will the Meriva come to America, re-grilled as a Buick? A Gamma II-based MPV is rumored for Buick’s 2012 lineup, and suicide doors might just be the gimmick that helps America understand the concept of “premium compact.” Even though, as the image after the jump shows, they are little more than a gimmick.
Last month, we reported that China’s Great Wall received the EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA,) awarded by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) for their Coolbear MPV, which makes the car legal for sale in Europe.
Since this approval is lengthy (takes about a year) and costly (even when administered by the VCA, which is known for bargain basement pricing,) the announcement was taken as an intention of Great Wall to enter the European market. Here they come: