First was the station wagon, a versatile hauler that drove like a car. Next came the SUV, a more image-conscious version of the station wagon with an extra helping of utility. When the cost of oil swelled, a new breed of SUV emerged, the crossover utility vehicle (CUV).
An SUV on a smaller scale, the CUV promises utility, drivability and maybe a little bit better efficiency. The 2010 GMC Terrain is pretty typical of the breed. It's smaller than a Tahoe or Acadia and features a standard four-cylinder engine that promises more than 30 mpg on the highway. What's not to like?
Why We Bought It
For 2010 the GMC Terrain was all-new and shared its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Equinox. GM had a lot resting on the success of this CUV foundation. Crossovers are the vehicles of the future. Our test of the Terrain would offer a glimpse into GM's approach for coming generations.
Fuel economy was the game here, so we stuck with the standard 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine. We ordered a front-wheel-drive Terrain to minimize weight in hopes of getting the 32 mpg on the highway promised by the EPA. The Terrain also featured a well-designed cabin and a vast array of interior amenities, so we were hardly roughing it.
There was another consideration. Back in late 2009 before we introduced the Terrain, it was among Edmunds' most researched vehicles on the site. When the readers spoke, we listened with checkbooks in hand. Our long-term test was under way.
We expected some weakness in the acceleration department and the 2010 GMC Terrain delivered. Editor in Chief Scott Oldham spoke for many of us when addressing the underpowered inline-4 with, "In the real world this means the Terrain's gas pedal is lying on the carpet much of the time. It also means real-world obstacles like hills and slowpokes in the left lane force you to wring the Ecotec's neck in order to make the climb or the pass. See that hole in traffic? Forget it. By the time you wind this thing up it is closed. For some, the Terrain's little four-banger might be enough, but those folks are members of the A-to-B Club. If you like to drive, trust me, you'll wish you got the V6."
Inside the cabin we found some escape from the engine. Here the compliments racked up. "The ride is very comfortable.... Fold-flat seats made Sunday flea market finds easy to pack up.... The easy-to-use navigation system found a business faster than my phone did.... When the warning light for the gas tank came on, the navigation system offered to list the nearest gas stations." Despite our attempts to destroy it, the interior retained very little evidence of our abuse. Some found the rear seats a bit small. And overly reflective chrome accents seared a retina or two. But overall the Terrain conjured more praise than malaise for its interior presentation.
We took more of a DIY approach to maintaining the 2010 GMC Terrain than other testers. Its first oil and filter change was performed by a dealer. From there we did things ourselves. We sent an oil sample to Blackstone Labs around the 15,000-mile mark for analysis because it was something we hadn't tried before. The results suggested a premature oil change to remove excess, but not dangerous levels of metal deposits. That gave us an excuse to use the Moeller vacuum pump oil extractor conveniently boxed up in the corner of our office. It offered the value of a topside oil change and kept our shirts clean. Call us old fashioned but we're still partial to pulling the drain plug from beneath the car. DIY service saved us cash and dealer trips, though they weren't avoidable altogether. Martin GMC eventually located the correct part and replaced the leaky rear hatch strut, which was completed under warranty. The Terrain remained mechanically intact aside from this minor hiccup.
To accept the 2.4-liter Terrain was to embrace its petroleum frugality. We understood its purpose even if we disagreed in principle. But a pleasant interior and mechanical durability didn't distract us from the 32-mpg elephant under the hood. Next step was to verify the claimed and seemingly unattainable milestone.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 20 months): $62.91
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Rear hatch strut replaced
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1 dealer visit and 2 DIY oil changes
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1 for rear hatch strut replacement
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
We track tested the 2010 GMC Terrain when new and were unimpressed. The GMC felt particularly labored. Senior Editor Josh Jacquot commented following acceleration tests, "Uneventful acceleration with barely enough power to spin the tires. Technique is almost irrelevant. Best run was with traction control off and very, very little wheelspin."
A second test of the Terrain at test end showed improvement. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph improved three-tenths, to 8.8 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout), as did the quarter-mile of 16.8 seconds at 81.4 mph. The distance required to reach a stop from 60 mph shortened to 119 feet. We also measured more lateral force, 0.78g, around the skid pad during its final test. Slalom speed was the only area that didn't change for the better. Our quickest pass remained 63.4 mph.
But fuel economy was a major factor when ordering our Terrain. Associate Editor Mike Magrath challenged, "32 mpg highway. That's what the EPA says you can mange with the 2010 GMC Terrain. We've never gotten close. Not in our normal tours of duty. Not in the Fuel Sipper Smackdown. Not ever.
"I had to drive to San Francisco anyway. I knew of a gas station less than 500 feet from the highway. I'd fill up, get on the highway as gently as possible, turn off the A/C (it was only 93 degrees), set the cruise to 65 (the speed limit was 75 mph) and do that for as long as I could stand and a distance that would net a reasonable reading.
"I made it 236.9 miles before I decided I was too hot and too tired to keep going 10 mph under the limit. The trip computer read 33 mpg. Average speed was 65.5 mph (I wasn't going to waste any momentum going downhill keeping it at only 65 if gravity was doing the work). Over three and a half hours of my life. No air-conditioning. I must've hit 32 mpg, right? Nope! 29.265. Would I be disappointed in 29 if that was the claim? Absolutely not; that's pretty darn good. But with the EPA saying 32 and the onboard computer reading 33, 29 is a huge disappointment." We never did better, averaging just 21 mpg over 21,000 miles with the GMC.
Best Fuel Economy: 29.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 21.3 mpg
We purchased our 2010 GMC Terrain SLT-2 for $31,133 just over a year and a half ago. When it was time to say good-bye, the Terrain had 21,458 miles and some minor wear and tear. At the time, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator estimated its private-party value to be $25,408. This value reflected a remarkably strong 20 percent depreciation.
Before advertising the car we visited Carmax for a price quote. Carmax offered us $25,000 for the Terrain, a value we didn't anticipate. The offer was so good that we sold the car to them on the spot. A couple of weeks afterward we found our Terrain for sale on the Carmax Web site for $27,998. We don't know if it ever resold at that price.
True Market Value at service end: $25,408
What it sold for: $25,000
Depreciation: $6,133 or 20% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 21,458
We bought a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive 2010 GMC Terrain for two reasons. One, it was a road test of GM's new crossover platform. And two, we were excited to test the CUV that ranked with the EPA among the most fuel-conscious in its class.
After an extended 21,000-mile long-term test the GMC satisfied our utility needs. It did so with a commendable level of comfort and convenience, a good sign of things to come from the brand. Maintenance was simple and with the exception of a warranty hatch-strut replacement, problem-free. Our hang-up with the Terrain was its estimated versus actual fuel economy.
Times are tough and consumers are prioritizing household needs just to keep gasoline in their tanks. The ever-increasing cost of oil weighs on consumers heavily. In times like these, 3 miles per gallon matters. If a CUV promises 32 mpg and delivers 29 mpg, it is especially disappointing. People want more. Would we still recommend the Terrain to family and friends? Yes. We would also advise them not to get caught up in the numbers game. Test-drive before buying and always do your homework.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.