The GMC Terrain has a comfortable interior and easy-to-use technology features. But a weak base engine, unresponsive transmission and bouncy ride, along with a high price, hinder the Terrain from standing out in the small SUV class.
How does the Terrain drive?
Unfortunately, the Terrain's base engine lacks power, the transmission is slow-witted, and the powertrain's focus on fuel economy eliminates snappy acceleration. In Edmunds testing it took 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is very slow.
Elsewhere, this SUV performs better. The brakes bite smoothly and evenly, with a good relationship between pedal pressure and actual stopping power. The steering is slow and a bit mushy, but steering effort weights up nicely at highway speeds, imparting more confidence and a sense of stability. Capable and balanced on twisty roads, the Terrain keeps body roll in check. It's not sporty, but the Terrain remains stable and composed through turns at reasonably high speeds.
How comfortable is the Terrain?
On the road, the Terrain is prone to regular low-impact shock, vibration and jostling on even moderately rough surfaces like bumpy streets. Road and tire noise is limited to a muted, dull hum on most road surfaces. The front seats are firm but comfortable and they hold up well over long road trips; the rear seats are relatively firm and flat.
There's a simple control layout other than the four buttons for vent mode, which is excessive, and the central vertical vents distribute air poorly. The seats offer cushion-only or cushion-and-seatback heating, which is a nice feature.
How’s the interior?
The Terrain's interior is attractive and well configured, but some controls are awkwardly placed and impossible to avoid. Least impressive is the Terrain's unnecessarily clumsy transmission interface.
The low seat bolsters and wide-opening doors should make getting in and out easy for most drivers and passengers. There's also plenty of seat adjustment up front, although taller drivers might wish for more steering wheel extension. Visibility is below average thanks to a deep, angled dash that makes it hard to know where the front really is. The front side windows provide a good view out; less so the rear side windows.
How’s the tech?
The Terrain's optional Bose sound system offers surprising power and clarity, and the optional navigation system is easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard and beat GMC's native software for ease of use, but the standard system works fine for those outside the Apple/Android ecosystem. Our test Terrain has six USB ports, including one USB-C.
The Terrain offers a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot standard. Setup is easy, but coverage isn't much better than with a typical mobile phone. Operation of the safety systems, such as forward collision warning and lane keeping assist, is still a bit intrusive, but not overbearing.
How’s the storage?
With the rear seats folded, the Terrain's 63 cubic feet of cargo space lags behind class benchmarks (Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4). But a fold-flat front passenger seat is a nice touch that allows you to haul longer items (surfers and campers, rejoice). A power liftgate and low liftover height make cargo loading easy, too. There are plenty of bins, trays and pockets available to hold personal items.
For child safety seats, the car seat anchors are easy to find and connect to, and there's plenty of space for forward-facing seats. Rear-facing seats fit well as long as drivers and passengers can keep their seats reasonably forward. The Terrain doesn't provide a top tether for a middle seat, but there is one in the rear seatback.
How economical is the Terrain?
The Terrain with the 1.5-liter engine and front-wheel drive gets an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving. That's a bit below what other top small SUVs get. We got 28.4 mpg on our mixed-driving test route, but just 22.4 mpg in 600 miles of combined driving. These results suggest that a light touch is needed to achieve the EPA's numbers.
Is the Terrain a good value?
We're not convinced the Terrain offers enough value to justify its price. It feels solid and it's not outrageously expensive, but lower-priced competitors such as the CR-V offer similar or better features and versatility, plus better ride quality and comfort.
The Terrain has three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage, which is typical for this class. However, its first two scheduled maintenance visits are free, and roadside assistance and loaner cars are included for five years or 60,000 miles. Those are more generous terms than the competition offers.
The Terrain is a mixed bag. It's handsome at a glance, and the sleek style, sharp (and quiet) interior and modern tech make it desirable. But it rides and drives worse than a car in this class should, especially at this price. It's not oozing with personality, nor is it particularly fun to drive, so the Terrain remains a midpack choice.