At first glance, the 2021 GMC Terrain’s handsome styling, turbocharged powertrains, and upscale price tag seem to indicate that it’s going for gold, but unfortunately its execution fails to nab it even a bronze medal in the compact-SUV Olympics. Sharing mechanical bits and powertrains with the Chevrolet Equinox, the Terrain wears a dressier outfit and is available in the near-luxury Denali trim just like big brother Yukon. A turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder is standard, but buyers can choose to upgrade to a turbo 2.0-liter unit with more gusto. The Terrain’s cabin is spacious and well-equipped, but materials are disappointingly far less impressive than what buyers of the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5, or the Volkswagen Tiguan will enjoy.
What’s New for 2021?
GMC hasn’t made any big changes to the Terrain for 2021, but it has given the compact SUV a boost in the driver-assistance department. The Pro Safety Plus package now comes standard across the lineup and includes automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and more.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
To keep the Terrain’s price from getting too out of hand, we’d stick with the entry-level SLE model. Since Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is standard, we don’t see a need to pay for the upgraded infotainment package, which includes built-in navigation and a slightly larger 8.0-inch screen. We definitely prefer the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo engine, which makes the Terrain’s performance genuinely quick. But that requires stepping up to the SLT trim, which has a price that’s in line with a fully loaded Toyota RAV4 and thousands more than the most expensive Honda CR-V.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Terrain gets a choice of two four-cylinder engines, but only one—the larger turbocharged version—is a lively partner. The standard engine is generally apathetic. We haven’t tested the base 1.5-liter in a Terrain, but we have put that engine through our testing regimen fitted to its mechanical twin, the Chevrolet Equinox; it took 8.9 seconds to reach 60 mph. Expect slightly more sprightly performance from the GMC and its nine-speed gearbox, as the Chevy pairs the 170-hp engine with a six-speed automatic. The engine we like best is the effervescent 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; it’s available on SLE and SLT trims as an option and comes standard on the Denali. In our testing, the Terrain Denali sprinted to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. Terrains equipped with the turbocharged 1.5-liter are limited to a maximum tow rating of 1500 pounds. Adding the more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter pushes the compact crossover’s towing capacity up to 3500 pounds. The Terrain provides its passengers with a comfortable, cosseting ride. Although the softly sprung suspension is a boon on long highway drives, the comfort-oriented setup drains the compact crossover of driver engagement once the tarmac gets twisty. Likewise, the direct but syrupy steering, which provides effortless turn-in at low speeds, proves as uninformative as a mob boss in a police interrogation room.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Both of the Terrain’s available engines offer class-competitive EPA fuel-economy figures. We’ve yet to put the 1.5-liter through our real-world highway fuel-economy test; however, the 2.0-liter Terrain equipped with all-wheel drive outperformed its respective EPA highway fuel-economy estimates at 28 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
A spacious and accommodating interior is let down by subpar build quality and a middling mix of materials. Meanwhile, the Terrain’s ergonomically challenged push-button shifter sprinkles salt in the compact crossover’s interior wounds. It consists of several switches that look like power window controls, located low on the center console and less than intuitive to use. Although it’s something we think owners would grow accustomed to over time, we found the small buttons difficult to locate at a glance—especially when groping for reverse—making it difficult to pull off three-point turns quickly or operate the transmission’s manual mode. The Terrain is an amenable partner for lugging large loads of various sizes. Credit a standard 60/40 split-folding rear seat, as well as an available fold-flat front seat. The Terrain’s cargo area offers class-competitive space. In our carry-on-luggage test, the Terrain held 24 cases with the rear seats folded; those in search of the absolute maximum cargo room will be better served—albeit only slightly—by the Honda CR-V.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Easy to operate and quick to respond to commands, the Terrain’s infotainment system benefits from clear graphics, logical menus, and the latest in-car connectivity features. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard. While the entry-level SL and SLE models come standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, higher-end SLT and Denali trims feature an 8.0-inch unit. An in-dash navigation system is standard on the top Denali and is available on SLE and SLT models. The SLE with navigation swaps the smaller setup for the 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Terrain earns solid marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and performed well in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) crash tests. It missed out on a Top Safety Pick award from that agency, though, because its headlamps performed poorly in testing. A host of driver-assistance features is standard and more can be added as options. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
GMC’s warranty matches those of most of the Terrain’s class competitors. Shoppers seeking more coverage ought to look at models such as the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit
More Features and Specs