The smallest offering within GMC's SUV range, the second-generation Terrain compact crossover, offers a distinctive design and a comfortable driving experience, albeit at an elevated cost that is on the pricier side of the segment. Starting at $25,000 for the SL and topping out at $39,900 for the fully-loaded Denali with all-wheel-drive, the Terrain doesn't come cheaply. Highlights include a cosseting ride, an attractive interior with plush seating, an increased level of standard safety features, and impressive gas mileage. However, in a segment rich with talented competitors such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, the Terrain's underpowered base engine, below-average cargo capacity, and comparatively high price prevent it from scoring best-in-class honors.
A major criticism of the 2019 Terrain range was the lack of standard features for the price. For 2020, this has improved somewhat, as the range now benefits from a slew of standard driver-assistive safety features. Every trim level gets automatic emergency braking, lane keep assistance with lane departure warning, low-speed forward collision warning, a following distance indicator, and front pedestrian braking. Also standard are IntelliBeam headlamps - the vehicle's high-beams are turned on and off automatically depending on how dark it is and whether other traffic is detected. The previously available diesel engine option falls away for 2020, while Denali models get a revised suspension to enhance the ride quality. There's also a new Denali Premium Package with features heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, amongst other luxuries, and some changes to the color palette for this year model.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
1.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The Terrain remains easily recognizable thanks to a distinctive exterior that's far removed from the blocky first-generation model. The frontal aspect features the red GMC badge, a large grille, and C-shaped LED daytime running lights. LED signature taillights mimic the boomerang-like design of the headlights. 17-inch silver aluminum wheels are standard on the base SL, with 18- and 19-inch wheels fitted to more expensive models. Deep-tinted rear glass and a floating roofline design distinguish the side aspect. Available features include LED fog lamps and a power sunroof. The Denali also receives a model-specific grille and extra chrome adornments.
The Terrain measures 182.3 inches in length, 72.4 inches in width, and 65.4 inches in height, placing the GMC in the same size category as competitors such as the Honda CR-V. The wheelbase measures 107.3 inches. Ground clearance is typical for a road-biased compact SUV at 6.9 inches for the SL and SLE; SLT and Denali models, meanwhile, sit marginally higher off the ground at 7.9 inches. Curb weight varies between 3,449 lbs for the base SL to 3,801 for the all-wheel-drive variant of the Denali.
A total of nine exterior colors are available, although the trim you choose will dictate how many choices you really have. For instance, the base SL can only be specified in three colors, the no-cost Summit White, or the optional hues of Quicksilver Metallic and Ebony Twilight Metallic for $495 each, while the SLT can be had in any of the nine available shades. Summit White is the sole standard color across the range, with all other metallic options costing $495, including Blue Emerald, Graphite Gray, Satin Steel, and Smokey Quartz. Red Quartz Tintcoat costs $595, while White Frost Tricoat is available from the SLT upwards at a cost of $1,095. Colors that have fallen away for this year are Blue Steel, Coppertino, and Sedona.
The Terrain's performance varies from sluggish to genuinely nippy depending on which engine you select. Two turbocharged engines are available: a 1.5-liter producing 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0-liter managing a tangibly more useful 252 hp and 260 lb-ft. Front-wheel-drive is standard across the range, with all-wheel-drive being an option on all trims barring the SL. A nine-speed automatic transmission is fitted to all models.
The economy-biased 1.5-liter simply feels unable to hustle the Terrain's body around with any sort of vigor and takes a leisurely 9.3 seconds to complete the 0-60 mph run - it isn't helped by the transmission, which is generally smooth but has a tendency to hunt when downshifting. The 2.0-liter is far sprightlier and will get to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. It also requires fewer revs to pass slower-moving traffic and is, therefore, the more refined option. The 1.5-liter has a towing capacity of only 1,500 lbs while the 2.0-liter variants can tow up to a maximum of 3,500 lbs. The latter figure is superior to that of the Honda CR-V. Overall, the Terrain's base engine delivers below-average performance while the more powerful 2.0-liter model provides performance that's comparable to other brands' offerings in the segment.
A pair of four-cylinder, gas-fed engines power GMC's smallest SUV, with the previously available diesel option falling away for 2020. Both engines are turbocharged, but the smaller 1.5-liter has only average outputs of 170 hp and 203 lb-ft. Like the base engine, the 2.0-liter features direct-injection and variable valve timing but produces healthier figures of 252 hp and 260 lb-ft. All models are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Around town - and once on the move - the 1.5-liter performs acceptably. However, it feels lethargic off the line; throttle response is disappointing, and overtaking requires careful planning at higher speeds. The lack of power is even more pronounced when the Terrain is fully laden with cargo and passengers. The Chevrolet Equinox uses the same base engine and feels similarly unresponsive.
The 2.0-liter engine is optional on the SLT and standard on the Denali and provides strong acceleration. With torque peaking between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm, this model allows for effortless overtaking - the 50-to-70 mph passing time of under five seconds is commendable. Even though some buyers will lament the lack of a V6 engine option for this generation of the Terrain, they can rest assured that the 2.0-liter four-pot is not only as fast as the older V6 but more efficient, too. In general, the nine-speed automatic transmission goes about its business unobtrusively, but it can be prone to hunting on downshifts.
With a clear preference for cosseting rather than entertaining, the softly sprung Terrain rides comfortably and makes for an excellent SUV for long-distance driving. Even when opting for pricier models with larger wheels, the Terrain soaks up the majority of surface imperfections and feels composed and refined.
While the steering system is direct and light enough to easily maneuver the SUV around town, it is largely devoid of feedback. The Mazda CX-5, for instance, provides a much more engaging experience. However, for the purposes of transporting a family and their paraphernalia around, the GMC will suit the needs of most owners. Front-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available as an option on all models but the SL. Models equipped with all-wheel-drive can send power to the rear wheels only once the driver has engaged this mode using a console-mounted knob. This process does feel a bit archaic when many rivals will automatically default to all-wheel-drive should slippery conditions be detected. Also proving an annoyance is the button-operated transmission shifter which is tricky to use when executing rapid forward and reverse maneuvers, such as when parallel parking or executing a three-point turn. Overall, the Terrain proves to be an accomplished cruiser but certainly isn't the SUV to buy if sharp dynamics are high on the agenda.
The Terrain offers average fuel economy for the segment. The most fuel-efficient models are those specified with the smaller, 1.5-liter engine and using front-wheel-drive. EPA-rated estimates for this configuration are 26/30/27 mpg city/highway/combined, resulting in a combined cruising range of 402 miles from the 14.9-gallon fuel tank. With all-wheel-drive, fuel economy dips slightly to 25/28/26 mpg, although a larger 15.6-gallon gas tank size on the all-wheel models increases the range to 405 miles. By comparison, the 2.4L Honda CR-V returns a better 26/32/28 mpg.
Economy for the 2.0-liter model works out to 22/28/24 mpg with FWD. The least fuel-efficient model is the range-topping Denali 2.0-liter AWD, with economy figures of 21/26/23 mpg and a combined cruising range of 359 miles. Regular unleaded fuel is specified for the 1.5L, while premium unleaded is the recommended gas type for the 2.0L.
Spacious seating in the front and rear, a smart and user-friendly infotainment interface, and an appealing yet rugged design are the highlights of the Terrain's interior. Although the build quality is sound and first impressions positive, there are some harder, below-average materials lower down on the dashboard. While GMC's unusual button-operated shifter does free up more space for small-item storage, it isn't the easiest setup to use. The base SL is sparsely equipped but at least gets keyless entry and ignition, a seven-inch touchscreen, and a sound system with six speakers. Available features on higher trims include leather upholstery, powered seats, and a larger touch screen. The luxurious but pricey Denali can be optioned with ventilated front seats and a surround-view camera system.
Seating five passengers in two rows, leg- and headroom in front are plentiful, while a sufficiently wide cabin ensures that drivers won't be rubbing shoulders with the front seat passenger. The front seats aren't especially soft, but they provide good support over longer distances. At the back, headroom and legroom are enough to accommodate six-footers, although the bench itself is rather flat. Ingress and egress are made simpler thanks to wide-opening doors, and the driving position will suit most. Seat adjustments are adequate even if the SL and SLE models lack power-adjustment. Visibility is a bit of an issue as it is difficult to judge exactly where the Terrain's front is.
GMC has not been overly generous with the choice of color options for the Terrain's interior. The base SL variant features premium cloth upholstery on the seats and only one interior color, Jet Black, is available. Stepping up to the SLE adds a Medium Ash Gray/Jet Black color option. The SLT gets perforated leather seats and a choice of three interior colors: Jet Black, Medium Ash Gray/Jet Black, and Brandy/Jet Black. The range-topping Denali model's leather interior is available in either Jet Black or Light Platinum/Taupe. All models feature a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Overall, the materials feel more rugged than posh, with the Terrain stopping just short of feeling truly luxurious.
Rivals such as the Ford Escape and the closely-related Chevrolet Equinox offer greater outright cargo capacity than the Terrain. There is 29.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row, whereas the Escape offers 34 cu.ft. Folding down the second row expands cargo space to 63.3 cu.ft and, while this is useful, it once again falls short of rival offerings. A nice touch is a front passenger seat which can also fold flat, making it easier to load longer items such as a surfboard.
The Terrain claws some points back by offering a number of practical options for small-item storage. The button-operated shifter frees up space for a handy storage area at the bottom of the center console, while the front seat passenger also gets a cutout above the glovebox. Door pockets front and rear provide further space for storing small items.
Considering its price positioning, the Terrain doesn't offer the most generous list of standard features. However, buyers willing to spend a bit more will appreciate the wide selection of optional extras. The base SL gets keyless entry and ignition, a six-speaker sound system, power-adjustable and heated mirrors, and single-zone climate control. Moving up to the SLE curiously adds little more than an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror and a multicolor driver information screen, but does make a host of appealing options available. The SLT adds leather upholstery, a power driver's seat, and dual-zone climate control. Finally, the top-of-the-line Denali variant gets power-adjustment for the front passenger seat, front and rear park assist, and a heated steering wheel. A range of driver assists has been made standard for 2020, including automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assistance, and lane departure warning across the line-up, but the Denali gets adaptive cruise control additionally.
Tech-savvy shoppers will be happy to find out that even on the base model, the Terrain's infotainment system is both well-specified and pleasingly intuitive to operate. SL and SLE models feature a seven-inch touchscreen that can be used to control Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and voice control. All models have a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, while two USB ports and an auxiliary input jack are conveniently fitted in front. The SLT adds a larger eight-inch touchscreen, an SD card reader, and SiriusXM radio. All trims have a six-speaker sound system, but Denali variants get an upgraded seven-speaker Bose system. Also included on the Denali are HD radio and a navigation system. The SLE and SLT can each be optioned with infotainment packages that add many of the standard features found on the Denali.
Between 2018 and 2019, there have been four recalls for the Terrain range, two for each of these model years. Problems included insufficient welds on the head restraints and poor coating on the rear brake caliper pistons. Other than those issues, the Terrain has proven fairly dependable and this is backed by a predicted J.D. Power reliability rating of three-and-a-half stars out of five, which is just above average. The Terrain is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and corrosion protection.
With an NHTSA safety rating of five stars, the Terrain's excellent crash test results provide peace of mind for families on the hunt for a safe vehicle. While the 2020 model hasn't yet received an IIHS safety rating, the 2019 model received the best possible scores in all crashworthiness tests and this can safely be assumed to carry over to the 2020 model year.
Several advanced driver safety aids are now standard on every model. Low-speed forward collision warning with emergency braking, a following distance indicator, and lane-keep assist with lane departure warning are found on every Terrain. More expensive trims also have an HD rearview camera, HD surround vision, and lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring. Passive safety is taken care of by a comprehensive six-strong airbag system including head-curtain airbags front and rear. GMC's IntelliBeam lighting is standard across the range and automatically switches on and off the high beams based on whether or not there is approaching traffic.
Improved as it may be with more standard safety features, the 2020 GMC Terrain hasn't changed all that much and it fails to excel in any one particular area. This is a problem when stacked up against GM's own Chevrolet Equinox which, although less comfortable, is a better value proposition. While the Terrain rides well, both the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 provide a more rewarding, balanced driving experience, along with superior cargo capacity and interiors that are made from more expensive materials. While the fully-loaded Denali variant can be specified with an array of premium features, it begins knocking on the door of luxury SUVs like the Cadillac XT4 and Lexus NX 300. Far from a dud compact SUV, the Terrain will likely please GMC loyalists with its distinctive styling and rugged feel from behind the wheel, but there are undoubtedly more accomplished competitors in this class.
GMC's Terrain range starts off with the base front-wheel-drive SL at an MSRP of $25,000, exclusive of tax, registration, licensing, and a destination freight charge of $1,195. Next up is the FWD SLE and it costs $28,400. The FWD SLT is a significant step up in standard equipment and it costs $31,200 in 1.5-liter form and $33,045 with the 2.0-liter engine. The fully-loaded Denali AWD variant tops the range and costs a hefty $38,300. All-wheel-drive is available on all models besides the SL and costs an additional $1,600.
The range comprises a total of four trims, with engine options and drivetrain configurations differentiating each. The base model is the SL, followed by the SLE, SLT, and Denali.
The SL is only available with front-wheel-drive and the smaller of the two engines, the turbocharged 1.5-liter. Features include single-zone air conditioning, a six-speaker sound system, keyless entry and ignition, and a seven-inch touchscreen.
The SLE is next and also uses the 1.5-liter engine, but all-wheel-drive can be optioned on this trim. Otherwise, the SLE gets few standard extras over the SL: a 4.2-inch multicolor driver information screen and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are essentially the only additions. The SLE can, however, be had with far more optional equipment than the SL.
The higher-spec SLT uses the 1.5-liter engine and FWD but can be specified with AWD as well as the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. A notable step up in the list of standard features brings with it leather upholstery, a larger eight-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats.
Topping the range is the Denali, available with both FWD and AWD, but only with the larger 2.0-liter engine. This model gets a power-adjustable front passenger seat, navigation, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, front and rear park assist, and HD radio. Unique styling cues also set this variant apart.
A wide range of packages are available for the Terrain range. However, none of them are available for the base SL, so the SLE is a much better choice if you plan to add on any optional packages. For added style, the Elevation Edition Package adds 19-inch gloss black wheels and other darkened exterior trim pieces for $995. The Driver Convenience Package is a worthwhile add-on for the otherwise spartan SLE, adding an eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, remote start, and dual-zone climate control for $1,375. The Infotainment Package I is exclusively available for the SLE and adds navigation and a larger touchscreen for $895. The useful Driver Alert Package I is decent value at $695 and includes adaptive cruise control, lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and a safety alert seat.
On the SLT, the Infotainment Package II goes for $1,180 and includes a seven-speaker Bose sound system. On this model, the Elevation Edition costs $795, while the Preferred Package adds a memory function for the driver's seat, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, and the convenience of a hands-free power liftgate for $1,250.
One of the more indulgent packages is the Denali Premium Package, available only on this range-topping variant. For $1,445, you'll get adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist, HD surround vision, ventilated front seats, and heated rear outboard seats.
The most worthwhile option on the Terrain is one you can't see: the 2.0-liter engine. Its added power over the 1.5-liter makes the Terrain a far more pleasant crossover to pilot, so this is the first upgrade we'd recommend. Unfortunately, that rules out both the SL and SLE. The 2.0-liter SLT with front-wheel-drive is, therefore, the sweet spot in the range, as it has enough power and standard features onboard, without feeling shortchanged in any area; additionally, delving into the options list doesn't feel as essential as it does on the cheaper trims. As the Denali's price sees it competing - price-wise - with some luxury SUVs, it's the SLT that works out as the more sensible option.
The GMC's mechanically-similar twin, the Chevrolet Equinox, shares the same pair of turbocharged engines as the Terrain. The result is very similar, too, as the Equinox suffers from poor performance for models using the 1.5-liter engine. Starting at $1,200 less than the equivalent Terrain, the Equinox is lighter on the wallet and maintains this advantage all the way to the top-of-the-range Premier model. Both SUVs offer similar ride and handling characteristics, but the GMC's added cost does present itself in the cabins: it's the Terrain which has a better built and more luxurious-feeling interior, although neither are class-leading in these respects. Although the GMC feels a little more premium, it doesn't feel special enough to justify the extra cost over the Equinox.
GMC's Acadia is a worthy alternative for buyers considering the Terrain. For starters, three of the Acadia's trims can be bought for less than the top-of-the-line Terrain Denali. Of course, with the Acadia's bigger size comes more space for passengers - it can seat either six or seven depending on the chosen seating layout. Cheaper models use a rather lackluster naturally-aspirated engine, but a 2.0-liter turbo and a V6 are also available. Like the Terrain, the Acadia rides comfortably but lags behind key competitors in terms of cargo capacity. The Acadia's cabin is good but not great, offering little more than added interior space over the Terrain's. Still, size counts and the Acadia backs up its extra seating capacity with less rounded, more aggressive styling than the Terrain - if these factors matter to you, it's well worth a look.
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