2021 GMC Terrain

2021 GMC Terrain
2021 GMC Terrain Rear View
2021 GMC Terrain Dashboard

2021 GMC Terrain Review: Compact Luxury Comes At A Price

The GMC Terrain may be the automaker's smallest vehicle, but it still offers the distinct aggressiveness associated with the brand. Starting at $25,000, it is on the pricier side of the segment, but GMC makes up for this with sumptuous options including the brand's renowned Denali trim, adding a layer of luxury many in the compact crossover segment lack.

On the plus side, the Terrain has a comfortable suspension setup, an equally comfortable interior, decent safety levels, and a modern, frugal powerplant. However, its weak entry-level powertrain, below-par cargo space, and relatively high prices stand in the way of it ever achieving class leadership. Considering how competitive the SUV market is in the USA, does it have what it takes to stand out, especially in a segment made up of competition like the Mazda CX-5 and Acura RDX?

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 6 /10
  • Performance 6 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 6 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 8 /10
  • Reliability 7 /10
  • Safety 8 /10
  • Value For Money 8 /10
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2021 GMC Terrain Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 GMC Terrain?

The most notable difference between the 2020 and new 2021 GMC Terrain is the lack of access to the 2.0L turbo four-pot, leaving buyers with no choice but to settle for the weaker 1.5L option. Pro Safety is now standard across the range. It consists of automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, a following distance indicator, front pedestrian braking, and IntelliBeam headlamps.

Pros and Cons

  • Plush interior
  • Refined ride quality
  • Standard safety specs are generous
  • Characteristic GMC design
  • Decent fuel economy
  • Remains expensive
  • Remaining engine is sluggish
  • Cargo capacity not up to par

What's the Price of the 2021 GMC Terrain?

The entry-level SL has an MSRP of $25,000, going up to $28,500 for the SLE. The SLT retails for $32,600, while the top-tier GMC Terrain will cost you $35,900. All-wheel-drive is available to all but the SL but adds $1,600 to the bill. The base price of the GMC Terrain does not include the $1,195 destination charge.

Best Deals on 2021 GMC Terrain

2021 GMC Terrain Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
1.5L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
1.5L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
1.5L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
1.5L Turbo Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 GMC Terrain Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Terrain's ride and handling characteristics are made clear before you even start the engine. Unlike most compact crossovers and SUVs that give you a gear lever with a manual override, the Terrain has five main buttons mounted below the center console's climate control. The options are park, reverse, neutral, drive, and low. The latter is the manual override, allowing you to toggle up and down the gear ratios via plus and minus buttons. It's awkward, silly, and the answer to a question nobody asked. Like Tesla's square steering wheel, it solves a non-existent problem. If you go for the all-wheel-drive model, you have to engage it manually. Every other competitor vehicle places the car in charge of selecting where the power should be distributed, making sense in this segment. When the front wheels start slipping, the rear axle engages. Easy, simple, and elegant.

Perhaps GMC tried to emulate Rolls Royce's spirit, giving you park, forward, and reverse. At least it suits the nature of the car perfectly, as the Terrain is unashamedly comfort-biased. We could complain about the steering that's devoid of feedback, but the truth is that the Terrain is a lovely, quiet space to spend time. Even with 18-inch rims, the Terrain remains composed and unwilling to let bumps and undulations interfere with the ride.

Verdict: Is the 2021 GMC Terrain A Good car?

The Terrain will be the go-to compact crossover for fans of the GMC brand due to the distinctive styling and rugged interior. For everyone else, there are better options available.

The Terrain faces a lot of competition, the least of which comes from within its mothership. Chevrolet's Equinox comes with the same engine/gearbox combo and Chevy Safety Assist, consisting of all the things included as standard on the Terrain. But the base Equinox is also $1,200 less expensive, which matters in this segment.

Spec-for-spec, the Terrain goes up against the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 - two of the most accomplished SUVs on sale in the USA. The Honda is superior in every department, and the Mazda adds excellent ride, handling, and performance, especially if you go the turbocharged route. In short, the Terrain is simply an also-ran - a mediocre offering in a segment not short of accomplished rivals.

What GMC Terrain Model Should I Buy?

Last year, our advice was to go for the SLT with the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, as it made the Terrain a much easier companion to live with. As this option is no longer available, we have to settle for the 1.5-liter engine. Unfortunately, you're going to feel short-changed no matter what model you opt for.

Since the Terrain competes against some serious metal higher up in the range, the logical conclusion is to buy the entry-level model. With the impressive safety suite and the essential comfort items being standard, it makes the most sense. Any higher than that and the Terrain simply enters a battlefield with one hand tied behind its back.

2021 GMC Terrain Comparisons

Chevrolet Equinox Chevrolet
GMC Acadia GMC

2021 GMC Terrain vs Chevrolet Equinox

These two cars are mechanically similar, and both offer lackluster performance. The Equinox is more affordable than the Terrain while providing similar comfort and safety features.

You can see where the additional money was spent. The Chevy's interior is not as luxurious or pleasing to the eye, though both cars fall short of the standard in the segment. GMC's slightly more upmarket interior isn't enough to convince us that it's a better car.

The Chevrolet is the winner thanks to its traditional gear lever and automatic all-wheel-drive, to be brutally honest. By adding a complex solution to a non-existent problem, GMC essentially made the Terrain more challenging to drive daily.

See Chevrolet Equinox Review

2021 GMC Terrain vs GMC Acadia

There is some overlap between the upper-trim Terrain models and the SL and SLE trims of the GMC Acadia. The Terrain easily beats the Acadia in terms of standard fare, as the Pro Safety Package is only standard fitment higher up in the Acadia range. In the Acadia's favor, it is more prominent in every direction and comes with a more agreeable 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated with 193 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque. GMC also uses the same nine-speed gearbox, but it does a better job mated to the larger engine.

As for the rest of the car, reviews are pretty much the same. Nice car, but nothing more than average. If size is a primary factor in your decision, the Acadia route is worth investigating.

See GMC Acadia Review
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