2021 GMC Terrain

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
October 17, 2020

Buying tip

We like the Terrain SLT for value, but we’d skip the rudimentary all-wheel-drive system unless it’s a snow-state must.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door SLE
AWD 4-Door SLT
FWD 4-Door SL
MPG
25 city / 28 hwy
MPG
25 city / 28 hwy
MPG
26 city / 30 hwy
MSRP
$30,000
MSRP
$34,100
MSRP
$25,000

The 2021 GMC Terrain tacks away from truck-like function toward urbane utility.

What kind of car is the 2021 GMC Terrain? What does it compare to?

The 2020 GMC Terrain is a five-seat crossover SUV that slots below the Acadia in the brand’s lineup. It’s styled and positioned as a family wagon, not an off-road specialist, but can be fitted with all-wheel drive. It compares with vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, and Honda CR-V.

Is the 2021 GMC Terrain a good car?

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It’s solidly above average. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 GMC Terrain?

The Terrain adds standard blind-spot monitors for the 2021 model year. Otherwise it carries over in SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali editions. A promised AT4 edition hasn’t been added yet, officially.

The Terrain distances itself from more traditional SUVs with a sleek, contemporary look. The big grille and squared-off headlights may suggest utility, but the wagon body tapers in a handsome, up to date fashion. It’s adopted a blacked-out pillar that appears to “float” the roof, a visual trick employed by Lexus and Nissan and other brands. Inside, a large touchscreen and push-toggle transmission controls dominate the look, which gains woodgrain trim and leather in the Terrain Denali.

GMC installs either a 170-horsepower 1.5-liter turbo-4 with 203 pound-feet of torque, or a 252-hp turbo-4 in the Terrain. Acceleration’s moderate with the former, strong and steady with the latter. Both pair with a smooth 9-speed automatic. Front-drive versions can be upgraded to all-wheel drive; it’s a simple system but it requires the driver switch a knob to engage the rear wheels for traction. Handling is crisp and the Terrain’s road manners are clearly tuned for street driving, not for even moderate trail blazing.

The Terrain carves out room for four adults; a fifth will fit, just not happily. Fold-down rear seats expand cargo space to 63.3 cubic feet behind an available power tailgate, but those second-row seats don’t fold quite flat.

Crash-test scores have been good, and the Terrain has standard automatic emergency braking, with options for adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system.

How much does the 2021 GMC Terrain cost?

Prices range from about $27,000 in base trim to more than $40,000 for the Denali. The base Terrain sports power features, 17-inch wheels, keyless ignition, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Denalis get leather upholstery, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, navigation, and 19-inch wheels.

Where is the GMC Terrain made?

In Mexico.

7

2021 GMC Terrain

Styling

The sleek 2021 Terrain hits some styling high notes.

Is the GMC Terrain a good-looking car?

We think so. By ditching the old square-rigged look of the previous Terrain, GMC has given its compact crossover a flowing, modern look that’s worth an extra point inside and out, for a 7 here.

With a roof that appears to float at the rear pillar and a gaping grille, the Terrain has the right amount of glitz and distance from formal SUV shapes to appeal to suburban commuter types. Polarizing look of the front end aside, the Terrain can go from chic to sinister, depending on the choice between blacked-out or chrome trim. It’s more fitting in its family lineup than the bland Chevy Equinox that shares the same running gear.

The Terrain’s cabin looks more pickup truck than business-class sedan, but the blocky shapes and rugged-looking controls work well enough. We’re no fans of the toggle-switch transmission, but the Terrain’s cabin frames out a handsome look that’s covered in low-sheen materials and contrast-stitched leather in Denali trim. Even the base versions look good, with their metallic-trimmed vents and bright, crisp touchscreen interface.

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6

2021 GMC Terrain

Performance

The 2021 GMC Terrain taps turbo power and all-wheel drive for cut-above road manners.

The GMC Terrain no longer offers a turbodiesel engine, but its two turbo engines pair with poised manners and a slick 9-speed automatic to offset its more ordinary off-road system. It’s a 6 for performance.

How fast is the GMC Terrain?

WIth 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque, the Terrain’s standard 1.5-liter turbo-4 has the helpful thrust that makes in-city driving pleasant, but it gets a little breathless when asked to tug the crossover’s 3,500-pound heft up hills or around at higher speeds, especially when it’s filled to its passenger limits.

We’d recommend the 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 from the upgrade list. It’s a relatively small premium over the base engine, but it’s able to tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped with a trailering package. 

Is the GMC Terrain 4WD?

GMC sells the Terrain in front-drive form, but all-wheel drive can be fitted across the lineup. The available system is rudimentary by today’s standards: It’s set to start in front-drive mode, must be switched manually into all-wheel-drive mode by a console-mounted knob. GMC pioneered on-demand all-wheel drive; it’s lapsed here into a cheaper, less useful system.

On the upside, the Terrain’s steering and ride quality have markedly improved versus the prior version. Sporty? Well, no, but the Terrain has a smoothly composed ride and good suspension tuning, even when it’s upgraded from the base 17-inch wheels to the Denali’s 19-inchers.

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2021 GMC Terrain

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 GMC Terrain coddles drivers and their cargo.

With good room for its front passengers and for cargo, the 2021 Terrain earns a 7 for comfort and utility. 

The latest Terrain has shrunk somewhat from prior versions, but its 107.3-inch wheelbase still provides ample room for its front passengers. It’s wide, at 54.4 inches of hip room, and the front seats get heavy bolstering and power adjustment on most versions for excellent long-distance comfort. It’d be ideal if the seat bottoms were longer.

Two adults will fit in the back seat well, but three across is tighter. Leg room nearly equals that in the front at 39.7 inches, and head room is fine, but the back seats don’t earn an extra point here because they’re relatively flat and formless. They do fold down to expand the Terrain’s cargo space from 29.6 cubic feet to 63.3 cubic feet; the seats don’t fold completely flat, though.

GMC carves out lots of small-item storage in the cabin, and saves space with the push-button transmission. It covers the interior with higher-grade finishes that give it an appealing look, and standard active noise cancellation makes the Terrain quieter than the similar Chevy Equinox.

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2021 GMC Terrain

Safety

The Terrain finally has plentiful standard safety equipment.

How safe is the GMC Terrain?

The NHTSA gives it five stars overall, but the IIHS doesn’t call the GMC Terrain a Top Safety Pick, mostly because of its headlights. 

Last year, GMC added standard automatic emergency braking to the Terrain, and this year the crossover adds standard blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system can be fitted to the most expensive models.

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7

2021 GMC Terrain

Features

Standard equipment and infotainment carry the GMC Terrain weight.

All Terrains include a generous list of standard equipment, and GMC’s infotainment interface works pretty well, thanks to standard smartphone compatibility. The Terrain’s warranty and options are just average, as is its value, which brings us to a 7 here.

Base Terrain SL crossovers cost about $27,000 and come with 17-inch wheels, cloth seats, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB charging ports, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Step past that and past the SLE, which for about $31,000 mostly exists to unlock options for features such as remote start and a larger touchscreen.

Which GMC Terrain should I buy?

Our value pick is the Terrain SLT. For about $34,000 it includes dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, and heated front seats. We’d also add the 2.0-liter engine here for about $3,000.

How much is a fully loaded GMC Terrain?

The top Denali trim costs about $41,000 and includes 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, LED headlights, parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, and navigation.

Major options include a sunroof, Bose audio, power seats, a power tailgate, and adaptive cruise control.

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5

2021 GMC Terrain

Fuel Economy

Efficiency is average in the 2021 Terrain.

Is the 2021 GMC Terrain good on gas?

With average fuel economy for the segment, the GMC Terrain earns a 5 for fuel economy. Base front-drive models with the 1.5-liter turbo-4 earn EPA ratings of 26 mpg city, 30 highway, 27 combined, which drop to 25/28/26 mpg with all-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter models with all-wheel drive get pegged at 21/26/23 mpg, or 22/28/24 mpg with front-wheel drive.

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$25,000
MSRP based on FWD 4-Door SL
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6.5
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 7
Features 7
Fuel Economy 5
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2021 GMC Terrain Pricing Insights

  • 2020 Terrain selection still decent
  • $5,750 factory rebate for all buyers
  • Lease from $252 for 36 months
  • See dealers for APR offers
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