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2019 GMC Terrain: smaller, lighter and still plenty roomy

Last year, GMC reinvented its Terrain crossover. 

When it debuted in 2010, the Terrain was a ‘tweener — bigger than a compact crossover and smaller than a midsize CUV.

For 2018, GMC planted the Terrain on an all-new, lightweight chassis and shrank it to compact dimensions. In the process, Terrain lost 3 inches of overall length and dropped nearly 350 pounds.

In a triumph of packaging, Terrain’s cabin emerged from the makeover without major losses. It easily accommodates for four adults and bristles with casual storage opportunities.

Choice of three four-cylinder engines

GMC also updated Terrain with a standard features roster that included a 7-inch touchscreen and LED running lights and tail lights.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto joined the options list. So did WiFi hotspot capability and a suite of safety and driver assist features. Terrain also got six USB ports, including one configured for the new USB-C standard.

Under the hood, the previously available V-6 went away, yielding a lineup of three turbocharged four-cylinder engines. A 170-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four is the base powerplant, with a 252-hp turbocharged four and a 137-hp turbo-diesel on tap.

Dynamic new sheet metal

The 2018 Terrain also received a full exterior makeover. Its predecessor’s squared-jawed visage gave way to a more fluid and dynamic look. Up front, a sculpted front fascia integrated a pair of boomerang-shaped headlamp assemblies and a three-bar grill.

Out back, a sharply rising shoulder line flattened the rear side windows and created the “floating” roofline illusion. 

In upper trims, a light layer of lower body-cladding nodded in the direction of off-road adventures no one will take.

The second-generation Terrain is less about tackling tough jobs — or dazzling drivers with engaging dynamics — than it is about occupant comfort. Its seats are large and well padded and its softly sprung suspension delivers an easy-going ride. 

Handling is a mixed bag

Handling is a mixed bag. Underway, the Terrain feels solid and planted. Steering feel is vague and non-communicative, though, and the soft suspension settings squelch any suggestion of playfulness. 

Terrain’s user-friendly infotainment system combines a touchscreen with hard buttons and knobs for the audio and climate control systems. For 2019, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto become standard on all Terrains.

With its crisp graphics and full array of connectivity functions, Terrain’s infotainment system is a standout. 

Native, in-dash navigation is available on the mid-level SLE ($28,100) and SLT ($32,600) trims and standard on the top-level Denali ($37,800). 

The SL and SLE get a 7-inch touchscreen; SLT and Denali get an 8-incher.

Advanced safety and driver-assist features are standard on the Denali and available on most other trims via a pair of Driver Alert options packages.

Switches replace shift lever

The Terrain jettisons the traditional shift lever with a set of switches aligned horizontally just below the instrument control stack. The arrangement feels awkward, though owners will likely acclimate quickly. 

All Terrains come standard with front-wheel drive, with available AWD. On AWD models, a knob mounted on the center console allows drivers to switch on the fly between AWD and FWD modes.

Terrains fitted with the small gas four or the turbo-diesel are short on power but long on thrift. They earn EPA combined mpg ratings of 28 and 32, respectively. Both engines are rated to tow up to 1500 pounds.

New powertrain impresses

We tested the larger, 2.0-liter four, which is successfully mated to a new nine-speed transmission. The transmission is decisive in city traffic, where many new multi-geared transmissions grow vague and indecisive.

So equipped, the Terrain runs the 0-60 sprint in just under 7 seconds. The 2.0-liter requires premium fuel and delivers EPA combined ratings of 24 mpg for FWD trims and 24 mpg with AWD.

It can tow a hefty 3500 pounds. 

Inconsistent cabin-material quality lets the Terrain down, especially in its upper trims, where it competes with luxury-class rigs. Fit and finish is also suspect; there were noticeable panel gaps in our tester’s dash, door panels and center console.

Tall passengers may find headroom a bit tight, especially with the panoramic sunroof in place. 

With its new dimensions and refined sense of purpose, GMC’s Terrain is set to make its mark on the compact crossover segment.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 GMC Terrain AWD SLT
Vehicle base price: $25,000
Trim level base price: $32,600
As tested: $40,155 (includes destination and handling)
Options included full suite of safety and driver-assist features; automatic high-beams; 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; heated steering wheel; hands-free liftgate; navigation with voice-recognition; 7-speaker Bose sound system; Black Edition with glass black roof rails, gloss black painted aluminum wheels and darkened grille; tow package; all-weather interior protection.
Tow rating: up to 3500 pounds
EPA ratings: 23 combined/21 city/26 highway
Premium unleaded fuel required



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.