Don't be fooled by the name of GMC's new Terrain. The only landscape you're likely to drive this small SUV on is a city street. As they used to say on Seinfeld: "Not that there's anything wrong with that." You see, this more macho-looking cousin to the well-received Chevy Equinox gives GMC a competitive player in the small-SUV segment.
Appearance: GMC calls this a "crossover" but it behaves more like an SUV. The Terrain rides high, and maintains a more hefty, muscular look similar to its larger sibling, the Yukon. Its flaring fenders give it a stout, bulldog look.
Performance: Our tester came with a 264-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6, which is rated at 17/24 mpg. Lyra felt the power was simply adequate and expected more from a V-6. (The 4-cylinder model gets 22/32 mpg with 182 hp). The 6-speed automatic transmission shifted well and the ride is carlike. As Peter's 11-year-old said: "I could see us driving this every day." For a high-profile vehicle, there wasn't much lean on turns. Attribute that to the AWD and traction control.
Interior: First off, kudos to GMC for integrating the back-up camera screen in the rearview mirror. What you lose in mirror size you make up for in intuitive placement. We both really liked it. Elsewhere, the cabin, gauges and center console are simple and attractive, although Lyra didn't like the chrome trim (which blinded her in the sun). We both liked the red accent stitching in the comfortable leather seats. We didn't like the red digital display in the dash, which we've seen in a few other GM vehicles. It's hard to read in bright sun. The child door locks for the rear doors are electronic, and the controls are within reach from the front seat, which has an easy-exit feature that moves the seat back when you get out. The rear seat moves forward to provide some extra space in the cargo area. The seatbacks have three reclining positions, but don't fold flat with the cargo area. Lyra loved the remote/electronic power lift gate. There's no way she could have reached the handle to close it. You can also adjust the opening height for the liftgate, so if you have a lower garage opening, you can set how high the hatch opens. If the liftgate encounters an obstacle, it'll make warning sounds and reverse direction, kind of like the garage door opener. We liked the remote start, which can cool down the car before you get in — a plus with our endless summers. A few nits: The door locks are in the center console — a trend we deplore and have complained about in other vehicles. Also, the rear-window wiper control is a switch on the side of the windshield wiper stalk. That's clumsy.
Our 3 favorites
Back-up camera: Love the display in the rearview mirror, and it's standard.
Styling: It's a small SUV with big, bold looks.
Interior: GM is trying to raise its game on fit, finish and appearance, and it's starting to show.
Power lift gate: For a short driver, this is a back saver.
Child door-lock button: Up front and easy to turn off if you have adult passengers.
Solid build: The doors close with a thud, and no loose pieces inside.
The Bottom Line: When the trend is to pack in more seats, it's refreshing to see a manufacturer back off and stick with a 5-passenger configuration. Instead, GMC focused more on quality and performance, and it shows.