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I had a test GMC Terrain this week. The base Terrain is a family-friendly crossover, but the test car, with its $1,295 rear seat DVD player seemed purpose-built for someone with kids. Not having any kids of my own, I asked Jonathan Smith, a producer at NHPR, and his family (including his five- and nine-year-old sons) to take the $38,895 test GMC Terrain AWD SLT-2 for the weekend. Here’s what he thought:

Jonathan: The Terrain has a quiet, smooth ride. But before I looked over the paperwork, I was certain I was driving a four cylinder, not the optional V6. You can feel the full weight of car when you gun the engine. Road noise wasn’t too noticeable and it took bumps well. Steering felt solid, but the turning circle is larger than you’d expect. Visibility was somewhat restricted because of the big pillars in the back. My boys loved the rear entertainment system but I couldn’t help thinking a buyer would be better off purchasing two iPads instead of the $1,295 option. The audio/navigation system worked fine, but the 49 buttons that went along with it seemed excessive. I wanted to love this crossover, but instead walked away thinking what might have been.

Jamie: I have a slightly different take on the Terrain, mainly because I tested the base model in 2010 and liked it a lot. The test car was the highest trim and loaded with every option, including navigation, leather and that rear-seat entertainment system. The test Terrain felt heavy, and while fuel economy is a major selling point on the four-cylinder model, I didn’t get great numbers with the V6. At this price, a similarly equipped Volvo XC60 is just $1,780 more, and the Volvo includes five years free scheduled maintenance.   

But, if you go for the base Terrain, not only do you get four more mpg in the city and 7 more mpg on the highway (if you get AWD), you also get all the features that makes the Terrain a great family car.  A rearview camera is standard, and the base model has the same sliding rear seat as the upper trims. This allows you to bring little kids in closer, while big kids can slide the seat back for more legroom. The back seat even reclines, so teens can sit back and pretend not to know you. You don’t even have to pay extra for the Terrain’s strong crash test ratings (it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick). The base Terrain starts at $24,500, leaving $14,395 in the kids’ college fund. That’s more family-friendly than a V6 engine and a DVD player any day.