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2021 GMC Terrain Review

The GMC Terrain ranks in the bottom half of the compact SUV class. Though it’s roomy, comfortable, and well-equipped, it's outclassed by rivals when it comes to power and practicality.

Pros & Cons

  • Well-equipped base model
  • Roomy cabin
  • Good fuel economy
  • Refined ride
  • High starting price
  • Sluggish base engine
  • Small cargo capacity
  • Limited forward visibility

Rankings & Research

The 2021 GMC Terrain's #11 ranking is based on its score within the Compact SUVs category. Currently the GMC Terrain has a score of 7.6 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 25 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.6

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.2
Performance: 6.4
Interior: 7.3
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.6 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a GMC Terrain?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the GMC Terrain a Good SUV?

Yes, the GMC Terrain is a good compact SUV. It has a spacious cabin loaded with easy-to-use tech features, and its competent handling and gentle ride boost its driving appeal. The available engine is plenty powerful, but you need to get the highest trim, the GMC Terrain Denali, to obtain it. The base engine is underwhelming, and the cargo hold is small for the class, although it does have a nifty flat-folding front passenger seat.

Why You Can Trust Us: 25 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know in our comprehensive GMC Terrain review. It combines concrete data like mpg estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions with 25 professional reviews. This review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2018.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the GMC Terrain?

Although it’s a fine vehicle, the Terrain is in a highly competitive class brimming with great options. For example, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V have more passenger and cargo space than the GMC, and the Mazda CX-5 exhibits sharper handling. You also might consider the Chevrolet Equinox, which shares many of the Terrain’s strengths while costing much less.

Compare the Terrain, CR-V, and Equinox »

2020 vs. 2021 GMC Terrain: What's the Difference?

There are no major differences between the 2020 and 2021 Terrain.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Terrain »

Here are the key changes for the GMC Terrain over the last few years:

  • 2018: fully redesigned with revamped styling, more standard tech and safety features, and an optional diesel engine; V6 engine dropped
  • 2019: no notable changes
  • 2020: gained standard GMC Pro Safety suite of driver assistance features; diesel engine discontinued
  • 2021: no major changes

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Terrain, 2019 Terrain, and 2020 Terrain reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the GMC Terrain Cost?

The entry-level GMC Terrain SL has an MSRP of $25,000. That’s above average for the class. Prices rise to $38,300 for the top-of-the-line GMC Terrain Denali.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local GMC dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our GMC deals page.

GMC Terrain Versus the Competition

GMC Terrain vs. Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevrolet Equinox is a good compact SUV. It’s a lot more affordable than the GMC, and it has a better predicted reliability rating. Otherwise, these two SUVs are similar, with comparable cargo capacity, horsepower ratings, and features. If you don’t need the luxury of the Terrain Denali, then the Chevy is the way to go.

Compare the Terrain and Equinox »

GMC Terrain vs. Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 bests the Terrain in most areas. It has a stronger engine than the Terrain’s base turbo-four, plus decent off-road capability, better forward visibility, and a higher cargo capacity. The Toyota's base price is about $1,000 more than that of the GMC, but its top trim costs about $2,500 less than the Terrain's. The Toyota is the easy pick here.

Compare the Terrain and RAV4 »

Compare the Terrain, Equinox, and RAV4 »

Terrain Interior: Feature-Full

Terrain Cargo Space

With 29.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 63.3 cubic feet behind the first, this vehicle has less cargo room than many of its competitors. However, the front passenger seat can fold flat, making it easier to carry longer items such as surfboards, and there’s plenty of small storage spaces throughout the cabin. A power liftgate and a hands-free liftgate are available.

How Many People Does the Terrain Seat?

Up to five people can sit in the two-row Terrain. Cloth upholstery is standard, and leather seats are available. You could also opt for power-adjustable, heated, and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Space abounds in both rows, and the well-cushioned seats help keep occupants comfortable. There’s enough insulation to keep out harsh road noise, and the doors open wide enough to make it easy to enter and exit the vehicle. On the downside, the angled dash hampers forward visibility.

Terrain and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.

Terrain Interior Quality

Although there are a few plastic pieces in the Terrain’s cabin, the overall feel is one of quality. That’s especially true in the Denali trim, with its plush leathers and attractive stitching.

Terrain Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment system earns praise for its ease of use. The touch screen has clear graphics that make it easy to read. Its menus are arrayed logically, and the screen responds quickly to user inputs.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a six-speaker stereo, four USB ports, Bluetooth, and a Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, wireless device charging, satellite radio, HD Radio, a seven-speaker Bose stereo, a DVD player, and a rear-seat infotainment system
  • Additional standard features: push-button start, proximity keyless entry, and automatic climate control
  • Other available features: dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, and a sunroof

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay?, What Is Android Auto?, and What Is Amazon Alexa?

Read more about interior »

Terrain Performance: Get the Pricey Upgrade

Terrain Engine

You have a choice between two turbocharged four-cylinder engines in the Terrain. Most trims come with a 1.5-liter inline-four that puts out 170 horsepower. This engine is OK at best. It performs well in city driving, but it struggles at higher speeds, and accelerating can be a leisurely affair.

The other option is a 2.0-liter turbo-four that makes 252 horsepower. This engine is strong enough for most driving scenarios, but you must buy the pricey Denali trim to get it.

Both engines come with a nine-speed automatic transmission, which can hesitate to shift.

Terrain Gas Mileage

With its base engine and front-wheel drive, the 2021 Terrain gets an EPA-rated 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. That’s decent for the class. With all-wheel drive, the highway rating dips to 28 mpg.

The EPA has not yet rated the larger engine, though the mechanically identical 2020 GMC Terrain Denali earns 22/28 mpg city/highway with FWD and 21/26 mpg with AWD.

Terrain Ride and Handling

This SUV rides smoothly and glides over rough patches of pavement, while the Denali trim’s comfort-oriented suspension provides an even more cushioned ride. It’s no Mazda CX-5, but this GMC also handles well and takes corners with confidence. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is available.

Terrain Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, this crossover can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Terrain Reliability

Is the GMC Terrain Reliable?

The 2021 GMC Terrain has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

GMC Terrain Warranty

GMC backs this SUV with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Terrain Safety

Terrain Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 GMC Terrain an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test.

As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not evaluated the 2021 Terrain, but the nearly identical 2020 model earned the highest rating of Good in all six IIHS crashworthiness tests.

Terrain Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Following distance indicator
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • GM’s Teen Driver (lets you do things like place speed and audio limits on secondary drivers)

Available advanced safety features:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Front parking sensors
  • Safety alert seat
  • Lane change alert
  • Parallel and perpendicular park assist

Read more about safety »

Terrain Dimensions and Weight

The Terrain is 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,449 to 3,635 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 GMC Terrain Built?

GMC builds the 2021 Terrain in Mexico.

Which GMC Terrain Model Is Right for Me?

GMC makes the 2021 Terrain in four trim levels: SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali. The base SL comes with lots of features, but you’ll have to step up to at least the SLE if you want all-wheel drive or other optional equipment. Getting the turbocharged 252-horsepower engine requires you to move all the way to the range-topping GMC Terrain Denali.

GMC Terrain SL

The Terrain SL has a base MSRP of $25,000. It comes with a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, four USB ports, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity keyless entry, alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and GM’s Teen Driver. Also standard is GMC’s Pro Safety package, which includes a pre-collision warning and braking system, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, a following distance indicator, and automatic high-beam headlights.

GMC Terrain SLE

Starting at $28,400, the SLE has the same standard features as the SL. However, the SLE is the first trim available with the Pro Safety Plus package, which outfits this SUV with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert, and rear parking sensors. (Pricing for this package is not yet available.)

Remote start costs $295. You can also add a rear-seat entertainment system with a DVD player for $1,995 (or $1,750 without the DVD player). Other optional equipment includes adaptive cruise control, a safety alert seat, an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, satellite radio, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, a power liftgate, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

GMC Terrain SLT

With an MSRP of $31,200, the SLT adds several of the above options, including heated front seats, the power-adjustable driver’s seat, the 8-inch touch screen and navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and remote start. SLT models also gain leather-appointed seats, a hands-free liftgate, and larger alloy wheels.

You can add a sunroof for $1,495, and the above-mentioned options remain available. You can also get the SLT with a heated steering wheel, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and HD Radio.

GMC Terrain Denali

The top-of-the-line model is the GMC Terrain Denali, which retails for $38,300. The Denali adds the Pro Safety Plus suite of driver aids, front parking sensors, a seven-speaker Bose stereo, wireless device charging, a heated steering wheel, and an upgraded premium suspension. The Denali is also the only trim to come with the stronger engine.

Heated rear outboard seats, ventilated front seats, parallel park assist, adaptive cruise control, and a sunroof are available.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local GMC dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our GMC deals page.

See 2021 GMC Terrain specs and trims »

The Final Call

The GMC Terrain has its merits. Passengers will find plenty of space in its cabin, which isn’t always the case for a compact SUV. A generous list of features and a smooth ride further raise this vehicle’s appeal. In this competitive segment, however, the Terrain trails its rivals in areas such as cargo capacity and acceleration.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2021 GMC Terrain has a challenge. Although it’s an arguably handsome compact-crossover SUV offering strong turbocharged engines, a chassis that favors ride comfort over cornering precision (perfectly reasonable in this kind of vehicle) and comes with a decent level of standard equipment, it’s in direct competition with such giants of the class as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Both Japanese rivals have more interior space for passengers and cargo alike." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Overall, the Terrain is a well-rounded crossover. But apart from the lavish and expensive Denali version, there’s no singular special aspect that distinguishes it from a raft of excellent rivals like the best-selling Honda CR-V or equally popular Toyota RAV4." -- Autotrader
  • " … the 2020 GMC Terrain still gets a comfortable and attractive interior, a lengthy list of upscale optional features and an intuitive cabin layout. Unfortunately, the Terrain also has some significant drawbacks worth noting. Those optional features we mentioned? They bring the price up pretty quickly. So if you want all the extras, you may be out-pricing top-notch rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, not to mention the Terrain's very similar sibling, the Chevy Equinox. Those same rivals (and a few others) also outdo the Terrain when it comes to interior space, both behind the rear seats and for small-item consideration. And, under the hood, there's a base 1.5-liter engine that is disappointingly slow, with poor throttle response." -- Edmunds (2020)
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