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2021 GMC Terrain Performance

#11 out of 16 in Compact SUVs

U.S. News Best Price Program

2021 GMC Terrain Performance Review


Performance: 7.0

The 2021 GMC Terrain has a smooth ride and controlled handling. Its base engine helps return good gas mileage, but it’s not all that powerful. There is a stronger engine option, but it only comes in the highest trim.

  • "On-road driving dynamics are also very good, with the Terrain feeling solid and planted – let's call it 'substantial.' That's a welcomed trait in this segment of small crossovers as many feel rather light from behind the wheel. I didn't notice any obtrusive wind or tire noise … and the cabin was relatively hushed. Handling is competent and predictable, as expected, as the ride is firm without feeling too sporty." -- Forbes (2018)
  • "On the road, the Terrain is quiet and smooth, matching its segment for comfort and refinement. Body motions over broken pavement are well damped, and the steering is heavy off-center to provide good directional stability. We don't have much to complain about regarding the driving experience, as it matches its competition blow for blow in subjective dynamics." -- Truck Trend (2018)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque
  • Available engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: nine-speed automatic

The base engine is serviceable and will easily get you from Point A to Point B, but it’s not all that powerful. Acceleration is leisurely, and the transmission can be slow to shift. The stronger turbo-four engine in the Denali trim is more capable and supplies better passing power.

  • "Making just 170 horsepower, the base 1.5-liter turbo is best described as adequate. The 252-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is the one to choose, and can even pull 3,500 pounds." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base turbo 4-cylinder engine is only just adequate for everyday duties, but its low-end torque is useful around town. The 2.0-liter turbo brings extra thump and thrust, providing performance unmatched by most rivals." -- Autotrader
  • "Unfortunately, the Terrain's base engine lacks power, the transmission is slow-witted, and the powertrain's focus on fuel economy eliminates snappy acceleration. In Edmunds testing it took 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is very slow." -- Edmunds (2020)

MPG Estimates

The base Terrain gets good fuel economy ratings, especially in the city. Note that as the EPA hasn’t yet evaluated 2021 models with the upgraded engine, we’re using the similar 2020 Terrain as an estimate.

  • 1.5-liter, FWD: 25/30 mpg city/highway
  • 1.5-liter, AWD: 25/28 mpg
  • 2020 2.0-liter, FWD: 22/28 mpg
  • 2020 2.0-liter, AWD: 21/26 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Terrain strikes a good balance between comfort and sportiness. It’s not the nimblest vehicle in the compact SUV class, but its controlled body lean and stable cornering keep it feeling composed. At the same time, the ride remains gentle, especially in the Denali trim with its comfort-tuned suspension.

  • "The 2021 Terrain is enjoyable to drive. The steering in particular is precise and confidence-inspiring. And there isn’t much body lean when taking corners, despite the comfortable ride quality. Not as engaging as some competitors, the Terrain nevertheless strikes a pleasing balance between compliance and composure." -- Autotrader
  • "Around town or on the highway, the Terrain is comfortable and quiet. Attack a set of curves, and it’s nimble enough to be engaging, as opposed to wildly entertaining. That’s partly thanks to reinforcing up front that makes the steering feel confident. The 2021 Terrain Denali comes with a dedicated suspension setup that’s even more comfortable than the lower trims." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The brakes bite smoothly and evenly, with a good relationship between pedal pressure and actual stopping power. The steering is slow and a bit mushy, but steering effort weights up nicely at highway speeds, imparting more confidence and a sense of stability. Capable and balanced on twisty roads, the Terrain keeps body roll in check. It's not sporty, but through turns at reasonably high speeds, the Terrain remains stable and composed." -- Edmunds (2020)
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