The attractive and assertive look given off by the 2023 GMC Terrain belies the fact that its features and performance fail to produce a winning package in the ever-competitive compact crossover market.
All the GMC models look less fierce because of the universally equipped and less enthusiastic 175-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The spacious and welcoming interior is held back by modest equipment and merely average material quality.
Moving up, the pricey 2023 GMC Terrain Denali model helps solve some of those issues, but rivals like the Mazda CX-50 and the Honda CR-V offer better features and better performance at a similar price.
The Terrain comes standard with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a nine-speed automatic and either front- or all-wheel drive. The Terrain provides its passengers with a comfortable, cosseting ride.
Although the softly sprung suspension is a boon on long highway drives, the comfort-oriented setup drains the compact crossover of driver engagement once the tarmac gets twisty.
Likewise, the direct but syrupy steering, which provides effortless turn-in at low speeds, proves as uninformative as a mob boss in a police interrogation room.
The EPA estimates the Terrain with front-wheel drive will earn up to 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway; going with all-wheel drive drops the highway estimate to 28 mpg.
A spacious and accommodating interior is let down by subpar build quality and a middling mix of materials. Meanwhile, the Terrain’s ergonomically challenged push-button shifter sprinkles salt in the compact crossover’s interior wounds. It consists of several switches that look like power window controls, located low on the center console and less than intuitive to use.
Although it’s something we think owners would grow accustomed to over time, we found the small buttons difficult to locate at a glance, especially when groping for reverse, makes it difficult to pull off three-point turns quickly or operate the transmission’s manual mode.
The Terrain is an amenable partner for lugging large loads of various sizes. Credit a standard 60/40 split-folding rear seat, as well as an available fold-flat front seat. The Terrain’s cargo area offers class-competitive space.
In our carry-on luggage test, the Terrain held 24 cases with the rear seats folded; those in search of the absolute maximum cargo room will be better served by the CR-V.
A host of driver-assistance features is standard and more can be added as options. The key safety features are available adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, standard automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and pedestrian detection.
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