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2019 GMC Terrain: New Car Review

With a total redesign last year, the 2019 GMC Terrain takes its place among other recently updated competitors. Providing a number of checks in the plus column, this GMC offers a quiet, sophisticated ride. Its well-constructed cabin, for the most part, features quality materials. Although we aren’t fans of the rather rough-around-the-edges diesel option, we are very impressed with the turbocharged base engine. There’s also a load of technology in terms of connectivity, as well as safety/driver-assist systems.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. We’re not sold on the electronic-shifting setup with its pull-button controller. Not to mention, the Terrain isn’t the roomiest nor the most engaging to drive within the segment.

So, while there is certainly a lot to like about the generally well-rounded Terrain, it’s not dominant enough in any particular area to rule out some cross-shopping.

What’s New for 2019?

Having a full redesign last year, the only changes are some additional option choices, like a new Black Edition Package for SLE and SLT models, as well as a Chrome Package for the SLE. An HD backup camera is available across the board.

What We Like

Ample standard tech features with easy-to-use touchscreens; nicely balanced ride and handling; multiple engines choices

What We Don’t

Ridiculous shifter design; less cargo capacity than rival SUVs; accident-avoidance tech only available on top trims; excessive diesel engine vibration

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The 2019 GMC Terrain distinctively comes with three powertrain choices, including a unique diesel engine. All are available with front- or all-wheel drive.

The standard 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. Both gasoline-fueled engines come with a 9-speed automatic. Fuel economy is estimated to be 26 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving with front-wheel drive (FWD). All-wheel drive (AWD) knocks those figures down to 24 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

The performance upgrade is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 good for 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s standard on the Denali and optional on other trims. Fuel economy estimates stand at 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with FWD and 21 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with AWD.

The fuel economy upgrade is a diesel-fueled 1.6-liter turbo-4 that produces 137 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. It has a 6-speed automatic. It returns 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy/32 mpg combined with FWD and is basically the same with AWD. Despite this improvement over the base engine, the price of diesel could result in the Terrain diesel being no cheaper to fuel over the course of the year. On the upside, we have noted that the diesel-powered Terrain tends to get something akin to its estimates, whereas the smaller gas turbo may fall short.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Terrain is available in SL, SLE, SLT and Denali trim levels. Prices include a $1,195 factory destination charge. Unavailable on the SL, AWD adds $1,700 to all other grades.

The base SL ($26,195) comes only with front-wheel drive and the base 1.5-liter engine along with 17-inch wheels, automatic HID headlights, LED running lights, privacy glass, heated mirrors, passive entry and push-button start, active noise cancellation, a backup camera, height-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split folding and reclining back seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, OnStar emergency communications and remote services, a 7-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, four USB ports (including one Type-C) and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The SLE ($29,295) is available with any engine as well as all-wheel drive. It adds as standard equipment a spare tire, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and levers in the cargo area that fold the back seat. Not a lot for an extra $2,900, but it does open the door to options. The Driver Convenience package (included with the SLE Diesel), adds remote ignition, a power liftgate, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and an 8-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment. To that package, you can add the Infotainment Package I, which includes an enhanced gauge cluster, an additional standard-type USB port, a 110-volt house-style outlet, an 8-in touchscreen, a SD card reader and satellite radio.

The SLT ($31,195) includes the Driver Convenience and Infotainment package items plus 18-in wheels, fog lamps, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and leather upholstery. Its Infotainment Package II adds integrated navigation, HD Radio and a 7-speaker Bose sound system. Its Preferred package (included on the SLT Diesel) adds a hands-free power liftgate, driver-memory functions, a 6-way power passenger seat and a heated steering wheel.

Optional on the SLE and SLT trims and standard on the Denali is Driver Alert Package I that adds blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning system, rear parking sensors and the Safety Alert Seat.

The Denali ($38,995) comes only with the 2.0-liter engine and includes all of the SLT’s optional equipment. It also adds ritzier styling details, 19-in wheels, upgraded interior materials and LED headlights. Optional only on the Denali is the Advanced Safety package that adds a surround-view parking camera and an automatic parking system. The Comfort package adds ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and wireless smartphone charging.

Optional on the SLT and Denali is the Driver Alert Package II that adds forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. Optional on all but the base trim is a panoramic sunroof. Denali-only options include surround-vision cameras.


Standard in every Terrain are the usual passive safety systems like antilock brakes and stability control. It provides six airbags and OnStar emergency communications (including automatic crash notification, an emergency response button and a stolen vehicle locator). Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning are optional on the SLE and SLT and standard on the Denali. Forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic braking and lane-keeping assist are optional on the SLT and Denali.

The government gave the 2019 Terrain a 4-star overall crash rating, plus 5-star frontal and 4-star side ratings. IIHS awarded it its highest score of Good on all crash and strength tests.

Behind the Wheel

The 2019 Terrain is a far better SUV to drive than its predecessor. In particular, its steering is far more precise and confidence-inspiring, while body motions have been reduced. Not as engaging as some competitors, the Terrain still strikes a pleasing balance between ride and handling.

The base 4-cylinder turbo should be strong enough for most compact SUV customers. Its low-end torque makes it feel especially stout around town. Opting for the 2.0-liter turbo brings extra power and torque, providing performance not offered by top rivals. A tricky choice is the diesel with its enhanced mileage, but higher diesel fuel prices could wipe out its gains. Plus, its excessive vibration is annoying.

The cabin offers quality equal to most rivals with technology surpassing them — in terms of the number of standard features and the touchscreens controlling them. Beyond that, though, it’s a mixed bag. The cargo area is on the small side compared to Honda’s CR-V, and its back seat space is just average. Headroom can be tight with the optional panoramic sunroof.

Then there’s that electronic shifter. Sure, it frees up space in the center console, but its push-button and pull-toggle design is different for the sake of being different.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda CR-V — Arguably the benchmark in the segment. It provides unmatched interior space and versatility, ample features for the money, strong performance and fuel economy and a nicely balanced driving experience.

2018 Mazda CX-5 — The CX-5 stands out with its sport handling, sophisticated ride, luxurious interior and snazzy styling. It’s definitely worth a long look.

2019 Chevrolet Equinox — If you like what you’re reading about the Terrain, but would prefer a different look, the Equinox is mechanically related to the Terrain. It has many of the same pros and cons, minus the Terrain’s electronic shifter.

Used Jeep Grand Cherokee — If you’re looking for an SUV with more rugged capabilities and a fancier interior (and especially if you’re seeking a diesel engine), the Grand Cherokee is a superb choice. It costs considerably more, though, so seeking a used model is recommended.

Autotrader’s Advice

We recommend the SLT, which is the SLE with options, leather upholstery and bigger wheels. We’d also opt for the Driver Alert Package II. Either of the gas engines would be fine given your performance and fuel economy preferences. We’d skip the diesel engine.

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