For some weird reason, I don’t think I ever drove the first generation GMC Terrain. As a result, I had it in my head that it was one of those tiny little crossovers, so when I picked up our 2018 Terrain tester last week, I was truly surprised by the generous size of the vehicle. The Terrain is not a space deprived little crossover.
When GMC introduced their current design language a few years back in a press conference at Detroit, the design guy explained how the brand would be different from Chevrolet in that all GMC vehicles would convey a visual that was reminiscent of the job site. GMC vehicles would look like work vehicles. I remember thinking at the time that this was fine for the pickup trucks, but wondered how they would translate that industrialized message to the family haulers in the line-up.
Unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, the 2018 Terrain answers that question with bold styling which looks tough without the imposing edge that some might see in pickup truck design. Add in the fact that the Canadian model is available with a diesel engine and the brand’s working heritage is well represented.
Previously built in Ontario, production of the latest version of the Terrain has been moved to Mexico. The new model is definitely an improvement over the outgoing model, with interior materials boasting higher quality to the eye and touch, with one small exception. The leather (pleather?) wrap on the steering wheel, which felt great to the touch, was puckered differently on the corners of the lower spoke of the wheel. It was a small flaw, but one that irked me every time my thumb crossed it while parking.
Whether this was due to accountants putting the screws to parts suppliers or a result of inattentive quality control in Mexico is irrelevant. Attention to small details are what marks the difference between the interiors of traditional domestic automakers and those from traditional imports. Beyond that however, the inclusion of materials like real aluminum are welcomed.
Where the Terrain has a distinct European feel is in the drive experience, thanks to the 1.6L diesel powerplant. The twin-cam four cylinder diesel generates 137 horsepower and a more than healthy 240 lb-ft of torque. That grunt is fed through a 6-speed automatic transmission which makes short shifts at lower speeds, giving the Terrain the purposeful feel of a Euro transporter on acceleration. Once up to highway speeds, there is no perceptible sound from the drivetrain, contributing to a wonderfully quiet cabin.
For our family, the most important part of a CUV type vehicle is Utility. These days, with all three kids having their own cars, the rear row of seating isn’t used much, if at all. The ability to swallow mass amounts of cargo with ease however, is key. Just as the visuals have been designed to look like they belong in a work setting, GMC has paid extra attention to making the Terrain’s interior functional. The best feature for our use is the flat folding floor, which makes for easy packing. Beneath that floor lies a series of hidden cubbies, perfect for hiding smaller objects.
Of course the reason that most auto journalists proclaim their love of a good diesel is the ability to offer fantastic fuel economy without sacrificing performance. On that end, the Terrain did not disappoint. During our week with the Terrain, it was driven around town, then driven to cottage country with a full load, all in sub-zero temperatures. By the end of the week, it had achieved 6.5 L/100 KM, which is truly remarkable for an all-wheel-drive vehicle of this size.
The 2018 GMC Terrain begins at $30,295 for a gas powered, from wheel drive model. A fully loaded Denali version rings in at $41,695. Our tester, an SLE Diesel, sits in the middle at $36,595.
From a pricing perspective, the Terrain sits at the upper end of the small crossover niche, with several models from other manufacturers with starting prices which are several thousand dollars less expensive. Where GMC’s entry may become the best value choice in the segment is with the availability of a diesel engine. Not only is diesel fuel typically cheaper at the pumps, but factor in the fantastic fuel economy and it is very likely that the Terrain will save owners money over the life of the vehicle as compared to a gas powered competitor.