The 2021 GMC Terrain may be down to one powertrain, but it looks sharp in Denali duds and offers a strong array of active-safety systems across the board.
The 2021 GMC Terrain is the smallest SUV offering in the brand’s lineup, but it does offer a nicely equipped Denali trim to align with its larger brethren. Part of the second generation that was launched in 2018, this 2021 model was supposed to have received a thorough refresh, but that was delayed due to ongoing complications. A shapely compact SUV, the latest Terrain sees a bit of value engineering with the more potent, 252 horsepower motor removed as an option.
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GMC Pro Safety line is standard
All trims have smartphone mirroring and Wi-Fi
SkyScape panoramic sunroof opens cabin up
Denali comes with exclusive upgrades
Transmission buttons/switches are odd at first
Looking forward to the refresh
Until this year, the second-gen Terrain offered two engine options. The base model, which is the only one currently available for 2021, is a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder making 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a 9-speed automatic driving the front wheels with AWD a $1600 option on all 2021 Terrains except the entry-level SL model. The optional engine, that will hopefully return in the upcoming refresh, was a potent 252-horse turbocharged 4-cylinder.
The 2021 GMC Terrain’s fully independent suspension includes a four-link rear setup to provide a pleasant ride, particularly on Denali models with their “Enhanced Shock Control”. SLT and Denali trims add an extra inch of ground clearance for 7.9 total, but Hill Descent Control and Driver Shift Control are lineup standard. Driver Shift Control references the use of buttons and switches to select gears instead of a traditional, console-mounted shift lever.
The 2021 GMC Terrain achieves respectable fuel-economy ratings of 26 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive (FWD) guise. Idle stop-start technology is in use on the 1.5-liter mill and the 3,449-pound curb weight doesn’t hurt. Selecting the AWD drivetrain tacks on about 200 pounds and a subsequent decline in fuel-efficiency with city driving estimated at 25 mpg and 28 mpg on the highway.
Nearly 40” of legroom greet back seat passengers in the 2021 GMC Terrain and a standard acoustic laminated windshield plus active noise cancellation tech offers a quiet cabin atmosphere. The rear seatback can fold in a 60/40 split and the front passenger seat can be folded in half, fully flat, allowing an 8-foot long item to fit.
Thanks to the button-based shifting, there is plenty of pass through storage up front by the console. Cloth is the standard seat covering, but perorated leather in a ritzy brandy and black color scheme is available. Other niceties like the $1495 panoramic sunroof, climatized seat cushions, and ambient interior lighting give the Terrain an upmarket vibe.
A touchscreen infotainment interface is standard equipment on the Terrain, but you’ll need at least an SLT model to move from the 7” size up to an 8” screen. Apple and Android software, Wi-Fi capability, and GMC Connected Access services are all lineup standards. For $1995, a rear-seat entertainment system adds dual 8” displays to front seatbacks with USB and HDMI input plus a pair of wireless headphones. Higher GMC Terrain trim levels come with features like a household power receptacle, HD radio, Bose stereo, and Qi charging capability.
All 2021 GMC Terrains are equipped with the company’s Pro Safety suite of seven advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) like a following distance indicator, front pedestrian braking, and lane departure warning. GMC Pro Safety Plus can be optioned and adds blind zone monitoring, front and rear parking sonar, as well as lane change alert. Airbags cover first row occupants from frontal and side impacts while a full-length head-curtain airbag provides protection to both rows of outboard passengers. All of this helps the 2021 GMC Terrain earn a 5-star crash rating from NHTSA.
The base SL Terrain is only offered in white unless owners want to pay an extra $495 for silver or black. However, the exterior is otherwise nice looking with 17” alloy wheels, body-color door handles, and HID headlights. Taillights and daytime running lights use LED lamps, the side mirrors are heated, and keyless entry is included. GMC Pro Safety, the company’s standard line of advanced driver-assistance systems, includes auto-emergency braking, forward collision alert, and automatic high beams.
Inside, the GMC Infotainment System features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration controlled via a centrally mounted 7” touchscreen. A Wi-Fi hotspot is embedded along with dual USB ports and OnStar connectivity. Black cloth is the sole upholstery option, HVAC is of the manually operated, single-zone variety, and the steering wheel is wrapped in leather. There are no available packages on SL trim.
Buyers will need at least this SLE trim to access the 2021 GMC Terrain’s available all-wheel-drive drivetrain for an additional $1600. More paint colors are available here but still require an additional $495 to access. Optional packages like a $995 Elevation Edition dress up the exterior with 19” gloss black rims and black trim. The interior adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror and the choice of a two-tone fabric scheme. Dual-zone, automatic climate control, heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat can be optioned with the $1375 Driver Convenience package.
At the SLT level, 18” alloys with dark gray accents spruce up the looks, fog lamps and roof rails are added, and the side mirrors pick up auto-dimming and integrated turn signals. As well, the liftgate can be operated hands-free and programmed to a specific opening height. A host of standard interior amenities is on hand like a heated steering wheel, power-adjustable passenger set, and perforated leather upholstery with a brandy/black two-tone look. Infotainment systems benefit from the larger 8” interface, a 110-volt household power outlet is included, along with a 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio.
Top-of-the-line Denali models are outfitted with an exclusive suspension tune, 19” rims, chrome exterior accents, and color-matched lower body trim in contrast with the black plastic pieces on other trims. GMC Pro Safety Plus beefs up the ADAS with adaptive cruise control, Safety Alert Seat, and rear cross-traffic monitoring. Navigation with real-time traffic, a 7-speaker Bose audio system, and wireless charging pad are all part of the Denali setup. For $1445, the Denali Premium package adds ventilated front seats, heated rears, and automated parking assist.
New 2021 GMC Terrains come with a 3-year or 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and corrosion warranty. Rust-through is covered for a 6-year/100,000-mile period while powertrain components and 24/7 roadside assistance are under warranty for 5 years or 60,000 miles. In the first year of ownership, one factory-scheduled maintenance visit is included.
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The 2021 GMC Terrain is a good option for those wanting a bit fancier of an option over the Chevrolet Equinox corporate cousin, and the Denali trim level is a truly upscale SUV. However, with the more powerful engine missing and the promise of a mid-cycle refresh on the horizon, it might be better to hold out for the 2022 model year.