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2010 GMC Terrain Review – all-new compact SUV emphasizing MPG and utility

Thursday January 14th, 2010 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: mash

2010 GMC Terrain

By Mary Ellen Ash

Yays:

  • 7″ touch-screen center console
  • Great MPG for an SUV
  • Ample and rugged in the rear for people and cargo
  • Entertainment system
  • Excellent reverse visibility

Nays:

  • Finicky touch-screen console system
  • Weak 2.4L I4 engine
  • Heavy movable rear passenger seats
  • No remote start included

Verdict: a great family SUV that is rugged and strong, and yet, very stylish and attractive for everyday use


The 2010 Terrain is GMC’s a leap forward into the crossover market. Built on a unibody frame, the Terrain’s styling is synonymous with GMC’s history of vehicles: big and bold. And with the all-new Terrain, GMC has also moved in the direction of a more fuel-conscious SUV – unheard of when most SUVs are associated with America’s appetite for over-consumption. With its Ecotec engine, the GMC Terrain acheives MPG ratings (22 city/32 hwy) which are closer to a Honda Accord than most of its SUV competitors. We observed 23 mpg overall after a week of driving around the San Francisco bay area.

Performance and Handling

Usually when describing something with words like SUV, big and black, most people equate that driving experience with a boat – sloppy handling and slow accelerations. Not the case with the Terrain; it gracefully traversed all roads and conditions. At times, dare I say, it even felt a little like a sports-car on the tight and twisty roads. And even with its sharp curves and menacing size, the Terrain gives as sense of security which can be felt (and seen) out on the road. GM has really made a step in the right direction with this more fuel-conscious SUV/crossover. The Terrain is a great addition to the very competitive SUV market and GM is definitely on the right track.”

For a vehicle of its stature, the Terrain handled surprisingly well. It was at home on the city streets and highways. It got up to speed at a good pace, although nowhere near what I would describe as “sporty” acceleration. And once at speed, the Terrain has a very comfortable ride – smooth and steady. Underpinning the Terrain’s ride characteristics are front and rear independent suspension systems that meet the pavement via a set of 18-inch wheels. Even when driven on twisty mountain roads, it was pleasingly spry for it size. Weaving through the tight turns seemed to come naturally thanks to the wide wheelbase and length. In tandem with the more rigid suspension which helps it stick to the road, the Terrain was able to hug the corners and sling-shot out the other side.

2010 GMC Terrain

Even with the great handling incongruous with its size, the engine just couldn’t keep up. The Terrain was sluggish exiting out of the corners and chugged along as you depressed the pedal. Our test model came spec’d with a new, 2.4L four-cylinder Ecotec engine, featuring direct injection and variable valve timing, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Power output checks in at 182 hp, and 172 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, it was just not enough oomph for a vehicle of this size. But the Terrain was not meant to be fast, it was meant to be fuel efficient; it was designed to change the perception of what a big SUV could be. With listed numbers of 22 city/32 hwy, GMC was aiming at efficiencies usually reserved for small Japanese sedans, not a compact American SUV. It all sounds too good to be true but after a week of city and highway driving, even my heavy foot managed a combined 23 mpg. Numbers after driving solely on the highway were even more impressive. I achieved 33.1 mpg using “ECO” mode and 29.8 mpg without. The engineers at GM are not joking around. Bravo.

Build and Styling

The Terrain is built with strength. When looking upon the Terrain for the first time, you immediately are taken by its size and look of strength; it’s almost menacing. And it’s not just a façade – words like sturdy and thick immediately comes to mind at first glace. There is nothing flimsy about this car; it exudes confidence out on the road.

On the inside, you’ll discover the Terrain’s gentler side. The front and rear seats are decked out in an attractive two-toned leather upholstery. Sometimes leather can be a bad choice – easily damaged and sometimes cheap looking. But the Terrain makes leather look good again. It’s nice to see GMC outfitting their vehicles with higher quality materials which have a more robust lifetime.

Perforated leather-appointed reclining front seats GMC Terrain rear cargo area

The more upscale material choice is also apparent when we move to the rear cargo space. Sometimes the rugged plastics can be thought of as ‘cheap’ looking. Moving beyond this shallow interpretation, it is perfect for a family vehicle that will see lots of tough-love over the years. The material is practically indestructible and will stand the test of time. If this is something you look for in a family vehicle, you will be pleased with the Terrain. GMC also added a feature that will prevent any wayward toys, food or miscellaneous items from falling between the seats and the rear cargo area – a large and long flap “minds the gap”, so to say.

With this rugged build, the Terrain is equipped with the ‘multi-flex’ sliding rear seat. The whole unit moves which means the rear leg space can be customized to suit the rider or the cargo in the back. Not many vehicles give one foot of fore/aft movement to the rear seats. It is absolutely fabulous to customize the rear for maximal cargo storage. The only flaw – it’s really heavy! It takes a lot of strength and brawn to move the 60/40 split/folding rear bench seat: safest when performed in tandem. Hopefully GMC will upgrade this feature to an automated system in the future to save the backs of petite parents and small children.

2010 GMC Terrain

Aside from the heavy rear seat, there were only a few other minor quibbles about the build. First up, for most people, the concealed storage under the center arm rest is a bottomless pit – it was so deep and disorganized. Another dislike was the limited number of cup-holders in both the front and the rear. For a vehicle geared towards a family market, a few more would be gladly accepted in the future. And finally, the ‘Premium Interior’ paneling sounded good on paper, but in reality, it was as little disappointing – it was similar to the hard plastic found in the rear cargo area. With the excellent quality leather seats, it would have been nice to upgrade to some better quality interior paneling. The quibbles aside, GMC has built a solid crossover overall and in the future, I’m sure their team will address any minor issues.

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2 Responses to 2010 GMC Terrain Review – all-new compact SUV emphasizing MPG and utility

  1. Steve says:

    I have to agree with George that I find the styling of the Terrain overdone. Then again, the Chevrolet version is essentially the same but with different (and to my eyes more attractive) styling outside and the same nicely done interior.

    Thanks for testing the 4-cylinder version. I’ve been interested in hearing how this setup performs and if it’s really capable of meeting the EPA fuel-economy numbers.

    While on a business trip recently, I had a new Ford Focus as a rental and, in mostly highway driving I averaged just a tick below 30 mpg over a week. For GM to essentially meet this figure with a bigger, heavier, and perhaps more practical vehicle is fairly remarkable. The Focus with an automatic transmission was no speed demon, either.

  2. George says:

    I*s the reviewer blind? The GMC Terrain is one of the ugliest vehicles ever to come from an auto manufacturer. It looks like a brick on wheels, with what one newspaper reviewer recently described as a window air conditioning unit hanging on the front end.





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