The GMC Terrain is a generously sized compact sport-utility vehicle best suited to young families or active couples. It seats five in a well-designed, nicely finished cabin, with state-of-the-art powertrains, advanced safety systems and convenience features, and class-leading fuel economy.
The 2012 Terrain represents its third year of production, and new for 2012 is a handful of upgrades, starting with a touch-screen audio system that adds a seven-inch HD video display to integrate several functions. There are also safety upgrades, including a better rearview camera and a new collision-alert system.
Technically a compact SUV, the Terrain crossover is nearly large enough to be considered mid-size sport-utility, with lots of space inside. Terrain competes with compacts such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, and midsize models such as the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano.
Terrain's most obvious strength might be its spacious, well-equipped cabin. The interior is comfortable, quiet and well isolated from the noise and chop of the roadway. Design and workmanship are quite good, and the new touch-screen monitor on the 2012 Terrain reduces clutter.
The GMC Terrain shares its platform and mechanical components with the Chevy Equinox, but the two vehicles don't look much alike. Terrain is geared toward GMC's truck image, and its angular styling is polished and rugged at the same time.
Terrain comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for improved all-weather capability, even with the standard four-cylinder engine. All models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The base 182-horspower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers good performance and great fuel economy, earning an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive. A 3.0-liter V6 is optional, rated at 264 hp, 222 pound-feet of torque and 17/24 mpg with front-wheel drive. The V6 increases towing capacity from 1500 to 3500 pounds, the latter enough for a light boat or a pair of personal watercraft or snowmobiles.
Starting at about $26,000, the 2012 Terrain SLE comes very well equipped, with a nice audio system, satellite radio hardware, OnStar and rearview camera. The standard rear seat might be best in class. The seatbacks recline, and both sections slide fore and aft up to eight inches to maximize either passenger or cargo space.
The 2012 Terrain SLT trim levels offer the widest range of premium features, including navigation, streaming audio, heated seats and memory, but they're still available with the four-cylinder and front-drive. Buyers don't have to take the big engine or all-wheel drive to get the techie features and goodies.
Safety features have been enhanced for 2012: The optional Front Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning system, new for 2012 and initially available on the line-topping SLT, is relatively inexpensive. It works as well as some more expensive systems in other cars, with less intrusion during around-town driving. The standard rearview camera on 2012 Terrain models displays its image on the seven-inch audio screen, rather than inset in the rearview mirror.