2019 GMC Terrain: Everything You Need to Know About the Compact SUV

2019 Terrain Black Edition
2019 GMC Terrain Black Edition | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

It’s been one year since General Motors released the redesigned GMC Terrain for 2018, and that model came with big changes. For starters, it had shed 400 lbs. and entered the compact SUV segment for the first time. Meanwhile, it got the all-new exterior and interior you expect from a fully overhauled model.

Apart from some strong criticism from Consumer Reports, the ’18 Terrain got generally positive reviews. That likely to contributed to the vehicle’s 31% sales jump through the first half of the year. These days, Terrain ranks as the brand’s top seller behind the Sierra pickup.

So, as we waited to get some drive time in the 2019 Sierra, we spent five days in the Terrain that GMC is starting to deliver for the 2019 model year. Here’s a rundown of what’s new in this edition, as well as driving impressions and fuel economy figures from our time with the SUV.

1. Tech upgrades

Most of the changes to the ’19 Terrain that affect drivers come in the form of tech upgrades. This model gets adaptive cruise control and front pedestrian braking in the Driver Alert Package II ($745). We’d definitely recommend this add-on, as we do Driver Alert Package 1 ($445).

Meanwhile, the rear camera now comes in HD. These safety upgrades reduce the impact of poor visibility in the Terrain. The high, wide rear end and small back windows presents a challenge for drivers. We ended up leaning on the camera more frequently than we typically like to do.

2. Debut of Terrain Black Edition

2019 Terrain Black Edition
2019 GMC Terrain | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

The other major change for 2019 is the arrival of the Black Edition ($795), which we drove in the SLT trim with all-wheel drive ($33,595 before add-ons). With this exterior package, you get 19-inch  glossy aluminum wheels, a darker grille insert, roof rails, exterior badging, and a few other accents.

For a brand that doesn’t bring a lot of flash to the table, this blacked-out look really worked for us.  The wheels might be the highlight (pardon the camera effect).

2019 Terrain Black Edition
Terrain Black Edition wheels | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

For those who want who want a little more light in their lives, a Chrome Package (lots of aluminum, grays, and chrome accents) offers another option (also $795).

3. Powertrains

Returning for 2019 are Terrain’s same three engine options from last year:

  • 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder (170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque)
  • 1.6-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder (137 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque)
  • 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque)

The turbo fours pair with a 9-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel gets a six-speed.

Our Terrain ran with the 2.0 ($1,495), and we had more than enough power on tap for highway maneuvers. We’ve heard complaints about the lower engine options, so this one seems like the safest bet.

As far as the powertrain combination go, we felt our share of jolts along the way. Even after trying to accelerate as smoothly and evenly as possible, there was some bumpiness shifting up from the lower gears. Above 35 mph, it’s mostly smooth sailing.

4. The excellent infotainment system

GM’s latest infotainment system | General Motors

GM debuted its most advanced infotainment system in the 2018 Terrain and a few Cadillac models. It will get to the Sierra for the first time in the 2019 edition, and this was our first experience driving with it. The verdict: It’s a home run.

If you look at the display screen, you can click to the most relevant apps (navigation and music) at any moment. Meanwhile, the screen actually responds to the touch — we’d say it’s one of the few that has smartphone-level responsiveness.

Most importantly, the navigation system works like you hoped other ones would (but never did). It runs on the cloud, so real-time updates come as necessary. As with a Netflix account, you can personalize a profile so you and others who drive the car don’t have to keep switching music, preferred places, and other settings.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are in the mix, too. The only comparable infotainment setup we’ve tried was in the 2018 Nissan Leaf.

5. Fuel economy

2019 Terrain Black Edition
2019 GMC Terrain | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

While the EPA rated the 2019 Terrain 2.0 at 23 mpg (21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway), we didn’t hit those figures in real-world driving. In our five days with it, we ran several trips on highways from Manhattan to Rockaway Beach and back. Mixing in some city driving and alternating between front-wheel and all-wheel drive, we averaged 19.3 mpg.

We’d say that’s about what you’d get if you split your time evenly between freeways and stop/start city driving. Terrain really doesn’t compete in stoplight-to-stoplight maneuvering. In our last 24 hours with this SUV, we strictly drove in the city and clocked about 16 mpg.

However, this shrunken Terrain (it lost 3 inches for 2018) does do better than its predecessor at parking downtown. As you can see above, it only takes up one storefront and a doorway.

6. Interior and ride comfort

GMC Terrain SLT interior | GMC

As soon as you get in the driver’s seat, you’ll notice the absence of a gear-shifter. Starting in 2018, GMC moved the transmission controls to small switches just below the climate control section. This may take a little getting used to, but we found it simple to use and a non-issue.

That placement frees up space between the leather-appointed seats, and you won’t have trouble finding a place to plug in your phone or park your coffee inside this vehicle. Our front-seat passenger gushed about the 2-way power lumbar and overall seat comfort, and the driver’s seat is just as comfortable.

On the road, Terrain can handle a bump and navigate a curb smoothly. The ride is relatively cushy.

7. Crash tests and safety ratings

2019 Terrain Black Edition
2019 GMC Terrain | Eric Schaal/The Cheat Sheet

In IIHS crash tests on the 2018 model, Terrain nailed down the top score in every category. It also scored well for child-seat anchors. Its only weakness was headlights. (The model we drove had auto high-beams.) Terrain has a 5-star NHTSA safety rating. Again, additional safety equipment is the way to go here.

As for production site and part sourcing, the 2019 Terrain is assembled in Mexico using 37% parts from Canada and the U.S. along with 41% parts from Mexico. The engine and transmission come from the U.S.

Base (SL) models with front-wheel drive start at $25,995. All-wheel-drive editions begin at $30,795. Out SLT all-wheel-drive Black Edition with the top engine pick, two safety packages, Preferred package, Infotainment Package II, trailering equipment, and all-weather mats came to $40,550 with destination charge.

Disclaimer: GMC provided the Cheat Sheet reporter with a five-day loan (including a full tank of gas) of a 2019 Terrain Black Edition so we could bring this first-person report to our readers.