Trucks & SUVs

How Reliable Is the GMC Terrain?

The GMC Terrain has received lackluster reviews, with experts such as Car and Driver noting that its price range is a little high for the features and performance it offers. But when it comes to reliability, where exactly does the Terrain stand?

GMC has improved the Terrain in recent models

According to Consumer Reports, the 2020 Terrain has a predicted reliability rating of 4/5 — a solid score that has drastically increased from previous years. In fact, during the first two years of the Terrain’s existence, it scored abysmally low on the Consumer Reports reliability testing.

Beginning around 2013, a few key features — such as the major transmission, the climate system, and the power equipment — began to improve.

As of 2019, the Terrain has almost no trouble spots when it comes to reliability. The only area that hasn’t actively improved is the in-car electronics.

Car and Driver calls the push-button gear shifter unintuitive; Consumer Reports agrees, noting that the shifter’s confusing nature forces the driver to look away from the road in order to change gears. Otherwise, though, the newer Terrain models hold up well when examining common trouble spots.

Top marks in safety

The 2020 GMC Terrain has a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, with perfect scores in both the front and side crash tests. While many of its safety features were formerly optional, additional features are now standard on the new model. Among these are automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, and lane-keep assist.

The Terrain also received a 5/5 braking rating from Consumer Reports, coming to a stop from 60 mph in just 128 feet in dry conditions. The SUV did slightly less well in emergency handling, receiving a rating of 4/5. However, its headlights were the only area to truly suffer in the safety tests, with a rating of just 3/5. 

Where the GMC Terrain falls short

With the Terrain receiving such consistently good reliability and safety ratings, why exactly does Consumer Reports give it a predicted customer satisfaction rating of 3/5? Part of the dissatisfaction likely comes from how poorly the vehicle handles.

Consumer Reports notes that while the Terrain does well in safety tests, its regular ride is stiff and it doesn’t turn particularly well, a sentiment echoed by Car and Driver. The Terrain also has a definite body lean and doesn’t shift smoothly.

What most reviewers are caught up on, though, isn’t the reliability of the Terrain itself. The issue is that the premium pricing simply doesn’t match up to the performance.

For example, consider the Consumer Reports reliability ratings. On their own, they appear fairly good — but when you compare the Terrain to similar new models, all of a sudden it sinks firmly to the middle of the pack.

The Lexus NX is predicted to be 89 percent reliable, and the Mazda CX-5 is at 82 percent. The Terrain, on the other hand, is all way down at 65 percent — not a bad score, but not comparable to the competition.

This trend of the Terrain falling short of its competitors can be seen in many of its other qualities. The interior of its cab is mostly black plastic, it’s loud when it drives, and almost all of its benefits are available at better price points in other vehicles. In fact, Car and Driver reports that the only thing really setting the Terrain apart was its optional diesel engine, which was discontinued for the 2020 model.

If you’re in the market for a compact SUV, the GMC Terrain isn’t necessarily a bad option. It’s generally reliable and has a host of new features. Before you buy, though, take stock of the other options — you might find a premium vehicle with a performance that matches its price.