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The 2021 GMC Terrain Failed To Distinguish Itself

The midsize crossover SUV is a jammed-packed segment. It requires a lot of ingenuity and innovation to stand out among the tens of contenders on the market. On a global scale, auto manufacturers are contending against dozens of crossover SUV types. The top five midsize crossover SUVs ranking high in space, comfort, performance, looks, and technology come from Asian automakers.

Hyundai and Kia dominate the top five, while the 2020 Mazda CX-9 squeezed in fourth place under the 2021 Hyundai Palisade. They both scored 8.3 in a review published by U.S. News.

GMC only had one midsize crossover featured on U.S. News’ list of best midsize SUVs for 2020—the 2020 GMC Acadia. It barely came in at eighteenth place with a score of 7.3. As for the 2021 GMC Terrain, it hasn’t managed to impress reviewers enough to make it on any top 10 or top 20 list. It doesn’t seem to have made any vehicle review list, whether positive or negative. Let’s take a quick look at why the GMC Terrain is having such a hard time getting noticed.

No particular feature separates the GMC Terrain from its rivals

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The upcoming year will be about which midsize crossover SUV offers the most cargo capacity. SUVs that fail to impress buyers with spacious cabins and generous cargo space are likely to have a hard sell. Things like technology, fuel efficiency, and nice looks go a long way, but most buyers purchase SUVs more than joyriding. And even if they intend to use it for outdoor activities, they’ll want an SUV that can haul all their stuff while being comfortable.

Aside from the luxurious and pricey GMC Terrain Denali, it can’t compete with the popular Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V. According to AutoTrader, the 2021 GMC Terrain fails to distinguish itself from the huge crowd of other better equipped midsize crossovers. Reviewers found the shifter design to be less than appealing as well. However, it’s hard to say whether the average buyer would care much.

For example, compared to the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, the GMC Terrain doesn’t have third-row seating. The Toyota RAV4 Prime costs around $120 to $130 less than the Terrain Denali yet offers 302 horsepower. Toyota also claims that it can go from zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds. 

Even the RAV4 hybrid produces 219 horsepower with great fuel efficiency. So, when stacked up against equally-priced competitors, it’s easy to understand why the 2021 GMC Terrain is failing to distinguish itself.

Reviewers enjoyed driving the 2021 GMC Terrain

Despite AutoTrader’s initial ho-hum opinion about the new GMC Terrain, reviewers who gave it a spin enjoyed driving it. While not as immersive in the corners as other midsize SUVs, body lean is reported to be minimal. The Terrain’s inch-perfect steering allows the driver to engage the road with assurance.

The GMC Terrain features four trim levels and two engine options. The first is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 170 horsepower (hp) and 203 pounds-feet of torque (lb-ft.) Despite the turbocharger, reviewers wrote that it’s only adequate for routine tasks. However, it’s lower-end torque is advantageous for daily commutes around the city. For a little more power, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides 252 hp and 260 lb-ft.

A nine-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive comes standard with both powertrains. An all-wheel-drive powertrain comes as an extra option. The 1.5-liter engine comes standard on the SL, SLE, and SLT trims. The 2.0-liter is optional on the GMC Terrain SLT and comes standard on the Denali. While the official manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) has yet to be set, it’s estimated to be around $26,200 to $39,500. Considering the Kia Sorento offers the cheapest average MSRP of about $30,200, the GMC Terrain is reasonably priced.

The 2021 GMC Terrain earned great safety ratings

Along with its below-par cargo capacity, the 2021 GMC Terrain offers the bare minimum in safety features. This includes stability control, anti-lock brakes, an emergency response button, rearview camera, pedestrian detection, among other things. Every GMC Terrain model also comes standard with forward-collision warning, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assistance, and low-speed automatic braking.

But even though the GMC Terrain isn’t listed among the safest midsize SUVs by reviewers, the Terrain AWD earned five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Additionally, it earned five stars individually for both front and side protection in crash tests. The GMC Terrain earned top scores in every major crash-test category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Nevertheless, its headlights are considered “poor” and received the IIHS’s worst rating.

With all that said, it’s clear to see how other midsize crossover SUVs are much more attractive. Even with the Denali being priced relatively low compared to other luxury-class SUVs, it offers buyers what others offer standard. Adding all that together with the lack of cargo space, 2021 may be a bad year for the GMC Terrain.

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