Expectations were high when the bright Cayenne Red GMC Terrain AT4 was deposited in the family driveway.
This is a compact entry-level SUV from GM’s truck brand that starts just under $30 grand, a value leader, and the word among auto writers is that it’s down on power.
Yet one person’s lack of power is another’s value statement. Nothing wrong with that.
Three years ago I tested Terrain’s cousin, the Chevy Equinox, and liked it just fine, although the Chevy had a more powerful engine.
Consider this though.
Terrain comes in four trims, starting with the rear-drive SLE at that impressive $29,095 starting price (AWD adds $1,600), but the SLT is next up the line and probably the best value as it adds heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and power rear hatch, all for $33,045.
The tested AT4 is new for 2022 and is intended for buyers interested in light off-roading capability and appearances. Dressed in the spiffy bright metallic red paint job ($695 extra) and with black accents, grille and lower-body cladding the Terrain looked like a serious off-roader. In fact, I got more comments and passersby looks in this than some luxury sport sedans I’ve driven. That may say more about the market for SUVs than just styling though.
The AT4 adds Goodyear Sport Terrain tires, traction selection with an off-road mode, hill-descent control, a steel skid plate under the nose and embroidered AT4 headrests. List price is just $35,145 and AWD is standard.
Luxury lovers can upgrade to the Denali trim, always the peak of GMC’s trims, and still pay just $37,700. But Denali adds a color HUD, premium suspension, luxury leather interior and trim, cooled front seats and heated back seats, plus wireless charging along with Pro Safety Plus, which adds more safety gear.
So, for families in search of an SUV that fits a normal budget, Terrain certainly should be on the shopping list.
Yet here’s what sold me right away, the ride.
GMC has figured out that American roads are abysmal and instead of stiffening the ride for performance, softened and tuned it for comfort. Bravo! So, bounding over crater-like pot holes, frost-heaved pavement, half-filled blacktop cracks and way too expansive expansion joints, Terrain remains calm and collected. Passengers barely notice the carnage beneath the Goodyear R17 tires. By the way, replacing these over time will be a lot cheaper than getting new 20-inchers, or larger.
That ride is worth the price of admission, but the steering is light too, as is the vehicle. It’s easy to park, and while steering feel is somewhat vague, Terrain is simple to keep in its lane. In tight turns there’s a little body roll, or lean, but hey, I’m not buying a Lamborghini for the family. I want them to be comfy.
Power is mild, but not horrible, because the 9-speed automatic works well with this small 1.5-liter turbo I4. Shifts are smooth and the 170 horsepower is used well, plus the torque at 203 pound-feet, helps Terrain pull away from stoplights reasonably well.
The AT4 comes with AWD, so in rain, snow or other slop you’ll have improved traction. Plus this trim offers three terrain settings with 2WD being the default that will save on fuel and is what you’ll need until that rain or snow hits. Then you press down and turn a knob on the console for AWD, and if you’ve ventured off road there’s a setting for that too. Simple and effective unless you plan to do serious rock crawling.
That front steel skid plate also will protect the undercarriage if there happen to be a few rocks and sticks on your path.
Outside, the body has been given more definition and its looks muscled up. The black trim helps set that off and the lights, front and rear, are sharply styled, reflecting a more upscale look.
Inside, Terrain is simple, yet attractive and roomy. Seats feature a perforated dark gray leather top with cloth sides. Contrasting stitching is a golden brown that also is featured on the dash and leather steering wheel.
There also are small bits of imitation carbon fiber for door trim and a teeny bit on the passenger’s side dash. The plastic console is a matte gray as is the steering wheel hub, both welcome because they do not reflect the sun, ever.
Seats though are the standout here, being well formed to give good hip and lower back support, yet just the right firmness so a long drive won’t burn up your bottom. Rear seats are roomy, as are the fronts, so four adults easily fit and five will too, if the person sandwiched in back isn’t an NFL tackle.
Rear seats split and fold flat and there’s some storage beneath the cargo floor for carrying stuff. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the hatch is powered.
Optional equipment here was mostly value priced and likely wanted and/or needed by most buyers.
For instance, the Pro Safety Plus package that is standard on Denali runs just $645 here and includes lane-change alert, side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, smart cruise control and a safety alert seat. That’s pretty nice as it slightly vibrates the driver’s tooshie if there’s something in your blind spot or in your path as you back up.
The dual-pane sunroof and power shade are a bit much at $1,495, but certainly brightens the interior.
A $1,180 infotainment package adds a premium Bose stereo with seven speakers, navigation system with voice recognition, an 8-inch color info screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay hookups.
A tech package also adds HD surround vision, front and rear park assist and a HUD for $850.
The test Terrain was to have heated front seats, but that chip is in short supply, so it wasn’t included, but could be added by a dealer once the chip is available. For now, GMC gives a $50 credit, but the buttons are built in to the console already.
All told, with options, this Terrain hit $39,960, well below the average new vehicle price.
There are a few things I’d change inside though, starting with widening the inner portion of the console by about a half inch so a cell phone could lay flat, plus add wireless charging. A bit wider would be even better as folks with taller cell phones could then lay theirs flat too.
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There are a few things I’d change inside though, starting with widening the inner portion of the console by about a half inch so a cell phone could lay flat, plus add wireless charging.
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Seats though are the standout here, being well formed to give good hip and lower back support, yet just the right firmness so a long drive won’t burn up your bottom.
Then there’s the biggest faux pas, the automatic shift buttons on the lower center stack. They are odd and confusing as they are laid out horizontally, AND are a mix of push and pull toggles. Weirdest design I’ve seen, but you must push Park and Neutral, while you must pull a toggle to engage Reverse and Drive. Not cool!
Gas consumption was cool though, or at least darn good for an AWD compact SUV. I got 26.4 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA rates the Terrain at 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway on regular fuel. The RWD model gets up to 30 mpg.
Terrain should be on any value-oriented family’s shopping list, especially if you need or want an SUV that’s roomy and delivers a superior ride.
Others to consider include Mazda’s CX-5 and new CX-50, along with the VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford’s Escape, and Subaru’s Outback, to name a few.
Overview: 2022 GMC Terrain AT4 AWD
Hits: Muscular looks, great ride, decent acceleration, AWD, and three terrain settings. Dual-pane sunroof, power hatch, Bose stereo, comfy seats, roomy interior, skid plate, and good standard safety features.
Misses: No wireless charger or heated front seats, console cubie too narrow for Android phone to lay flat, confusing horizontal push/pull shift toggles.
Made in: Mexico
Engine: 1.5-liter turbo I4, 170 hp/203 torque
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 3,659 lbs.
Wheelbase: 107.3 in.
Length: 182.3 in.
Cargo: 63.3 cu.ft.
MPG: 26.4 (tested)
Base Price: $35,145 (includes delivery)
Infotainment pkg. II (Bose premium audio w/7 speakers & amp, 8-inch HD color touchscreen w/Nav & voice recognition, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), $1,180
GMC Pro Safety Plus pkg. (lane change alert w/side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, safety alert seat, adaptive cruise control), $645
Skyscape sunroof w/power shade, $1,495
Tech pkg. (HD surround vision, front and rear park assist, HUD), $850
Cayenne Red paint, $645
Heated front seat credit, -$50
Test vehicle: $39, 960
Sources: GMC, www.kbb.com