General Motors redesigned the GMC Terrain with tidier dimensions, bringing it in line with most of the compact-SUV segment. The automaker has positioned the new version as a more premium offering than its sibling Chevrolet Equinox, to capture part of the hot upscale-SUV market.

But we found the Terrain lacking in some key areas, such as ride comfort, handling, and cabin noise. By contrast, we found the less-expensive Equinox that we recently tested to be quieter and more enjoyable to drive because it does a better job smoothing out the ride.

On the road, the Terrain’s handling is mushy, giving the driver the impression that it doesn’t want to be pushed. The 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that we opted for has decent power, but the nine-speed automatic transmission it’s paired with is not especially smooth. Some part-throttle downshifts result in hesitation, which adds to its weak responsiveness.

What we bought: 2018 GMC Terrain SLE

Drivetrain: 2.0-liter, 252-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine; 9-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $29,570
Destination fee: $975
Options we added: 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, $1,745; Driver Convenience Package, which features an eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat, heated front seats, remote start, and dual-zone climate control, $1,375; Infotainment Package, with the 8-inch touch screen and navigation, $995; dual-pane sunroof, $1,495; power rear liftgate, $400; and metallic paint, $395.
Total cost: $36,950

We found the Terrain’s ride to be too stiff and uncomfortable, and the cabin gets quite loud, mostly dominated by wind and road noise. There’s also some noise from the suspension, which we didn’t expect to hear from such a relatively pricey SUV.

In terms of fuel economy, we’re seeing about 23 mpg overall so far, according to the Terrain’s trip computer. This appears about par for the class, although fair comparisons will be possible only after we complete formal testing.

On the safety front, forward-collision warning and low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, and blind-spot warning are available as options, but they are not widely available on dealer lots.

2018 GMC Terrain interior

Inside the Terrain’s cabin, the seats are covered in a not-kind-to-the touch coarse fabric. The seats feel firm when you first settle in, but they quickly lose support, often after just a short drive. Rear-seat room is on par for the class.

Some interior trim bits feel cheap, which is especially glaring for an almost $37,000 vehicle.

The Terrain has an unorthodox gear selector, which has unintuitive-to-operate buttons mounted low on the front of the center console. Some of the buttons are operated by pushing, others by pulling. Drivers might need to divert their eyes to locate which button they might need—making selections particularly challenging at night. We’re struggling to find the value that these buttons might add over a more traditional-style shifter.

The other controls are fairly simple and easy to use. Our Terrain has GM’s new infotainment system, which comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. This optional system features an 8-inch screen and is an upgrade from the base model’s 7-inch one. But in our view it lacks some of the functionality we enjoyed in the previous-generation system, which is in the current Equinox.

2018 GMC Terrain rear

During our first drive, we were a bit underwhelmed with GM’s upscale compact SUV. The so-so interior quality, noisy cabin, and uninspired performance make us question the Terrain’s high price. Other high-trim models in the Terrain’s price range—such as the Honda CR-V TouringToyota RAV4 Platinum, and Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium—have much nicer cabins and a more rewarding driving experience. Perhaps that explains why many dealers are offering discounts to the tune of $10,000 on the brand-new Terrain.

Read the complete GMC Terrain road test