Making assumptions about a person simply because of their past history is a sure fire way to blind yourself from the ability to see them as they are today. People change and so do cars and carmakers. If you judged the merits of the 2011 GMC Terrain based on memories of the ironically quite forgettable GM compact SUVs sold up through the 2009 model year (known as the last generation Chevy Equinox and Pontiac Torrent) then you would be missing out on what is easily one of the best compact SUVs on the market today.
Road testing compact SUVs is not usually the most exciting job an auto journalist faces, but the 2011 GMC Terrain was such an unexpected surprise that we found ourselves driving it for fun and even showed it off to a group of BMW owners at a child’s birthday party - and they liked it. So how did GMC suddenly cook up a compact SUV that impressed owners of vehicles from a brand that practically guarantees at least a little bit of a superiority complex?
We could have convinced them with a test drive but didn’t do that as we didn’t want to get snooty all over the leather seats in our fully loaded SLT-2 model or take away any attention from the birthday girl’s fabulous party.
Although the aforementioned two year old was unavailable for a comment about the Terrain as she was busy stealing everyone’s vanilla ice cream during her party, the thing that most obviously sets the Terrain apart (and above) all of the compact SUV competition is the quality, design, comfort and style of its interior. And everyone liked the Terrain’s macho, slab-sided exterior styling because it wasn’t like other compact SUVs which so often look like blobs of suburban malaise.
Now, there is nothing more depressing than driving a poorly packaged, cheap feeling, ugly, formless, boring to drive and downright soul sapping compact SUV and we have tested more than a few. We still remember how hard it was getting through a week with the Nissan Rogue, VW Tiguan, Jeep Liberty and don’t get us started about the Ford Escape which is the last gaping reminder of how bad Fords used to be at the turn of the millennium when that recall magnet was launched.