2012 GMC Terrain

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$25,560

starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown

SUV

Body style

26

Combined MPG

5

Seating capacity

185.3” x 66.3”

Dimensions

Front-wheel drive

Drivetrain

Overview

The good:

  • Four-cylinder gas mileage
  • Quiet cabin
  • Roomy backseat
  • Seat-folding mechanism
  • Large storage spaces

The bad:

  • Uninspiring V-6
  • Mushy brakes
  • Slow-reacting automatic
  • Wide turning circle
  • Large blind spot

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 GMC Terrain trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best SUVs for 2024

Notable features

  • Related to Chevrolet Equinox
  • Four-cylinder or V-6
  • Available AWD
  • Five seats
  • Standard backup camera

2012 GMC Terrain review: Our expert's take

By David Thomas

Rarely do I put more than 1,000 miles on a test car, but that’s what happened when the 2012 GMC Terrain came into my hands.

The verdict? Any vehicle that can keep me as happy, as free of back pain and as entertained as the 2012 GMC Terrain did for a thousand miles should win an award.

Actually, the Terrain’s twin, the Chevy Equinox, did win Cars.com’s $29,000 Shootout. My GMC tester cost significantly more than that, but still delivered a lot of value.

What’s New
Launched in 2010, the Terrain offers just a few updates for 2012, but what’s striking is that the crossover didn’t need much fixing. (See the two model years compared here.) The Terrain comes relatively well-equipped in its base, SLE trim level, which starts at $25,560. For 2012, the Terrain’s new standard features are technology-focused, including a new standard audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, a 7-inch touch-screen and a USB input. Bluetooth, cruise control and OnStar remain standard.

Other new standard features include a backup camera whose image appears in the 7-inch display instead of the rearview mirror.

This higher level of standard features justifies the Terrain’s higher starting price versus the Chevy Equinox’s $23,530.

Performance
Whether you pick the four- or the six-cylinder engine, you’ll get a competent power plant, but not one that will stand out. My V-6, front-wheel-drive test vehicle had plenty of power to get up to speed on the highway, but the six-speed automatic wasn’t as smooth as others in this class. For most drivers, though, it likely will not be an issue.

We’ve had issues with the estimated mileage of the four-cylinder engine in the Chevy Equinox; it rarely reached the EPA’s 22/32 mpg city/highway numbers. The V-6 Terrain, over a thousand-plus-mile road trip, rarely dropped below the EPA’s 24 mpg highway rating. That was with just me and a suitcase, in cool weather — between 20 and 40 degrees — across flat land with a 70 mph speed limit most of the way.

Long cruises were where I really appreciated the Terrain’s quiet, comfortable ride. This type of ride is one reason automakers have shifted from a traditional SUV chassis to a more carlike one in crossovers like the Terrain.

In the Terrain, the move is welcome. My longest stretch of driving was nine hours, from Chicago to Toronto. Even during that drive, my back never became sore. The leather seats in the SLT trim were comfortable, with plenty of lumbar and thigh support. In comparison, I drove a smaller compact crossover on a particularly long commute, and my back was aching after an hour. Everyone’s body is different, but the comfort level of the Terrain and Equinox has been praised by other Cars.com editors as well.

Because of the spotty mileage issues with the four-cylinder and the reasonable $1,400 upgrade to the V-6, I recommend shoppers move up — something I’ve done less frequently lately, as four-cylinders across the industry have steadily improved.

Features & Technology
In every model except the base, SLE-1, adding a navigation system (which displays on the 7-inch touch-screen) costs just $795 — a relative bargain, given most systems cost well above $1,000 as stand-alone options or even more as part of option packages.

I simply loved the multimedia and navigation system in the Terrain. It utilized the best of the touch-screen world as well as having physical buttons and knobs. I probably wouldn’t rave as much about this mix of controls if it weren’t for the fact that Ford relies on touch-sensitive panels that have irked our staff recently. The layout and screen clarity are a bit cleaner than that of the new Honda CR-V, but it’s a close call.

iPod integration in the Terrain is flawless. This, combined with the upgraded sound system, put me in music geek heaven as I crossed state and international borders. Its Bluetooth pairing was simple and effortless, but most manufacturers have perfected this. I found the nav system to be above average, as well. I particularly liked the ability to display navigation cues in the small LCD screen in the gauge cluster, supplementing the map on the touch-screen. That was a good place to see the mileage tick down before a necessary exit or freeway exchange.

I’m not one for voice controls, as a few simple button clicks seem more intuitive and faster, but the Terrain’s work about as well as Ford’s Sync voice recognition system and the new system from Honda.

Forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems were also on my tester. At just $295 as a bundled option on the highest, SLT-2 trim — the only version on which they’re available — they seem like a bargain, especially if you do a lot of bumper-to-bumper driving (for the former) or long stretches using cruise control (for the latter). These systems were introduced just a few years ago on luxury models, and it’s nice to see them available on an affordable model at a very affordable price.

Versus the Competition
The tough thing for the Terrain — and the Equinox — is where they fit among the competition. They’re larger on the outside than traditional compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 but offer less interior and cargo volume. They’re more expensive, too. They’re slightly smaller (but less expensive) than full-size crossovers and SUVs like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano, both of which can be had with power plants I prefer to GM’s.

The Dodge Journey was recently refreshed and is the most similar to the two GM products in terms of size and pricing, but the Terrain tops it in terms of performance and tech features.

See the Terrain compared with similarly equipped competitive models here.

Unlike some of the competition, the Terrain features a sliding second row, which is a crowd-pleasing feature when you’re taking friends to dinner and don’t mind losing cargo space by sliding the backseat rearward.

But that lack of cargo volume is substantial. I’m glad they don’t call it an SUV, because there isn’t much utility in the Terrain. At 31.6 cubic feet, the cargo area is significantly smaller than the CR-V’s 37.2 cubic feet or the Journey’s 39.6 cubic feet, and it’s just a smidge behind the Edge’s 32.2 cubic feet. The bigger issue with the Terrain is that the cargo area is particularly narrow, so items like golf bags and strollers have a hard time fitting horizontally across the back.

This limits the Terrain’s value to families with small kids, given the equipment they require. For those looking for a car to do standard hauling jobs, like grocery store trips or discount-club shopping runs — sans passengers — it will do the trick.

Safety
The Terrain was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the organization’s highest crash rating. It scored four stars out of five in the federal government’s overall crash rating. In individual government tests, it earned four stars in frontal crashes, five stars in side-impact tests and a four-star rollover rating.

You can find all the Terrain’s safety features here.

Terrain in the Market
The Terrain — along with the Equinox — is a terrific option for compact-crossover shoppers who want a more substantial feel out of their ride. It also packs all the current technology and safety features you would want in a car in this segment and price range.

Since it debuted in 2010, the Terrain has been a sales hit. Even with just a few minor upgrades, it should remain popular in 2012.

Send David an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.3
  • Interior 4.5
  • Performance 3.8
  • Value 4.0
  • Exterior 4.5
  • Reliability 4.0

Most recent consumer reviews

3.0

Junk that should have been trashed off the line.

In 2012 bought a 2012 GMC terrain sle brand new with only 60 miles on it. I had to replace wheel bearings before 25,000 miles, car stalled when entering the freeway with less than 10,000 miles, rumbles in eco mode, took to multiple dealerships for excessive exhaust noise and they all keep saying it's fine and normal noise. I had the manifold welded around 10,000 miles because they said I was right, there was an exhaust leak. Ok, well, I had to have the exhaust resonator, the flex pipe and catalytic converter replaced less than 60,000 miles, radio froze up on me multiple times and I recorded it in high definition and showed to dealership and they said they couldn't duplicate it so couldn't repair it, it finally stopped. The backup camera goes in and out whenever it wants, been doing it for years, driver side door panel came detached around 5,000 miles, windshield wipers stopped on the freeway in a torrential downpour in 2016 then again this year (2023) There was a recall for that so I was reimbursed for the first time I paid for it. You have to smash the gas pedal to the floor board and red line it when entering the freeway or you'll be ran off the freeway also when pulling out into traffic make a good judgement call because it doesn't have power to floor it. I have hundreds of paperwork receipts from everything I had repaired at the dealership,. I have kept up with all required maintenance and kept the oil changed on time or even before it was due to be changed and had the transmission fluid filter and fluid changed. I have kept tires rotated on time too. I also had the spark plugs replaced. It's 11.5 years old now and I think everything has been replaced on it except the motor and trans, I have less than almost 98,0000 miles on it. I had to sue under the lemon law and got money back because it was paid off since it was three years old. oops almost forgot the front window motors had to be replaced too. I wouldn't recommend this vehicle and in fact, I lost and Desire to buy any other GM made vehicle. I might expect it from a used car but not one bought brand new with ONLY 60 miles on it. I will never buy another GM not even Cadillac or Buick the supposed higher end upscale vehicles they slap together.

5.0

Great car love the design

I've had mine for 12 years I've driven it a cross country 6 times. It is a fantastic vehicle. I pulled a small travel trailer and it didn't change my gas mileage one bit. From IL to LA California never a problem.

5.0

NICE SUV GMC SLT2

I had this GMC for 6 years. Very dependable. Nice amenities. Don't confuse it with the SLE. This model is one step below the Denali. I only traded in because I missed my sports car convertible.

See all 134 consumer reviews

Safety

Based on the 2012 GMC Terrain base trim.
Combined side rating front seat
4
Combined side rating rear seat
5
Frontal barrier crash rating driver
5
Frontal barrier crash rating passenger
4
Overall frontal barrier crash rating
4
Overall rating
4
Overall side crash rating
5
Risk of rollover
19.1%
Rollover rating
4
Side barrier rating
5
Side barrier rating driver
4
Side barrier rating passenger rear seat
5
Side pole rating driver front seat
5

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by GMC
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
36 months/36,000 miles
Powertrain
60 months/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance
60 months/100,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/up to 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles bumper-to-bumper original warranty, then may continue to 6 years/100,000 miles limited (depending on variables)
Powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
172-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

See all 2012 GMC Terrain articles