MILL RUN, PA – After nearly a decade in the same set of clothing, the ’18 GMC Terrain gets outfitted with a fresh set of duds almost certain to elevate its appeal in the popular midsize CUV segment in the U.S.

The 5-passenger light truck arriving at dealers also receives a host of new comfort and convenience items, heightened connectivity and three capable, fuel-efficient engines. Base models also get about $2,000 more expensive and the sticker for top-trim Denali models now surpasses $40,000. But the price hike seems justifiable given the added content and red-hot demand for CUVs.

The redesigned exterior alone moves the San Luis Potosi, Mexico-built Terrain further up among its long list of peers, such as decked-out versions of the Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Santa Fe. The previous model certainly was expressive but perhaps a bit too much. The polarizing look goes out the window, supplanted by sleek styling with small details that emerge from each angle.

Up front, three different grille treatments are available and each is wider and shallower than on the previous model to give the Terrain greater road presence. Jewel-like LED lighting and efficient HID lamps bookend the grilles, while decorative chrome frames the lower fascia.

The hood is muscular, with subtle character lines, and in a bit of design sleight of hand the roof appears to float above the greenhouse and tapers elegantly rearward to punctuate its sleekness. Powerful rear quarters receive short overhangs and rear LED lamps wrap the back end together nicely. Available 19-in., ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels on Denali models add a little flash to the outfit. Standard wheels are 17-in. aluminum and an 18-in. set also is available.

Bottom line: The Terrain looks more like an SUV than CUV, especially compared with its predecessor, and basic trim models starting at $25,970 could be mistaken as costing much more.

Inside, the Terrain has a premium look and feel. All trim levels use authentic aluminum for pieces such as door pulls and to frame the center console, HVAC vents and the interior of the steering wheel. Other interior parts are soft to the touch. His-and-her cupholders eliminate any confusion over which drink belongs to whom, and mechanical door-lock pulls have been removed to create a comfy nook for your elbow in the armrest.

The Terrain marks the first application of General Motors’ Electronic Precision Shift technology, which eliminates a mechanical transmission-gear shifter for a by-wire system that uses a combination of buttons and triggers on the center stack just below the HVAC controls. It’s a nifty setup that is easily adapted using two fingers with your eyes on the road and frees up a lot of valuable center-console storage space.

An available Bose 7-speaker audio system kicks out the jams, while Bose noise-cancellation technology mostly suppresses occasional powertrain noise. There’s a choice of either 7- or 8-in. (18- or 20-cm) diagonal infotainment screens compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A standard OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot never fails during the test drive here, although data fees apply after a free trial period. Smartphones link up with the car quickly and owners can manage vehicle settings from their mobile device with a GMC app.

Seats are comfortable in both rows and fold-flat, front-passenger and second-row seats open up a maximum 81 cu. ft. (2,293 L) of storage space, which puts Terrain among the most flexible in its segment.

ADAS Aplenty, But No ACC

A roster of available active-safety equipment alerts drivers of potential crash threats, while an industry-first Rear Seat Reminder technology from GM prompts drivers to double check the rear seat for a forgotten child or valuables left in the open. It is a smart piece of technology that could save a family from a real tragedy and can be shut off easily if the owner chooses.

A hands-free power liftgate is standard on Denali models and is available on other trim levels. However, it seems a little finicky on models tested here.

Like its Chevy Equinox platform mate, the Terrain receives a lineup of turbocharged 4-cyl. engines new to the nameplate. Standard equipment is an all-new 170-hp 1.5L gasoline unit, which as previously tested in the Equinox does yeoman’s work, while the optional choice is a proven 252-hp 2.0L gasoline engine with the pull of a V-6.

Both engines are paired to a smooth, smart 9-speed automatic transmission. The only quibble with the 2.0L is a slight thrum from the transmission housing. The combination averaged 24.4 mpg (9.6 L/100 km) during mixed driving conditions.

The Terrain also offers for the first time a 1.6L turbodiesel with 137 hp and 240 lb.-ft. (325 Nm) of torque. GM went to great lengths to reduce the engine’s noise and vibration from its first application in the Chevy Cruze compact car. It also gets standard stop/start technology for the first time in the Terrain and Equinox to eliminate vibration at idle, a bugaboo of most small-displacement diesels. A quick sprint to the airport with the diesel Terrain returned just over 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), and dipping gently into the throttle at highway speeds delivers a short boost of torque to confidently overtake traffic.

Each model handles exceptionally well, regardless of the powertrain, thanks to a creative mix of lightweight materials GM has been employing on new and redesigned models across its lineup. Base models of the new Terrain are 343 lbs. (156 kg) lighter than its predecessor, but the body structure is 34% more rigid, even with the addition of a dual-pane panoramic sunroof.

The ’18 Terrain also gains maneuverability. It is 3 ins. (76 mm) shorter in overall length and wheelbase than the old model, slightly narrower and its height is down about 1.0 in. (25 mm). The turning circle curb-to-curb shrinks 3 ins.

Optional all-wheel drive further improves handling and includes Traction Select so drivers can pick a unique power mode to optimize items such as throttle control to match the conditions, or choose full-time AWD. An additional disconnect mode switches to front-wheel drive whenever possible to maximize fuel economy.

There is a relatively long list of available advanced driver-assistance systems employing cameras, radars and alerts to improve safety, although adaptive cruise control is not offered at any trim level.

As far as redesigns go, the new Terrain goes further than most, delivering a stylish, functional CUV ready to wear out of the box.

jamend@wardsauto.com

'18 GMC Terrain Denali Specifications

Vehicle type 5-door, 5-passenger midsize CUV
Engine 2.0L turbocharged DOHC gasoline direct injection 4-cyl. with aluminum block, head
Power (SAEnet) 252 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) @ 2,500-4,500 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 86.0 x 86.0
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Transmission Hydra-Matic 9T50 9-speed automatic
Wheelbase 107.3 ins. (2,725 mm)
Overall length 182.3 ins. (4,652 mm)
Overall width 72.4 ins. (1,843 mm)
Overall height 65.4 ins. (1,661 mm)
Curb weight 3,756 lbs. (1,704 kg)
Price as tested $44,450 with $975 destination fee
Fuel economy 21/26 mpg (11.2-9.0 L/100 km) city/highway
Competition Ford Edge, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Outback
Pros Cons
Superb styling makeover Content drives up price
Three powertrain options Perceived NVH issue
Lots of ADAS items ACC not among them