The all-new GMC Terrain somewhat bucks the automotive trend of each new model generation getting bigger, heavier and more powerful. This new generation — built on the same D2 global architecture as the Chevrolet Equinox — is lighter, shorter and even has a reduced wheelbase in comparison to the old Terrain. There isn’t even a V6 engine option on offer this time around. Have the engineers and designers from GMC lost their minds? Well, no.

Following on from the new Acadia, the Terrain is a concerted effort to produce another vehicle in the line-up to promote GMC as a global brand. The smaller dimensions now place the Terrain firmly in the competitive compact crossover SUV segment and clever design and packaging has resulted in minimal loss of rear legroom and luggage hauling capabilities. The intention therefore seems clear, GMC are gunning for a major volume player in the global market.

The all-new Terrain stands out thanks to its bold styling, powerful stance and exclusive features such as LED headlights, 19in wheels and the multidimensional Denali grille

Despite this being relatively new territory for GMC, the design of the new Terrain manages to successfully balance it’s traditional, slightly masculine brand identity (relax you GMC truckers) with a modern and much more interesting appearance than its predecessor. A newly designed grille, funky angular headlights and a ‘floating roof’ combined with squared-off wheel arches give the Terrain an architectural and sculptured look that is surprisingly refreshing in a segment where ‘bland and inoffensive’ is usual the modus operandi.

And some of these outward design elements are even carried through to the interior as well. A lot of details on the Terrain are C-shaped. The headlights and the taillights are C-shaped and even the air vents either side of the infotainment unit are all brought to you by the letter C. Mirrored and rotated C-detailing abound on both interior and exterior and GMC designers took great delight in pointing this out to us in the pre-drive briefing. Which I naturally found a little bit amusing as the main exterior design element is the apparent absence of the C-pillar which gives the ‘floating roof’ effect.

The cabin features premium materials along with a flexible and spacious cargo area not to mention the very latest in entertainment and technology

GMC has also stepped up its game considerably on the quality and feel of the interior trim. In both base model and premium Denali variants, the Terrain follows in the footsteps of the Acadia with a raised awareness of customer expectations for the global market concerning quality, comfort and trim as well as loading vehicles with as much modern tech as possible. But the real point of interest on the interior of the Terrain is those side-by-side cupholders. No, really. I am not joking.

Apparently there is a real desire from customers in this segment for side-by-side cupholders rather than in-line cupholders and that’s exactly what the Terrain has. Hurrah! But wait a minute. Shouldn’t there be a drive selector there? A traditional gear lever between driver and front-seat passenger has been ditched in favour of beverage placement and — despite differing opinions from some of my esteemed peers — I think it is a logical and practical solution to something I have always viewed as a bulky and redundant feature on automatic vehicles.

The electronic gear selector is now positioned on the centre console. Push the appropriate switch for neutral or park. Pull the appropriate switch towards you for drive or reverse. It’s a doddle to use and even has a feature where you can go into lower gears easily for hill descent etc. Kudos to GMC for dispensing with the norm in favour of logic and neatly packaging it in an easy to use, uncomplicated and intuitive way. Gaining extra space for side-by-side cupholders is just a pleasant side effect.

Despite this being relatively new territory for GMC, the design of the new Terrain manages to successfully balance it’s traditional, slightly masculine brand identity (relax you GMC truckers) with a modern and much more interesting appearance than its predecessor.

As mentioned previously, there is no V6 option for the new Terrain. There are two petrol variants now available, and both of them are in-line fours connected to General Motors’ new smooth shifting nine-speed transmission. It’s therefore probably no real surprise to hear that both engines are turbocharged necessitated by the current trend in downsizing. The entry level 1.5-litre now produces 170 horsepower which is a little down on horses than the older 2.4-litre entry level. But yes, torque is now boosted to 275Nm which is more than adequate for shifting the Terrain FWD version’s 1,500kg. And more eco-friendly in the process if that is something that concerns you. The larger engine on the Terrain SLT and Denali is now a 2.0-litre turbo engine and it provides a much tastier 252 horsepower and 353Nm of torque.

Both engines are smooth and performed well on our test route and I am becoming a fan of GM’s new nine-speed automatic. However, both engines display a noticeable amount of lag between requesting a foot-full of torque and receiving it. Turbo technology has advanced a lot over the last few years regarding performance cars but on a compact crossover SUV — built for smooth running — I think an acceptable amount of lag is to be expected. What is surprising is that the character of the Terrain doesn’t change much depending on which engine you are running. Both offer up a refined and hassle-free driving experience with one simply feeling like a slightly faster version of the other. Which oddly brings us back to the interior…

A lot of details on the Terrain are C-shaped. The headlights and the taillights are C-shaped and even the air vents either side of the infotainment unit are all brought to you by the letter C.

There’s nothing really showboat-y or overly flamboyant about the interior of the new Terrain minus those special ‘C-design’ elements, those ‘wonderful’ side-by-side cupholders and the ‘neat’ transmission selector. But it’s a very pleasant place to be. Seats are comfortable, steering is nicely weighted, brake pedal is firm, chassis has been stiffened so handling is improved, but it still manages to soak up most of the imperfections on the roads around Pittsburgh. It even excels at some things like road and wind noise insulation, safety features and tech and, especially on the Denali version, quality trim materials and a very nice Bose sound system. It’s a car you could live with every day in the US, the Middle East, China or even Europe. It’s what you expect from a global car in this segment and GMC has risen to the challenge. But will customers shift allegiance from the traditional German and Japanese offerings to make this new Terrain a genuine major volume contender in the global market? Only time will tell I guess…