The compact sport-utility segment is by far the most popular in Canada, with auto makers selling close to 400,000 of them last year, far outstripping compact cars.
General Motors has a strong player in the Chevrolet Equinox, built at its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., updated for 2018. Now the near-identical GMC Terrain is getting its own makeover, debuting at the 2017 North American International Auto Show.
The new model has shed about 220 kilograms and is also shorter, lower and narrower putting it in a better position to target the better sellers like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5.
"We expect it (the SUV segment) to grow significantly over the next six years and we believe, with the new Terrain, we can get a greater share of that big segment," Duncan Aldred, vice president of global GMC Sales and Marketing, told Globe Drive Sunday night. When asked how his company will increase it's share, he said, "we'll do that first and foremost with the stunning design of this new vehicle."
The Terrain has remained largely untouched stylistically since 2009. The Terrain also marks the next chapter in GMC's design language.
GM sells slightly more than half as many Terrains as Equinoxes in Canada, even less in the U.S. But the car maker attributes GMC's North American strong sales growth over the last decade largely to Terrain.
The 2018 Terrain, which hits dealerships this summer, will again come in SLE, SLT and top-line Denali trim levels, all which come with a turbo engine - two new aluminum gasoline and one new turbo-diesel.
The 1.5-litre gas motor delivers 170 horsepower and 203 lb.-ft. of torque, while the two-litre unit offers 252 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The diesel produces 137 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque.
While many manufacturers are shying away from diesels in North America, GMC is betting on it selling.
Diesel engines "won't be as big (sellers) as the gas engines (in North America)," said Aldred. "Nevertheless, it is an important entry into what is going to be what is going to be the biggest segment in the industry.
We think diesel will play a big role for us and help us grow our sales."
The gas engines each get different versions of GM's new nine-speed automatic transmission while the diesel gets a six-speed autobox. No manual transmission is offered and the console shifter itself is done away with in favour of electronically controlled gear selection using "intuitive push buttons and pull triggers."
The expanded centre console features pass-through storage and side-by-side cupholders.
The Terrain's new interior is meant to convey a premium ambiance using elements such as real aluminum trim instead of silver-painted plastic and soft-touch materials on the dash and doors, as well as active noise cancellation.
The Denali model adds things like tinted colour trim, piping on the front seats, standard heated steering wheel, nav, Bose sound system and hands-free programmable power lift gate.
Aldred said GMC sells more Denali models as the vehicles get more expensive, but still expects to sell about 10-20 of its Terrains as this top trim level.
Space utilization is optimized with a new fold-flat front passenger seat, which along with the flat-folding rear seat give the Terrain better flexibility when carrying larger cargo items. New under-floor compartments also offer secure storage.
The usual suite of electronic safety features is expanded with additional radar and camera-based systems that aid drivers in everything from parking to avoiding collisions.
Besides Teen Driver, which allows parents to limit the performance of the vehicle and get feedback on how their kids are driving, the Terrain also features the new Rear Seat Reminder, which alerts drivers to check the back seat for overlooked kiddies before locking up the car.
Both the Equinox and Terrain are outsold in Canada by the segment-leading Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. The new Terrain's price won't be announced until later, but the 2017 models range from about $29,000 for a front-drive SLE-1 to around $43,000 for a Denali.
3.5 stars (out of 5)
Nicely detailed and with good engine options, but in a tough segment.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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