|28/39||Max Fuel Economy||23/32|
|3,500 lbs||Max Towing Capacity||1,000 lbs|
|5 Passengers||Seating||5 Passengers|
Now is the time of the SUV. Automakers across the industry are expanding their offering of utility vehicles, and drivers can’t seem to get enough. SUVs and more importantly, compact SUVs attempt to perform a balancing act between space, power, and fuel economy. With so many compact SUVs on the market, it's easy to believe that not every vehicle manages to reach this balance of perfection. It is difficult to appeal to a wide range of drivers, especially with differing preferences, drive styles, and lifestyles. That said, a few vehicles come very close, if not thread the needle perfectly. The 2019 GMC Terrain vs 2019 Jeep Compass, two compact SUVs, that attempt to nail this concept of the perfect compact SUV.
Both the GMC Terrain and the Jeep Compass exist as but one SUV in a family lineup of other SUVs, however, they are clear standouts, offering a driving experience that is bound to appeal to any fan of compact SUVs. While both certainly rugged, powerful, and relatively fuel-efficient, only one of these compact SUVs ought to be considered the better buy.
When driving a compact SUV, there are a couple of things to expect, and one of them is a smaller engine. The compact size lends to the use of a more compact engine block. Fortunately, when done right this is hardly a problem. There are plenty of ways to design a four-cylinder engine that delivers plenty of power, and due to the smaller size, you’ll need far fewer cylinders to provide the kind of beefy driving experience that traditional, far larger, SUVs are known for.
The 2019 GMC Terrain meets this common expectation and runs with it. For starters, there are four trim options available in GMC’s flagship compact SUV the SL, SLE, SLT, and Denali. The base model SL, starts small, with a 1.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine that proudly boasts 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft worth of torque. This base model engine can haul up to 1,500 pounds behind its tailgate, and on top of that, earns some pretty impressive gas mileage coming in at 26 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. All of this power and efficiency starting out is quite impressive, even for a compact SUV, and things certainly don’t stop there.
Across trims, the 2019 GMC Terrain offers three different engine options, including a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel engine that provides 240 lb-ft of torque and far greater fuel economy. If you’re looking for power over fuel economy, you can even opt for a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine that roars out 252 horsepower. And don’t worry, the 2019 GMC Terrain is plenty off-road capable, offering drivers the option of a robust AWD drivetrain. All of these engine specs and incredible performance features make for a compact SUV that truly pushes the envelope in terms of what is expected of a compact SUV.
Jeep has certainly earned a reputation for making great rugged off-road full-size SUVs, but what about SUVs of the compact variety? Well, let's start with the engine specs. Every model of the Jeep Compass comes with a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine, which is responsible for 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft worth of torque. While this is certainly a solid engine to start with, some drivers may be disappointed by the amount of performance variety offered across trim options. That said, the Jeep Compass still has a towing capacity of 1,000 pounds and manages to chime in with a decent fuel economy at 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
While the Jeep Compass offers a rather limited engine layout, it makes up for it in its Trailhawk trim. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk, like other Trailhawk models, comes off-road-ready the moment you drive it off of the dealership lot. This rugged readiness includes add-ons like a beefy 4x4 drivetrain, a lifted suspension, and a 9-speed automatic transmission that is optimized for crawling over rigorous terrain.
While engine specs and performance matter when discussing compact SUVs, following closely behind in terms of importance is the interior. The traditional SUV is expected to be large both inside and out, providing plenty of room for both cargo and passengers. The compact SUV, while certainly smaller, is expected to live up to this same promise to some extent.
The 2019 GMC Terrain may be the smaller SUV in its family lineup, but the 182.3 inches of length and 72.4 inches of width certainly count for something. In the 2019 GMC Terrain front and rear-seat passengers are treated equally to about 39.7 cubic inches of legroom. Cargo is certainly a plus onboard the GMC Terrain as well, as behind the rear seats, drivers can pack up to 29.6 cu.ft. of gear. Fold those seats down, and you’ll find that number expand to 63.3 cu.ft., which is certainly impressive. Fortunately, these seats fold completely flat, so you’ll likely have little issue packing everything you need inside the 2019 GMC Terrain.
Interior comforts are worth noting as well, as base models get active noise cancellation, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7.0 inch-infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and keyless ignition. Taking a step up the trim option ladder, and you’ll find even more luxuries such as a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats.
While the 2019 GMC Terrain may feel quite glamorous, base models of the 2019 Jeep Compass feel somewhat bare by comparison. Legroom is tight in the rear seats, offering 38.3 inches of legroom; however, you’ll find plenty of headspace. Fortunately, the Jeep Compass makes up for this lack of spacing with plenty of soft-touch materials, a cloth-upholstery that is as rugged as the Jeep brand. Cargo falls a bit short of the competition, only offering 27.2 cu.ft. behind the rear seats, and 59.8 cu.ft. when those seats are folded.
In terms of interior comforts, the base model of the Jeep Compass is in tight competition with its competitors. Drivers will find features like keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, and a 7.0-inch infotainment display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Much like the GMC Terrain, these features can be compounded upon, offering drivers the option of heated seats, power-adjustable seating, a larger infotainment screen, and a heated, leather-wrapped, steering wheel.
Safety is a huge deal for drivers nowadays, especially as more and more vehicles come with active safety features that do an excellent job of potentially preventing collisions. The base model of the 2019 GMC Terrain may not include any of these automated safety features, but it does include a rearview camera and a teen driver feature that allows parents to control how often their teenss get behind the wheel. Move up the trim options, and you’ll find a more fleshed out safety package including features like parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and a set of upgraded headlights.
In regards to safety features, the base model of the Jeep Compass falls a little behind. If you pay the entry-level fee, you’ll be given the bare minimum, including airbags, and a rearview camera. While the Jeep Compass does offer active safety in higher trims, you’ll have to pay more for them, which makes the Compass somewhat outdated alongside other vehicles that make some of these features more accessible. This fact is compounded by the fact that this Jeep SUV earned a less than satisfactory rating from the IIHS. While the Jeep Compass, earned ‘Good’ and ‘Superior’ scores in other areas, it earned a ‘Poor’ and ‘Marginal’ rating for its headlights.