|5-stars||NHTSA Overall Safety Rating||4-stars|
|27||Combined Fuel Economy (MPG)||25|
|63.8||Cargo Space (cu.ft.)||59.8|
The compact SUV is the most popular and most competitive segment of the automobile market, with nearly every brand offering its own take on this class of vehicle. But while there are many options, drivers looking for something more will likely find themselves comparing the 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2021 Jeep Compass. These two brands cater to slightly different audiences, with GMC promising a premium experience while Jeep offers outdoor adventure, but they are both aimed at drivers who are not satisfied with the ordinary.
While the 2021 Terrain lives up to GMC’s reputation for premium products, especially with the outright luxurious Denali trim, the 2021 Compass largely fails to deliver on the adventure associated with the Jeep name. Although it offers sharp looks, the Compass lives in the shadow of the far more capable Jeep Cherokee and comes up short in terms of performance and features. Although it is a respectable entry in the compact SUV market, the 2021 Jeep Compass is simply outmatched when placed against the 2021 GMC Terrain.
Both the 2021 GMC Terrain and 2021 Jeep Compass offer similar levels of performance, but they do so in different ways. While you are unlikely to notice a huge difference in acceleration or all-weather handling between these two compact SUVs, the Terrain manages to offer a bit more torque as well as noticeably better fuel economy. This is because GMC used a much more modern powertrain that consists of a turbocharged engine and a standard nine-speed automatic transmission, which allows for smooth power delivery and greater efficiency.
The 2021 Jeep Compass comes standard with a 2.4L four-cylinder engine, which is an older technology. In fact, the 2.4L Tigershark was first introduced back in 2013 and is based on an engine that dates back to 2007. Although it produces a respectable 180 horsepower, like most naturally-aspirated four-cylinders, it comes up short in low-end power and only offers 175 lb-ft of torque. The standard front-wheel drive configuration further handicaps the engine by pairing it with an aging six-speed automatic transmission.
Meanwhile, the 2021 GMC Terrain uses a thoroughly modern 1.5L turbocharged engine that produces plenty of power while offering good cruising efficiency. The LYX engine was only introduced in 2018 and delivers an impressive 203 lb-ft of torque from 2000 to 4000 rpm. That low-end muscle is perfect for taking off from a stoplight or handling rough terrain. Even better, the engine comes standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission that helps it further maximize efficiency and power.
Where the more modern GMC powertrain really excels is when it comes to efficiency. Despite its significantly higher peak torque when you hit the gas, the 1.5L turbo burns very little fuel when you are cruising on the highway.
No matter which configurations you compare, the 2021 GMC Terrain will be saving you money at the pump. Normally you have to choose between performance and efficiency, but thanks to the engineers at GMC, you can have both with the 2021 Terrain.
Safety may not be the most exciting aspect of a new vehicle, but it is something that needs to be considered. Driving is inherently a risky activity, and accidents happen to even the very best drivers. However, with a modern SUV, not only will you and your passengers be protected from harm should the worst occur, but the vehicle can even help you avoid accidents entirely through the use of advanced driver-assist technologies. Both the 2021 Terrain and the 2021 Compass are solidly-built vehicles with lots of modern safety features available, but when it comes to overall ratings and standard equipment, you will discover that the GMC Terrain has a significant advantage.
The foundation of a safe vehicle begins with crash testing. While driver skill and advanced technology can help mitigate many types of accidents, some accidents are simply unavoidable. When worst comes to worst, you need to know that you can count on your vehicle to shield its occupants from danger. The primary crash-test organization in America is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It runs every vehicle through a set of standardized tests to determine frontal crash, side crash, and rollover ratings, awarding up to five stars based on the results.
In NHTSA testing, the 2021 Jeep Compass had rather average results:
In contrast, the 2021 GMC Terrain received near-perfect ratings:
The rollover rating was the only place that kept the Terrain from a perfect score, but it is not surprising as it is extremely rare for an SUV to get a five-star rollover rating. The higher ride height that makes SUVs so practical naturally results in a higher center of gravity that slightly increases rollover risk.
In a modern vehicle, crash testing is only the foundation of safety. It should also be accompanied by advanced driver-assist technologies that will help the vehicle avoid accidents automatically. Not so long ago, these active safety features were limited to only the top trims of high-end vehicles, but today they are increasingly standard on even base models. The 2021 GMC Terrain comes with a half dozen such systems standard on the base SL trim, ranging from front crash prevention to lane departure prevention. Unfortunately, the base Sport trim of the 2021 Jeep Compass has no standard active safety features, and even the optional features are only available on the higher trims.
The key driver-assist technologies that you will find standard on every trim of the 2021 GMC Terrain help to mitigate a wide variety of the most common types of accidents. Automatic Emergency Braking is perhaps the most important, warning you of impending frontal collisions and then automatically applying the brakes to bring the vehicle to a stop. The Jeep Compass offers a similar feature as an option, but Jeep’s Advanced Brake-Assist can only prevent collisions with other vehicles, while GMC’s technology can also detect pedestrians.
The GMC Terrain and Jeep Compass both offer comfortable interiors with plenty of cargo space and modern tech features. Whether you are commuting to work, taking the family on a road trip, or moving furniture, a compact SUV can do it all. However, there are some key differences between these two models when it comes to both comfort and practicality.
Like most compact SUVs, the 2021 Terrain and 2021 Compass offer seating for five passengers with two front bucket seats and a second-row bench seat. But when it comes to usable interior space, the slightly larger dimensions of the GMC result in a more comfortable ride.
2021 GMC Terrain:
2021 Jeep Compass:
With more generous interior measurements, especially in the second row, your passengers are certain to be more comfortable riding in a Terrain. The extra hiproom, in particular, helps transform the middle of the second row from being an uncomfortable afterthought into a useful fifth seat.
The same story continues when it comes to cargo space - the 2021 GMC Terrain can fit an impressive 63.8 cubic feet, while the 2021 Jeep Compass maxes out at 59.8 cubic feet of cargo. The difference may not seem huge on paper, but it could mean being able to get that new dresser home instead of having to call a friend with a truck.
Modern SUVs offer more features than you can count, and both the Terrain and the Compass check all the boxes. Available comfort features in both models range from heated seats and heated steering wheels to dual-zone climate control and leather upholstery. They even both offer dual-pane panoramic sunroofs to let in the light. However, when it comes to quality materials and premium feel, even the top trims of the Jeep Compass cannot match GMC’s legendary Denali trim. With features such as real burnished aluminum accents, wood-grain trim, and French-stitched leather seats, the Terrain Denali is simply a cut above the competition.
When it comes to technology, the 2021 Terrain has more standard features available than the 2021 Compass. Although both vehicles come standard with a 7” central touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, GMC went further than Jeep and added a standard 4G LTE WiFi hotspot. The 2021 Terrain also comes with standard USB-A and USB-C data ports, making it easy to connect your phone, while the 2021 Compass only has a single USB-A port standard.