Even if sport-utility drivers never go off the pavement, looking the part seems to be popular.

That’s the plan for the 2022 GMC Terrain, which gets a styling refresh and also adds its first AT4 trim level, which is the automaker’s shorthand for premium off-road. The AT4 nameplate was first used on the Sierra half-ton truck a handful of years ago, with the Terrain now rounding out the lineup to include every GMC model.

For the Terrain, the 2022 refresh provides a new grille and fascia, new LED lighting, updated wheel designs, and new exterior colours. The AT4 trim further adds a front skid plate and traction select system with three driving modes. Other enhancements across the Terrain’s trims include standard satellite radio and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; an eight-inch configurable instrument cluster display in the Denali; and an available package of a head-up display, surround-view camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

New Show, Same Go

This is more of a first look than a first drive, as nothing about the Terrain’s mechanical components has changed. It’s powered by a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 170 hp and 203 lb-ft of torque that’s mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. It shares its platform and engine with the Chevrolet Equinox, although the Chevy uses a six-speed automatic instead.

Despite adding features, GMC has priced most Terrain trims below what they cost in 2021. The entry SLE, the sole trim where all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional, begins at $32,498 including a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,900. Everything else is AWD only, with the SLT starting at $37,498; the AT4 at $38,098; and the Denali at $43,498.

Options and packages are available, such as a bundle of safety-assist technologies including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear parking sensors – all of which are standard with the Denali but an add-on for all others. The SLE and SLT offer the very popular Elevation appearance package with its black accents and gloss-black wheels.

I started my day in the AT4. Along with the skid plate and terrain select, which can be dialled into an off-road setting for dirt, gravel, or sand, plus it gets unique tires on 17-inch wheels. It’s still relatively mild, though, since there’s no extra ground clearance or a differential lock. It’ll get you over a rough cottage road, and did a great job on a rutted gravel trail on my route to a vehicle change – although I traversed the same trail in the Denali on the way back out and it tackled it equally well.

The Terrain’s little engine is fine off the line in city traffic, but it can get a bit wheezy when pushed for hard highway passing. The nine-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) combined fuel figures of 8.6 L/100 km in front-wheel drive and 9.0 in AWD are mid-pack with competitors.

The steering is responsive and the turning circle is tight. The ride is a bit firm but still comfortable, and the cabin’s fairly quiet. It’s not a segment standout for its driving performance, but it’s well within what most buyers expect in a mainstream compact sport-ute.

The Same Inside

The front seats stayed comfortable on the day’s drive, and they are power-adjustable eight ways on the driver’s side and six on the passenger. They’re heated in the AT4 and further ventilated in the Denali, both of which also come with heated steering wheels, but they may not be operable since General Motors (GM) is waiting on backlogged microchips for them. You’ll get a $50 credit right now, and then a no-charge dealer retrofit once the chips are in.

The dash design looks a bit dated, but in its favour is that almost everything is simple and intuitive. The dual-zone automatic climate system uses dials for temperature, and the centre touchscreen has hard buttons to bring up the various menus. The head-up display – a plastic screen atop the dash, rather than a windshield projection, which still works just fine – is adjusted by toggles. Most automakers force you to tap various screens to do so, and I wish they’d all copy GM’s simple-and-superior method.

But I very much dislike the shifter, which uses a row of buttons that you tap or pull to change gears. It saves console space, but a dial or even a push-pull electronic knob – as much as I don’t like those, either – would be much better. There’s also manual shift mode, and while that’s usually done with steering-wheel-mounted paddles, this uses a pair of centre-stack buttons beside the drive tab, as if anyone’s going to reach over and do it that way.

I also question the dial that switches from front- to all-wheel drive. The Terrain runs primarily in front-wheel drive but sends power to the rear wheels as needed for traction. The fuel savings when selecting the former would be minimal, and if you don’t remember to switch it in foul weather, you won’t get the benefit of AWD. For that matter, even on a dry day, you may encounter circumstances where AWD would be beneficial; an always-on system seems to make more sense.

Final Thoughts

The Terrain is the top seller among GMC’s sport-utilities in Canada, and its Denali trim is popular, but I’m guessing the new AT4 is going to see some love from buyers, too. The extra features across other trims is a bonus as well. With this refresh, the 2022 GMC Terrain is better-looking and intelligently priced, and gives shoppers another choice in this popular segment.

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