A green 2021 GMC Terrain is driving down a cobblestone road after winning a 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2021 Jeep Compass comparison.

Compact SUV Comparison: 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2021 Jeep Compass

The SUV market is so competitive that there are subcategories to SUVs. Everything from full-size SUVs to subcompact SUVs, and plenty of variants, from hybrids to crossovers and everything else in between. Finding the right kind of SUV or even being interested in a certain SUV for enthusiast purposes leads you down a rabbit hole of information related to all of the different brands, variants, and trims.

For those of you who have taken an interest in the Terrain and Compass, you’re in luck because we have a match-up that specifically pits the two compact SUVs against one another to find out how each one ranks in certain categories. To see how the 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2021 Jeep Compass stacks up, keep reading to find out which one is better than the other in the compact category.

Peak Power

This is a difficult showdown between the 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2021 Jeep Compass because their capabilities on the powertrain front are very similar. Both vehicles come with only one engine, but the Compass has two different transmission configurations available. However, neither option gives the Compass an edge over the Terrain.

On the engine front, the 2021 GMC Terrain is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque. The 2021 Jeep Compass is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Zero Evap MultiAir engine that produces 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. So you have a 6% edge of horsepower in favor of the Compass but a 16% advantage in torque in favor of the GMC Terrain.

In short, the difference in horsepower between the Terrain and Compass is a lot smaller than the difference in torque. In this case, the extra torque means you have access to a more consistent power band as you maintain steady acceleration with the Terrain. This is helped by the fact that the Terrain comes standard with a 9-speed automatic transmission across every trim and configuration, while the Compass has a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. Upper-end trims of the Compass have access to a 9-speed automatic transmission much like the Terrain, but out of the gate, the torque and transmission benefits of the Terrain give it a slight edge over the Compass in the performance category.

A silver 2021 Jeep Compass is shown from the back driving on a city street.

Interior Capacity

Interior capacity within an SUV is an essential selling point. One of the biggest reasons most people buy SUVs over sedans is the additional cabin space and passenger volume over their lower-riding counterparts. Both the 2021 GMC Terrain and the 2021 Jeep Compass seat five passengers, but the GMC does so in greater comfort. The Compass has a passenger volume of 100 cubic feet, with a maximum interior cargo volume of 59.8 cubic feet.

The 2021 GMC Terrain manages to edge out its Jeep counterpart, with a total cargo capacity of 63.3 cubic feet. The passenger volume is also in favor of the Terrain, with 103.2 cubic feet of total volume. That breaks down into an extra inch of headroom in the front seats of the GMC Terrain and nearly another inch and a half more of that all-important rear legroom.

Even though both vehicles have the same seating capacity, you have a bit more room to move about in the Terrain, as well as additional cargo capacity. That makes it more convenient to store extra items, maybe when you go shopping or plan to take stuff with you on a weekend getaway. All of that being said, the numbers don’t lie, and they fall in favor of the GMC Terrain.

What Do the People Say?

It may not seem fair to compare 2021 model years on a reliability scale, but there are some things that consumers of both vehicles are already ranting and raving about in the user review sections for both compact SUVs. One is getting a lot more favorable comments than the other, though, and it may not be much of a surprise given how this match-up has unfolded thus far.

In the case of the Jeep Compass, there are some complaints about the inefficient power band due to the lower-torque engine and fewer gear ratios. Customers have noticed that the vehicle over-shifts into higher gears even when the revs don’t match, creating a sluggish feel for the Compass on the road. Similar complaints about inefficient power delivery pop up throughout the reviews for the 2021 model year, which circles back around to why the torque advantage of the Terrain helped it beat the Compass in the performance category.

In contrast, there aren’t many complaints about the GMC Terrain. Some people miss the optional 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that was axed after the 2020 model year, but even without its former top engine at the Terrain’s disposal, it’s still highly regarded for its peppy acceleration and good highway handling. Even though both model years still don’t have a whole lot of consumer reviews to give a thorough look at the ins and outs of reliability, what is available still favors the Terrain.

A grey 2021 GMC Terrain is shown parked in front of a brick building.

Staying Safe

Safety isn’t always at the top of the list when it comes to looking at which SUV is better than the other, but it has become a stronger selling point for some companies, especially as they make certain driver-assist technologies and safety features standard across all trims. In the 2021 GMC Terrain vs 2021 Jeep Compass showdown, both options come with a number of standard and available safety features.

For the 2021 GMC Terrain, the GMC Pro Safety package is standard across all trims. There’s also the optional GMC Pro Safety Plus package, which further adds lane change alert and side-blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist, adaptive cruise control, and a safety alert seat. That is in addition to the lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, and forward collision alert features from the standard GMC Pro Safety suite.

By comparison, the 2021 Jeep Compass comes with a ParkView rear backup camera, plus the basic electronic stability control and traction control systems. Additional safety features and driver aids such as blind-spot and cross-path detection, full-speed forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, and the ParkSense rear parking assist system are available only for certain trims. They aren’t standard inclusions. There’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be standard features, yet they aren’t.

While both the 2021 GMC Terrain and 2021 Jeep Compass come equipped with airbags, safety belts, roll-mitigation, and traction control systems, only the Terrain has a wide assortment of standard safety features and driver aids standard. Given that huge difference in protective technologies, it is clear which of these SUVs is the safer vehicle.

Verdict: Go With the 2021 GMC Terrain

When you measure a lot of the basic performance, safety, and reliability features against one another, the Terrain comes out on top in the compact SUV category vs the 2021 Jeep Compass. The Compass may be available in seven trim formats as opposed to the Terrain’s more limited four trims, but the standard features and available features for the Terrain certainly give it a rather admirable leg up over the Compass by comparison.