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A blue 2021 Ford Escape Titanium is shown parked during a 2021 Ford Escape vs 2021 GMC Terrain comparison.

2021 Ford Escape vs 2021 GMC Terrain Comparison Review

If you have been actively searching for a reliable and affordable compact SUV, you may want to look at the 2021 Ford Escape vs 2021 GMC Terrain. Ford and GMC are well known for building some of the most rugged and capable vehicles on the market, and these two SUVs more than live up to that reputation. Deciding between the two is going to be based on preference, driving style, and personal needs.

Ford has been offering the Escape since 2001, while GMC did not debut the Terrain until 2010. Both manufacturers have invested a lot of time and research into creating safer, more user-friendly automobiles. However, Ford has done more to build vehicles that are efficient and environmentally friendly. Not only does the standard Ford Escape burn less gas than the GMC Terrain, but Ford even offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its popular SUV.

Convenience and Safety Features

Technology has now brought convenience to the top of the priority lists when people are comparing automobiles. Convenience is derived from added safety and driver-assist features that make operating the car more accessible, safer, and fun. When you are driving a modern vehicle, you should expect it to make your life easier, not more stressful. However, Ford goes further with its available features, giving you options that the GMC model is missing, like a futuristic Head Up Display to project important information on the windshield and a premium 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Remote keyless entry is offered as a standard feature on both SUVs. Rear-view cameras, emergency backing assist, forward collision alert, following distance indicators, and blind-spot sensors are all part of the conveniences that come on these machines. Even better, many of the most valuable driver-assist features come standard on both vehicles, so you won’t have to pay more to stay safe on the road.

Two people are shown sitting in the front seats of a 2021 Ford Escape.

Which is More Comfortable?

The comfort of a vehicle is a big deal when you have to spend more than just a few minutes riding in it. Fortunately, the comfort of each of these SUVs is exceptionally high. The Terrain has a highly insulated cabin which dramatically reduces the noises and vibrations the front seat passenger and driver experience while riding in the car.

The Ford Escape also offers a smooth quality ride and seating that is both spacious and comfortable. All of the creature’s comforts you desire, such as power-adjustable seats, dual-zone temperature control, heated front seats, and plenty of cushions, are available. Whether you are interested in the basic Escape S or the fully-loaded Escape Titanium, you will be getting a remarkably comfortable vehicle.

However, one of the leading comfort differences between these small SUVs is the legroom. When you are tall, every fraction of an inch increases your comfort, and the Escape offers a bit more room for taller individuals to stretch out. Both the front and rear seats of the Ford offer around an inch more legroom, which is particularly important if you are looking for a family vehicle.

Seating and Cargo Space

The interior seating arrangement is similar on both units. They can both hold five people, with front bucket seats and a rear bench seat. While comfortable cloth seating is standard, you can upgrade to premium leather for a more upscale look. Ford also offers its durable ActiveX seating material, which requires less care than natural leather while offering the same supple feel. Heated front row seats and a heated steering wheel are available in both models, keeping you warm on winter days.

For many people, the amount of cargo room makes a big difference when they are shopping for an SUV – after all, you need a vehicle that can handle large shopping trips or family vacations. Both models have plenty of room, but the Ford Escape comes out ahead. Behind the second row of seating in the Terrain, there are 29.6 cubic feet of cargo space, which extends to 63.3 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded. In comparison, the Escape has up to 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, and when you lay the seats down, the Ford offers 65.8 cubic feet of storage.

This extra cargo space means you can pack more, carry more luggage, and still be comfortable. This is a big deal if you travel with children or like to load your SUV with sporting equipment or camping gear. The extra space in the Ford Escape just gives you a lot more options, making it the better option for drivers with a more adventurous lifestyle.

A black 2021 GMC Terrain Elevation is shown parked outside of a building at night.

Mechanics, Power, and Fuel Economy

The GMC Terrain is reasonably responsive, it has a respectable turning radius, and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly. However, its single engine option is decidedly underwhelming and gets remarkably poor fuel economy given its lack of power. While the Terrain used to offer a capable 2.0L turbocharged engine, that option was removed from the lineup for 2021, leaving us with only the base 1.5L engine. With just 170 hp, don’t expect too much from the Terrain when you get behind the wheel, and 27 MPG combined is not great for a compact SUV.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Ford Escape offers no fewer than four different powertrain options! The base engine is also a turbocharged 1.5L, but it gets 181 hp and is rated for up to 30 MPG combined. It is difficult to justify the GMC powertrain when you look at what the Ford brings to the table. If you are looking for even more power, the 2021 Escape also has a 2.0L turbocharged option that pumps out a full 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. This engine really makes the SUV come alive, and the fuel economy of 26 MPG combined is nearly as good as the underpowered GMC engine!

Finally, the Escape comes in two separate eco-friendly hybrid options. Both models pair a 2.5L gasoline engine with electric motors to produce an impressive 200 hp, making these hybrids remarkably quick as well as extremely efficient. The standard Escape Hybrid gets an excellent 41 MPG combined and is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. But for maximum efficiency, there is the Escape Plug-In Hybrid. This model has a 14.4 kWh battery pack that offers 37 miles of all-electric range and is rated for 105 MPGe. When the battery is depleted, the gasoline engine kicks in and still gets 40 MPG combined.

Final Thoughts

The deciding factor between a Ford Escape and a GMC Terrain will rely a lot on personal preference. The vehicles are more similar than different, except when it comes to style and power. The GMC Terrain has a square-edged styling that may appear more aggressive and appealing to many buyers, while the Ford exterior is a little softer and sleek. However, underneath the skin, the Ford exceeds the GMC in power, efficiency, towing ability, legroom, cargo space, and more.

While both of these American vehicles will provide reliable service, we find GMC’s latest effort in the compact SUV segment to lag far behind its competition from Ford. Giving you no options other than the underpowered and inefficient base engine is a particularly bad choice when the standard Escape engine is better across the board, and Ford gives you plenty of alternatives if you desire more power or greater efficiency. In short, the 2021 Ford Escape is our favorite in this comparison.