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A blue 2019 GMC Terrain is parked next to a treelined river side.

Comparison between the 2019 GMC Terrain and Mazda CX-5

The ‘bread and butter’ of the modern-day automotive industry are sports utility vehicles (SUVs). They are what people are buying and the focus of many automobile companies. At first glance, the 2019 GMC Terrain vs 2019 Mazda CX-5 appear to be strong competitors in the popular and competitive mid-size SUV segment. After spending a little bit of time ‘under the hood’ and ‘kicking the tires’ between the two, a clear winner begins to emerge.

A brief background

The second-generation GMC Terrain debuted at the 2017 North American International Auto Show as a 2018 model. Built on GM’s proven Delta platform, it is GMC’s smallest vehicle slotted below its bigger sibling, the Acadia. It is related to the Buick Envision and Chevrolet Equinox. It is available in a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configuration.

The 2019 Mazda CX-5 is also in its second generation, was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2016 as a 2017 model. Like the GMC Terrain, it is a compact crossover SUV having five doors and available in a front-wheel or all-wheel-drive configuration. The CX-5 is built on Mazda’s SKYACTIV platform.

The second-generation GMC Terrain is newer, introduced in the 2018 model year. In contrast, the Mazda CX-5 went into production in the 2017 model year.


The GMC Terrain and its siblings have a wheelbase of 107.3 inches, a length of about 183 inches, and a width of 65.4 inches. Height comes in at 65.4 inches in a package tipping the scales at 3,327 pounds with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive configuration. Cargo volume behind the front seat has 63.3 cubic feet while behind the back seat, there are 29.6 cubic feet of storage space.

The CX-5 has a wheelbase of 106.2 inches and length, width, and height of 179.1 inches, 72.5 inches, and 66.1 inches, respectively. The Mazda tips the scales between 3,318 and 3,657 pounds, depending upon the engine and drivetrain configuration. Storage space behind the front seat is 59.6 cubic feet while behind the back seat, there are 30.9 cubic feet of storage space.


A red 2019 GMC Terrain, which wins when comparing the 2019 GMC Terrain vs 2019 Mazda CX5, is parked in a driveway during dusk.

The 2019 GMC Terrain is available with three engine options. The standard engine is a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine. A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine is also available as an option. There is also a diesel engine available in the form of a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel 4-cylinder.

The 1.5-liter turbo engine is standard equipment for the SL, SLE, and SLT trim levels and delivers 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. With a 9-speed automatic transmission, the 1.5-liter engine averages EPA fuel economy estimates of 26 mpg in the city and 30 mpg highway in standard Front-Wheel Drive. In all-wheel-drive, it averages 24 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

The 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder is an available option for the SLE and SLT trim levels of the GMC Terrain and standard with the range-topping Denali trim package. Along with increased displacement, comes increased performance in the form of 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Paired with the 9-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel-drive configuration, the 2019 GMC Denali achieves 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. With all-wheel drive, fuel efficiency is 21 mpg city / 26 mpg highway.

The 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine is only available for the SLE and SLT trim levels. Producing 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, fuel efficiency is an estimated 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway when paired with a six-speed automatic transmission in a front-wheel-drive configuration. With all-wheel-drive, the GMC Terrain gets 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

For a compact SUV, the 2019 GMC Terrain is also surprisingly quick. In a review of the 2019 Denali Terrain equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, Car and Driver recorded an acceleration time from 0 to 60 mph in a scant 6.8 seconds.

The 2019 Mazda CX-5 is available with five trim packages and two engine options. The normally aspirated 2.5-liter SKYACTIV 4-cylinder engine produces 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. It powers the Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim packages. Paired with the six-speed SKYACTIV automatic transmission, the CX-5 registers 25 mpg city and 31 MPG highway with front-wheel drive. With all-wheel drive, fuel efficiency is 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

The Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models come equipped with the 2.5-liter SKYACTIV turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that puts down 277 horsepower at 310 lb-ft of torque. Powered by the six-speed SKYACTIV transmission, it is only available with all-wheel drive and gets 22 MPG city and 27 MPG highway.

Mazda’s more efficient 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine available only with Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim packages require 8.7 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour.

Payload and towing capacity

Much of the growth in the compact crossover SUV segment is coming from people transitioning out of automobiles for the convenience and utility that SUVs provide. As a result, payload and towing capacity are important. The 2019 GMC Terrain can carry a payload of 971 pounds to 1,049 pounds while towing capacity is limited to 1,500 with the 1.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine and 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine. Towing capacity increases to 3,500 pounds with the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine.

In contrast, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 can carry a payload of 981 to 1,045 pounds while the towing capacity is 2,000 pounds for models with premium trim levels running the 2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, above average for the segment.


Technology is a significant factor in the compact SUV segment, and both vehicles are evenly matched when it comes to standard and optionable features. With the compact SUV segment, all about family and affordable utility, both the GMC Terrain and CX-5 are up to the task. USB ports are generously placed throughout both vehicles addressing driver and passenger electronic device charging needs several times over.

Automobile manufacturers have been increasingly making driver-assist and safety features standard in recent years. Both the 2019 GMC Terrain and Mazda CX-5 are keeping with the trend by making such features as automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control as standard. The GMC Terrain comes with added features that allow the driver to include and adjust their preferred personal settings in the software.

A grey 2019 Mazda CX-5 is parked on a dark city street.

When it comes to infotainment systems, both the GMC Terrain and Mazda CX-5 deliver, with each offering a 7-inch infotainment screen as standard equipment. For those wanting a larger infotainment screen, an 8-inch screen is available as an option with the Terrain. Systems in both vehicles function well and are intuitive to users. Of course, both the Terrain and CX-5 are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.


Safety is of paramount importance in any automotive segment, especially in the competitive compact SUV segment. In this regard, both the 2019 GMC Terrain and the 2019 Mazda CX-5 deliver 5-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Final thoughts

Both the 2019 GMC Terrain and Mazda CX-5 are formidable players in the competitive compact SUV segment. However, in a side-by-side comparison, one vehicle emerges as a better vehicle representing a better value overall. Both vehicles are in their second generation with the GMC Terrain redesigned in 2018. In contrast, the Mazda CX-5 was redesigned a year earlier for the 2017 model year.

As for cargo space, both vehicles pretty much match up in that they are limited in space. However, they make up for it in the form of fold-down seating and storage options. Side by side, the Terrain has more storage at 63 cubic feet versus 59 cubic feet for the CX-5. The Mazda has a 2,000 pound towing capacity for the top-trim models, but the Terrain wins this one being able to pull 3,500 pounds with the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder gasoline engine. The GMC Terrain is available with three engine options, whereas the CX-5 has two engine options. The Terrain is also better equipped, is quicker, and offers more optional features than the Mazda CX-5. The Terrain better rivals full-sized vehicles in strength and compacts in fuel economy.

If you are looking for the best overall value between the 2019 GMC Terrain and the 2019 Mazda CX-5, at the end of the day, the 2019 GMC Terrain delivers a better value.