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A silver 2023 GMC Terrain SLT is shown driving on a winding road during a 2023 GMC Terrain vs Honda CR-V comparison.

How to Choose Between Two Good SUVs: The 2023 GMC Terrain vs Honda CR-V

The trouble with shopping for SUVs these days is that there are just so many options, particularly when shopping for five-passenger SUVs. Plus, there are so many terms thrown around that it can become confusing. Are you looking for a compact SUV, subcompact SUV, or midsize SUV? Comparing the 2023 GMC Terrain vs 2023 Honda CR-V will show these are the type of vehicles that should top the list of considerations for drivers looking for a small SUV.

The Terrain and the CR-V are similar in size and stature, but there are a lot of remarkable differences between them. For some drivers, the only way to choose between them is to sit behind the wheel and see how things feel. For others, the best way to narrow down the choices is to make a detailed line-by-line comparison to see which option looks most desirable on paper. Perhaps the best SUV shopping method is to do a little of both. After all, you’re going to have to drive this vehicle every day, so it’s a good idea to not only enjoy how it drives but know exactly what you’re driving.

The Walk-Around

Neither the GMC Terrain nor the Honda CR-V is new to its manufacturer’s lineups, which means both GMC and Honda have had some time to perfect their vehicles. As two examples of the compact SUV segment, these models are relatively close in size and shape, but there are some dimensional differences that stand out.

The GMC Terrain was introduced in 2010 as a small SUV that could be a lot of different things for a lot of different drivers. In 2018, it underwent a complete redesign that created the current generation. Perched solidly on a 107.3-inch wheelbase, the 2023 Terrain measures 182.3 inches in length and 65.4 inches in height, with a ground clearance of 7.9 inches. As such, drivers can feel confident taking it into parking garages, maneuvering into street parking spaces, and pulling up to just about any gas pump in the country.

The Honda CR-V, on the other hand, has been around since 1997, so it has a slight advantage when it comes to perfecting the formula for success. However, the CR-V has seen a lot of changes over the years, which may lead drivers to wonder where the lack of perfection lies. The 2023 CR-V has a slightly shorter 106.3-inch wheelbase but is longer overall at 184.8 inches. It’s also taller, at 66.2 or 66.5 inches, depending on whether front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive is selected. While that doesn’t necessarily exclude it from most parking opportunities, many drivers feel that size matters, especially when driving an SUV every day. The Honda’s ground clearance is slightly less than the GMC on front-wheel drive models and slightly greater on all-wheel drive models.

A blue 2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring is shown driving on a mountain highway.

Staying Safe

Safety features are one area where family, friends, and carpooling co-workers alike can appreciate a full menu of options, and each vehicle comes with its own unique array of features. The 2023 Terrain includes the GMC Pro Safety Package, with standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, Following Distance Indicator, and IntelliBeam automatic headlamps. The available Pro Safety Plus Package adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Park Assist, and the vibrating Safety Alert Seat. An HD rear vision camera is standard on all but the base SLE trim, and HD Surround Vision is available on all but the SLE, as well.

The Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance technology is robust, to the point of being almost overwhelming. Furthermore, the terminology is a bit confusing. Forward Collision Warning is familiar, and the Collision Mitigation Braking System will help prevent any forward-moving accidents. But the CR-V is also equipped with a Lane Keeping Assist System, Lane Departure Warning, and a Road Departure Mitigation System, which makes us wonder how frequently CR-V drivers are letting go of the wheel. A Blind Spot Information System and a Traffic Sign Recognition System are excellent standard offerings. However, Honda admits that the displayed traffic signs may not be correct 100% of the time.

Off-Road Ability

If you’re looking for an SUV with competition-level off-roading chops, neither of these vehicles will be ideal for you. However, if you like the idea of leaving the pavement behind from time to time or find yourself on dirt roads in all kinds of weather, there are a few things you need to know. Overall, the GMC Terrain is far more off-road-ready than the Honda CR-V and even offers a dedicated off-road trim in the form of the AT4. This unique trim comes standard with ski plates and all-terrain tires, which are unusual features on a compact SUV.

The 2023 GMC Terrain offers two models with standard all-wheel drive: the AT4 and the Denali. The Terrain’s AWD Traction Select System allows drivers to choose the level of torque and traction they need for the ultimate experience on the road and off. FWD Mode is ideal for normal, dry pavement. AWD Mode sends torque to the front or rear wheels as needed, which is helpful for slippery, wet, and unpaved roads. Off-Road Mode allows drivers to gain steadiness on surfaces such as dirt, gravel, and sand.

The 2023 Honda CR-V is only offered in two non-hybrid trims, although both are available with all-wheel drive as a choice. The Real Time All-Wheel Drive with Intelligent Control System provides torque where it’s needed, as it’s needed, allowing for greater traction without having to think about it. The available Snow Mode can help drivers accelerate and brake on slippery surfaces without losing traction, but there is no Off-Road Mode. Most experts don’t recommend taking your CR-V too far off the pavement unless you plan on stopping for some accessories and upgrades on your way home from the dealership.

A black 2023 GMC Terrain Elevation is shown driving on a flooded dirt road.

Choosing a Small SUV

There are many ways in which the 2023 GMC Terrain and 2023 Honda CR-V are very similar. When it comes to performance, they both provide comfortably powerful engines that consume reasonable amounts of gasoline. Naturally, the CR-V Hybrid options are going to win that particular round, but for drivers who aren’t interested in a hybrid model, that will be a moot point. Each model can tow a maximum of 1,500 lbs, which is normal for the segment.

As a driver, you may need to spend some time considering every feature before you make your final selection. After all, there are audio systems, seat coverings, cargo organization systems, and the number of cupholders to consider. At the end of the day, there are many factors that go into choosing the vehicle that’s best for your budget and needs. Often, these factors are unique to you as a driver, too, which makes it quite a wonderful thing that we have so many options available to us.

When trying to choose between the 2023 GMC Terrain and 2023 Honda CR-V, the decision may come down to the overall experience. Unless, of course, you’re interested in spending some time in the mud. In that case, the Terrain AT4 is the clear winner.