One of the best things to happen to General Motors Co. (GM - Get Report) in 2009, a year it would rather forget, was the introduction of the GMC Terrain, a compact premium SUV under a new name that sold respectably and now is being replaced by an improved next-generation Terrain.

The new Terrain arrives on an all-new GM architecture that also serves as the basis for the new Chevrolet Equinox compact SUV, introduced earlier this year. Both vehicles are assembled at a GM plant in Mexico. The automaker said the new body is about a third stiffer, a plus for driving feel and handling, and about 250 pounds lighter, a help to fuel economy. Terrain's base engine has 1.5 liters of displacement, is turbocharged and generates 170 horsepower and 203 foot-pounds of torque. A larger and more powerful 2.0-liter with 252 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque is available.

Terrain competes in the ultra-competitive and fast-growing compact crossover segment, led in sales by Toyota Motor Corp.'s (TM - Get Report) RAV4, Nissan Motor Corp.'s  (NSANY) Rogue and Honda Motor Co.'s (HMC - Get Report) CR-V. RAV4, Rogue and CR-V each outsell Terrain by more than a factor of four. When GM's compact crossover Chevrolet Equinox and Terrain are considered together, they aren't too far behind the two Japanese best- ellers -- and the new and improved Terrain may well narrow that difference.

GMC also is offering its 1.6-liter turbodiesel with 137 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque, an option for those interested in minimizing fossil fuel consumption.

Terrain is a pleasant, well-mannered and comfortable vehicle to drive on the highway and city streets, with plenty of room for cargo, which GMC personnel dramatized by stuffing an eight-foot canoe into the vehicle, over the folded down rear seats and folded down front passenger seat. The new model is filled with thoughtful touches, such as a new push-button electronic transmission whose "drive" and "reverse" mode require a slight tug of the finger that minimizes the possibility of incorrect gear selection.

Some buyers may wax nostalgic for manual transmission or at least an actual shift lever that operates the automatic transmission. I don't miss manual. The push buttons work fine and free up a bit more space in the passenger area that otherwise would be occupied by a stick.

Most important are the numerous safety features, several new for 2018, that are available or standard depending on trim level: rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, rear camera, forward collision alert, lane keep assist and departure warning, and teen driver, which tracks teen driver performance. Unfortunately, Terrain lacks adaptive cruise control -- a nifty innovation that requires radar, which GM decided to omit on the new model. A camera-based adaptive cruise control may arrive later on, GM said.

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Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.