Enhanced by hints of upmarket flair, GMC’s solid midsize pickup exudes an impressively classy tone for a truck. Close cousin to Chevrolet’s Colorado, the Canyon also benefits from a refined interior and a trio of excellent powertrain options.
Last redesigned as a 2015 model, the Canyon gets some equipment revisions for the 2019 model year. A new infotainment system with automatic software updating can be augmented by optional cloud-based navigation. Rear parking sensors are now available, and a high-definition rearview camera replaces the prior analog unit on all except the base model. Upper trim levels can get a power driver’s seat, and SLE versions have a new wheel design.
Trim levels stretch from utilitarian to near-luxury: specifically, SL, Canyon, SLE, All Terrain, SLT, and Denali. All Terrain trim stresses off-road styling details; but unlike Chevrolet’s Colorado ZR2, off-pavement potential is limited.
Engine choices include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 3.6-liter V6, or turbodiesel 2.8-liter four-cylinder. The 2.5-liter engine makes 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. Some four-cylinder rear-drive models have a standard 6-speed manual gearbox A 6-speed automatic transmission, standard with four-wheel drive, mates with both gasoline and diesel four-cylinders.
Canyons with V6 power get an 8-speed automatic. Developing 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, the V6 is the most popular choice.
Diesels have their issues these days, but they’re hard to beat for massive torque and fuel-efficiency, along with refined performance. The diesel four produces only 186 horsepower, but a musclebound 369 pound-feet of torque.
Safety is not a selling point for the otherwise modern Canyon, which is short of valuable active-safety features and has earned marginal crash-test scores.
A rearview camera is standard. An optional Driver Alert Package includes forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, but lacks automatic emergency braking. Standard on Denali, the package is optional for SLE and SLT trim levels.
In crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Canyon earned a five-star rating for side-impact, but only four stars overall and for the frontal collision. Rollover prevention earned just three stars, but that’s calculated figure, not based upon testing.
Only partial crash-testing has been done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Canyon earned a “Good” rating in the moderate-overlap test, but only “Acceptable” for small-overlap and side-impact tests, Headlights were rated “Poor.”
Prices do not include $995 destination charge.
Extended Cab with 128.3-inch wheelbase:
2WD SL 2.5-liter ($21,400) aims mainly at fleet sales, with rear-drive, four-cylinder engine, and vinyl seat upholstery and flooring. Included are a power driver’s seat, windows, and locks; 16-inch alloy wheels; and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
2WD 2.5-liter ($24,900) upgrades to cloth seats, with the option of four-wheel drive and V6 power.
2WD SLE 2.5-liter ($28,900) adds an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, navigation, 17-inch wheels, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
4WD 3.6-liter ($31,000) gets the V6 engine and four-wheel drive.
4WD SLE 3.6-liter $34,300) is similar to 2.5-liter SLE, but with 3.6-liter V6 and four-wheel drive.
4WD All Terrain w/Cloth 3.6-liter ($36,400) comes with automatic climate control, heated power front seats, an 8.0â€“inch screen, off-road suspension, and subtle off-road styling cues.
4WD All Terrain w/Leather 3.6-liter ($37,800) upgrades All Terrain to leather upholstery.
Crew Cab with 128.3-inch wheelbase:
2WD 2.5-liter ($27,500) has the four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive.
2WD SLE 2.5-liter ($30,800) is similar to Extended Cab SLE, but with four conventional doors.
4WD SLE 3.6-liter ($35,900) upgrades SLE trim to V6 engine with four-wheel drive
2WD SLT 3.6-liter ($35,700 with 2WD, $39,200 with 4WD) upgrades SLT to V6 power.
4WD All Terrain 3.6-liter ($37,700 with cloth, $39,100 with leather) is equipped like extended-cab All Terrain model.
Denali 3.6-liter ($40,300 with 2WD, $43,800 with 4WD) gets heated/ventilated front seats, navigation, Bose audio, 20-inch wheels, forward collision alert, and lane-departure warning.
Crew Cab with 140.5-inch wheelbase and 3.6-liter V6:
Base 2WD ($29,100) is the rear-drive base model with Crew Cab.
SLE ($32,500 with 2WD, $36,200 with 4WD) is equipped similar to SLE models above.
SLT ($36,200 with 2WD, $39,500 with 4WD) is equipped like SLT models above.
4WD All Terrain w/Cloth ($38,000 with cloth, $39,400 with leather) has All Terrain equipment with four-wheel drive.
Denali ($40,800 with 2WD, $44,100 with 4WD) is the top V6 Crew Cab version.
Suave design work blends with a squared-off profile to make the Canyon ruggedly handsome. Overall styling is comparable to GMC’s full-size Sierra.
Rectangular headlights and wheel arches, complemented by a tall grille, emphasize this midsize pickup’s boxy shape. Less curvy than Chevrolet’s Colorado, the Canyon seems more down-to-business. A high, rising beltline gives it a slightly sportier look.
Canyons come in Extended Cab or Crew Cab form with a short (5-foot-2) or long (6-foot-2) cargo bed. All extended-cab pickups get the long bed. Both cab types have two doors on each side: rear half-doors on the Extended Cab and conventional full-size doors on the Crew Cab.
Demonstrating solid build quality throughout, GMC’s midsize pickup truck has a welcoming, largely carlike interior rather than a strictly workaday setup. Most controls sit high on the curvy dashboard, well within the driver’s reach. Canyon drivers also benefit from an excellent infotainment systems
Front occupants get ample space, but those in back are likely to feel somewhat squeezed. Especially in extended-cab models, the back seat works best as an auxiliary storage area. Crew Cabs offer greater interior space
Lower-level Canyons, aiming at utility, aren’t likely to impress anyone for their features or flashy trim. Stepping up toward Denali level, the poshness factor slips into the picture. At the very top, the Denali edition adds simulated wood along with leather upholstery, which can also be found in the SLT version.
Despite the Denali’s ritzier look and enviable reputation, it’s actually more of an appearance package than an amalgamation of high-end features.
Though it’s no automotive athlete, the Canyon is quiet and agreeable on the road. Handling qualities are typical of pickup trucks: easy enough to drive, but seldom likely to shine in terms of gratifying maneuverability.
As for passenger comfort, too, Canyons ride like â€“ well, trucks. No surprise there.
As expected with such a wide array of powertrain choices, performance varies according to engine. As in most pickups, the smallest engine, a 200-horsepower four-cylinder, delivers satisfactory response to the gas pedal. For a brisker feel, upgrading to the 3.6-liter V6 and its more energetic 308 horsepower may be well worth the additional cost.
Diesel engines have been falling out of favor lately, but they continue to provide two specific benefits when installed in trucks. Most notably, high torque output yields a particular flavor of exuberant performance that entices plenty of pickup drivers. Secondly, diesels are considerably more fuel-efficient that comparable gasoline engines.
When properly equipped, with the turbodiesel engine, a Canyon can tow up to 7,700 pound. The V6 version can haul as much as 7,000 pounds, but it tends to feel overtaxed when near that limit.
Fuel economy ranks around average. With rear-wheel drive and either manual or automatic transmission, the four-cylinder is EPA-rated at 20/26 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined. Four-wheel drive drops the estimate slightly, to 19/24/21 mpg
The less-thrifty V6 is EPA-rated at 18/25 mpg City/Highway or 20 mpg Combined with rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel-drive models earn 17/24/19 mpg.
With rear-drive, the 2.8-liter turbodiesel is EPA-rated at an impressive 20/30 mpg City/Highway, or/23 mpg Combined, dipping to 19/28/22 mpg with four-wheel drive
Midsize dimensions, satisfying powertrains, and suave design make the Canyon tempting, but lack of safety technology is a stumbling block. Only a couple of active-safety features are available â€“ either optional, or standard with Denali trim. Otherwise, even the base model is well-equipped, while Denali trim could almost rank as a luxury truck. Chevrolet’s closely-related Colorado is typically cheaper.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.