New & Used GMC Canyon: In Depth
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The GMC Canyon is a mid-size pickup truck that sits below the Sierra 1500 in the brand's lineup. The Canyon is completely new for the 2015 model year, returning to market after a two-model-year absence. Positioned as an alternative to full-size pickups, which some might find too large or cumbersome, the Canyon offers four-cylinder or V-6 power, Extended Cab or Crew Cab styles, and a wide range of trims and builds.
The current and former versions of the Canyon have all been very closely related to the Chevrolet Colorado. Today, the Canyon takes on the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. Past competition has included the Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, and Suzuki Equator, all of which have left the market in recent years.
See our 2015 GMC Canyon review pages for pricing, specifications, gas mileage ratings, and driving impressions.
Overall, the 2015 GMC Canyon is more manageably sized and more fuel-efficient than a full-sizer, without all of the feature and cabin sacrifices that choosing a compact or mid-size truck used to involve. It is a descendent of the GMC S-15 and Sonoma pickups.
Both 2WD and 4WD variants are available, in either extended cab or crew cab styles, with a choice of a 6’2” bed, or, for crew cab models, a shorter 5’2” bed. Three trim lines are offered: base, SLE, and SLT. An All-Terrain package is offered on SLE models, adding 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, all-terrain tires, and a body-color grille surround, as well as off-road-tuned suspension.
Interior features and driver convenience items are definitely improved versus the last versions of the Canyon. There's now top-notch audio and smartphone connectivity, available navigation, and in top models, a seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system. OnStar 4G LTE data connectivity might help those who work out of their trucks, and optional safety extras include forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning—both of which GMC claims as segment firsts. Extended Cab and Crew Cab versions both accommodate back-seat passengers, although the Extended Cab's rear quarters are better suited for gear storage than people carrying.
With newly engineered, body-on-frame underpinnings, payloads are impressive; V-6 models can tow up to 7,000 pounds, while four-cylinder models can pull 3,500 pounds. The base engine in the Canyon lineup is a 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine, available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; the four returns fuel-economy ratings of up to 20 mpg city, 27 highway. Buyers can step up to a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, making 305 hp and 289 lb-ft of torque and mated solely to a six-speed automatic. Most models offer a choice between rear-wheel drive or 4WD.
GMC is already offering special-edition versions of the new Canyon, the first of which is the Nightfall Edition. The Nightfall package is available on SLE models and covers the truck in Onyx Black paint, adding a special blacked-out grille, black side steps, 18-inch wheels with dark-painted pockets, a chrome exhaust tip, and some other normally optional features.
For the 2016 model year, a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel four will be available in the Colorado, likely offering improved towing and hauling, all with fuel economy numbers that might even be better than those of the base four-cylinder gas engine.
The previous generation of the GMC Canyon
As the replacement for the GMC Sonoma, the GMC Canyon launched in 2004 and sold well during its first few years on the market, outpacing many rivals, including the Ford Ranger and Nissan Frontier. Toyota's Tacoma proved more serious competition, outselling the Canyon and its Chevy Colorado twin, and making for an interesting fight in the segment. Priced from the mid-teens, the Canyon offered a lot of capability for a low price, but scored poorly in crash tests.
With its multitude of configurations, there was a Canyon to suit almost any truck buyer's need or want. The truck had solid mechanicals and an especially rugged four-wheel-drive system, but many found the interior to be cheaply finished with low-rent materials and a lacking design. Because of that, it was best used as a work truck, not by those who were looking for luxury or image.
Regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab models were all available for the Canyon, and it could be had in a range of trims, including Work Truck, SLE, and SLT, differentiated primarily on the basis of equipment and features. Crew cab models got a shortened 5-foot, 1-inch bed in place of the standard six-foot bed. Powertrains included a 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, a 3.7-liter five-cylinder good for 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque, and a 5.3-liter V-8 rated for 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque.
The four-cylinder could be had with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, while the five-cylinder and V-8 were limited to the four-speed automatic. The V-8 was only available on crew and extended cab models. Despite the smallish engines and mid-size positioning, the Canyon had fair towing and payload capacities, good for at least 1,200 pounds payload depending on the cab selected. Towing capacities are determined by the engine selected, with the automatic four-cylinder rated for up to 3,400 pounds gross trailer weight, while the manual maxed out at 2,400 pounds. The five-cylinder could tow up to 5,500 pounds, while the V-8 was rated at 6,000 pounds across the board.
A sportier version of the truck could be configured with the addition of the ZQ8 sport suspension, available on two-wheel-drive extended and crew cab models with either the V-8 or four-cylinder engines.
For its final year, 2012, the former generation of the GMC Canyon added standard Bluetooth connectivity, among other minor detail changes and trim adjustments.
The previous generation of the GMC Canyon was assembled in Louisiana, while the new-generation Canyon is made at a plant in Missouri.