- Relaxed and fast demeanor with the V-8
- Range of body styles and configurations
- Frugal four-cylinder/manual drivetrain
- Rough, noisy four- and five-cylinders
- Unimpressive plastics inside
With the addition of the new V-8 option, the 2009 GMC Canyon goes from unappealing to quite competitive.
The GMC Canyon and its almost identical Chevrolet sibling, the Colorado, went on sale five years ago as replacements for the Sonoma and S-10. The 2009 GMC Canyon is one of the few small pickups available that fills a niche for those who want a capable truck that’s more maneuverable and fuel-efficient than its full-size counterparts.
Almost identical to the Chevrolet Colorado—though a bit better-looking, in the opinion of TheCarConnection.com—the Canyon is available in regular and extended cab configurations with a six-foot bed, and as a crew cab with a five-foot bed. All models come in either two- or four-wheel drive with either the Z85 standard suspension or the Z71 off-road setup. The retuned-for-2009 ZQ8 sport suspension is only available on two-wheel-drive extended cab and crew cab models with the new 5.3-liter V-8 engine.
The new V-8 outputs 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, accelerates from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, and can tow up to 6,000 pounds. It brings a very torquey, relaxed character to these trucks, and it’s powerful enough to take off at stoplights almost as quickly as a muscle car.
The V-8 joins the returning 2.9-liter inline four-cylinder and 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder engines that, due to a revised fuel control module, feature better fuel economy for 2009. The 185-horsepower four-cylinder gets ratings of up to 25 mpg highway now, while the 242-horsepower five-cylinder musters an EPA-rated 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway with the automatic transmission. Both smaller-size engines are rather noisy and unrefined, even compared to those in other inexpensive pickups like the Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger.
A bunch of other improvements for 2009 make the Colorado and Canyon a better vehicle overall and boost its ratings from TheCarConnection.com. Electronic stability control is at last standard across the lineup, and brakes have been been fortified for 2009; they feel more reassuring than what we remember from previous drives. But steering remains a weak point; it seems vague and reluctant to unwind on twisty roads and tends to require frequent adjustments on the highway.
The interior is the Canyon’s Achilles’ heel. Cursed with cheap-feeling switchgear and hard plastic, the Canyon makes for a good work truck. On the upside, the Canyon will probably please serious buyers, with a simple, straightforward instrument panel layout, featuring push-button controls for the 4WD system mounted high. And front seats, though flat-feeling, provide a good driving position, while in back on Crew Cab models there’s plenty of space for two adults or three kids.
However, serious workers will probably be dismayed to find that four-door Canyons have only a 5-foot, 1-inch bed, and the 6-foot "long" bed on two-door models won't fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood flat.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, and folding exterior mirrors. Options such as traction control, XM, fog lamps, leather seats, a sunroof, a six-CD changer, and a sliding rear window are available. OnStar is offered, but there is no navigation system—a real need in work trucks.
The four-door GMC Canyon receives five-star crash scores, while other versions get four stars. The addition of standard StabiliTrack electronic stability control is a very positive move in the safety area.