- Tough truck styling
- Available V-8 engine
- Three available body styles
- Bluetooth now standard
- Dated, plasticky cabin
- Poor crash-test scores
- Rear seatback is uncomfortable
- Both pickup beds are short
Crash test scores are a concern, but it you're shopping for a truly compact pickup truck, the 2012 GMC Canyon is probably a better pick than the Ranger or Dakota.
With production winding down at its Louisiana plant next year, the 2012 GMC Canyon is nearing the end, at least in its current form. GM's announced plans to build a new Chevrolet Colorado pickup in Missouri, but it hasn't confirmed or denied a new Canyon will join in the fray.
The Canyon still with us is a true compact truck. On the market since the mid-2000s, the Canyon and Colorado were more like the outgoing Ford Ranger in size and in price, while other trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier moved up into mid-size proportions. The Canyon looks the part of a larger truck, though, with its bluff front end, wide GMC grille, and relentlessly rectilinear body. The cabin's a letdown even by truck standards, with lots of hard grey and black plastics and a dated look. Even the cheapest of today's econoboxes rises well above the Canyon in that respect.
The Canyon's powertrains line up with those in the Colorado, and there's one choice we recommend here. The 185-horsepower four-cylinder feels disappointingly rough, and the 242-hp, 3.7-liter five-cylinder isn't that much more powerful or economical. The Canyon's best with the top-of-the-line 300-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8. It's only offered on the top trim levels, and has the lowest gas mileage in the lineup, but the V-8 is the smoothest drivetrain by a good margin. If you're sold on gas mileage alone, the four-cylinder models with a manual transmission can eke out 18/25 mpg, a figure that's well higher than many mid-size pickups. Full-time four-wheel drive is available on the Canyon. Handling is a noticeable weak spot: it doesn't care for twisty roads, and wanders on freeways without constant attention to steering.
Like the Colorado, the Canyon comes in three different body styles. The regular-cab Canyon is expanded into an extended cab with a pair of rear-hinged rear doors; the Crew Cab gets four full-size, front-hinged doors. Most Canyons come with a short five-foot, one-inch bed; the one in the Crew Cab is six feet long, still short of toting home the classic 4x8 sheet of plywood, but useful enough for landscapers and bug guys.
Crash-test scores are low for the Canyon's fraternal twin, the Colorado. The NHTSA hasn't re-rated the trucks since it changed its methodology, but the IIHS has--and it gives Crew Cabs only an acceptable score in front impacts, and a marginal rating for side impacts. The Canyon comes with standard anti-lock brakes and stability control.
As it's aged, the Canyon has added more standard equipment. It now includes climate control; cruise control; Bluetooth, new for 2012; and tilt steering. Options include traction control, satellite radio; leather seats; fog lamps; a six-CD changer; a sunroof; and a sliding rear window.