- Modern design, inside and out
- High-tech options like 4G LTE
- Potent V-6 engine
- Considerable towing capability
- More efficient four-cylinder option
- No more V-8 option
- No more regular-cab model
- Prices quickly overlap least expensive full-sizers
- Fuel economy is good, not great
The 2015 GMC Canyon won't replace a full-size pickup in our garage, but reminds us why mid-sizers are a good alternative for drivers that covet utility over ultimate payload and towing numbers.
Until now, shoppers wanting something less than a full-size truck had exactly two choices, and neither of them were what we'd call fresh, or innovative.
The mid-size niche is growing this year, in the form of two new trucks nearly identical in configuration, but not so close in style: the Chevy Colorado, and the 2015 GMC Canyon.
With the Canyon, GMC hopes to woo drivers back into mid-size trucks from the crossovers they're currently driving--where many decamped when the last Canyon and Colorado went away in 2012, and the Ford Ranger, soon after.
This is no compact truck, though. With a maximum bed length of six feet and with its biggest engine a 3.6-liter V-6, the bigger and more expensive Canyons overlap the base versions of its sibling, the GMC Sierra.
Sharing much of its underpinnings and basic design with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon is no surprise—but that makes it no less welcome as a supplement to the full-size trucks roaming the nation’s streets, job sites, and dirt roads. It's a solid alternative for those who might otherwise buy a mid-size crossover but want the open bed, and don't want to be forced into a full-size truck that's upscaled and upsized substantially from just a decade ago.
With crisp, familiar front-end styling, the Canyon looks burly, rugged, and capable, just like its Sierra inspiration. The front-end is in line with GMC’s other trucks, as is the tailgate and bumper area; even the flared-and-squared wheel arches are a familiar detail. Where the Canyon diverges from the pickup mainstream is along the side, where the cab’s lower window line sweeps upward toward the rear. Inside, its cockpit is also patterned after the Sierra's: a central dash pod houses the primary controls and display unit, while a beefy steering wheel with its own control buttons sits in front of a gauge pod.
Under the hood, the Canyon offers a base 2.5-liter four or a 3.6-liter V-6. The 200-horsepower four should give some shoppers a chance for a much-needed reality check. For anyone that uses their truck more like an economy car with an open backpack, the four-cylinder's more than adequate, especially combined with GM's quick-shifting automatic. It's smooth, mostly quiet, economical to fill--but no match in towing for the 305-horsepower six, which rumbles and groans more but doesn't give up much in fuel economy. The V-6 is set up for drivers who tow weekend toys: it's rated at a maximum 7,000 pounds tow capacity, versus 3,500 for the four-cylinder, and its six-speed automatic has a dedicated tow/haul mode. All Canyons have nicely weighted electric power steering, a mostly composed ride despite the leaf-spring rear end, and the nifty ability to carry bigger burdens while driving better and "smaller" than the Tacoma and Frontier. Four-wheel drive is an option, and it has an automatic mode and an option for a limited-slip differential.
GMC sells the Canyon as an extended-cab truck, with little room in the back for anything but child safety seats and randomly sized cargo, or a true crew cab, with four front-hinged doors and reasonable seating for four adults. It's better equipped to carry people comfortably, compared to the legs-outstretched driving position of the Nissan or Toyota, and the Canyon's seats are comfortably bolstered (at least in front). The Canyon's 6'2" and 5'2" beds have myriad add-ons beyond the standard bed step and soft-drop tailgate: they can accommodate a spray-in or drop-in bedliner, a total of 17 bed tie-downs, cargo dividers, a tonneau cover, and more.
Safety features included in the 2015 GMC Canyon include six standard airbags, with head curtain side airbags designed to reduce the risk of occupant ejection in the event of a crash or rollover. A rearview camera is also standard, as are oversized side mirrors for enhanced rearward visibility. In addition to the StabiliTrak system, the Canyon also gets standard trailer sway control and hill-descent control systems. Optional safety extras include forward collision alert and lane departure warning—both of which GMC claims as segment firsts.
The base $23,575 Canyon comes with AM/FM sound with a USB port; air conditioning; power windows; a power driver seat; and tilt steering. The $27,520 Canyon SLE adds more USB ports, satellite radio, a color touchscreen radio with GMC's IntelliLink infotainment interface, and cruise control. The ritzy $30,655 Canyon SLT pulls perilously close to Sierra build combinations, with its standard automatic climate control, remote start, power front seats, and optional navigation. An All-Terrain off-roading package is offered on SLE and SLT trims, and GM's in-vehicle 4G LTE data setup is available on the Canyon.