- Classic truck style
- Off-road AT4 variant
- Powertrain choices
- Good infotainment
- Two beds, two cabs
- Expensive 4WD
- Expensive diesel
- Weak base engine
- Weak crash-test results
- Poor safety features
features & specs
The 2021 GMC Canyon looks good and performs well, but falters on safety.
What kind of vehicle is the 2021 GMC Canyon? What does it compare to?
The 2021 GMC Canyon is a mid-size pickup truck that shares DNA with the Chevy Colorado. It competes with the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier.
Is the 2021 GMC Canyon a good truck?
It is a good-looking truck with good powertrain options and more configurations than most trucks this size. But it’s getting older, it’s not as efficient as the competition, and it doesn’t fare well in withstanding and avoiding crashes. It gets a below-average TCC Rating of 4.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What's new for the 2021 GMC Canyon?
GMC reordered the trim levels for the Canyon and added a new AT4 off-road trim across the entire lineup. On the 2021 Canyon, it can be upgraded with an Off-Road Performance Edition exclusive to the AT4 with a self-leveling suspension, more skid plates, big off-road tires, an Eaton G80 locking rear differential, and hill descent control.
The rest of the lineup rises in features and price from Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4, then Denali. GMC gets the reputation of being the upscale GM truck brand, but Chevy has blurred that line recently and the Canyon’s basic cloth seats, plastic interior, and cramped extended cab don’t reverse that trend. The Denali trim exalts the brand with fake wood, chrome, and a long standard features list that includes heated and cooled seats.
The base 2.5-liter inline-4 makes only 200 hp, which might seem better on paper than the 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4 that makes 186 hp. But it generates 369 lb-ft of torque to top the towing and efficiency scales of the Canyon with 7,700 pounds of towing capacity and an EPA-rated 30 mpg highway, and it's expensive. The best bet is a 3.6-liter V-6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The cabin is a comfy place to be unless wedged into the rear seats in the extended cab, which is better for storage than people. The crew cab is roomy, however, and can be had with a 6-foot-2 long bed or a smaller bed that’s a foot shorter.
A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard, but automatic emergency braking does not. It can’t even be optioned, underscoring the less than perfect ratings from the NHTSA and the IIHS.
Options range from heated and cooled leather seats to an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
How much does the 2021 GMC Canyon cost?
The 2021 GMC Canyon costs $27,595 to start, including $1,195 destination. That’s about $1,000 more than the Chevy Colorado WT. The top Denali trim fitted with a crew cab and long bed, and powered by a diesel engine costs $49,625. We like the new AT4 for about $40,000.
Where is the 2021 GMC Canyon made?
In Wentzville, Missouri.
2021 GMC Canyon
The 2021 GMC Canyon wears its classic truck proportions well, even if it's aging.
Is the 2021 GMC Canyon a good-looking truck?
Yes. It’s timeless in the way of a work boot, and its square lines prove that even a work boot can look good. It’s a 7, largely for its handsome exterior.
The bulging wheel arches cut to square, the bulging hood brooding like a brow over the broad rectangular grille, the corner bed step—all these classic GMC truck shapes look right on the Canyon. It doesn’t try too hard to be macho like the Silverado, yet it doesn’t blend into the crowd like the Ram 1500; the mid-size Canyon stamps a place for itself even among larger, more popular trucks. The AT4 trim stands out even more with red tow hooks, a larger grille, and 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in knobby 31-inch off-road tires.
The interior is less inspired, but not nearly as dull as the Chevy Colorado. Easy-to-use dials and knobs stud the center stack, but the tall and wide vents squeeze the small touchscreen like mob enforcers to a CI.
2021 GMC Canyon
The 2021 GMC Canyon offers two good powertrain options, and one bad one.
2021 GMC Canyon shoppers can choose between three engines, two drivetrains, two transmissions. A V-6 with four-wheel drive is the best and most popular choice, and serves as the basis for our rating of 6 out of 10.
Is the GMC Canyon 4WD?
The rear-wheel-drive truck can be had with four-wheel drive for about $3,700, depending on the configuration. It’s standard on the AT4.
How fast is the GMC Canyon?
Built for capability more than speed, the GMC Canyon can be as efficient as it can be powerful. The 200-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 with a 6-speed automatic transmission in rear-wheel drive is as basic as it gets, and will find its way into fleets more than anywhere else. Making 191 lb-ft of torque, it only tows 3,500 pounds which many crossover SUVs top.
The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 308 hp and 275 lb-ft and uses a quick 8-speed automatic transmission to tow up to 7,000 pounds. It’s a confident, capable powertrain that sacrifices neither power nor payload, but its efficiency pales some competitors.
For max towing, and max efficiency on the highway, GMC offers a 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4 with the 6-speed. It only makes 186 hp so it can drag during passing moves, but its bountiful 369 lb-ft of torque helps it tow up to 7,700 pounds. It gets 30 mpg highway, but with an upcharge of more than $4,000 on all but the tony Denali trim, it will take a long time and a whole lot of highway miles to recoup the cost.
The Canyon bounces around unladen like any truck with a leaf-spring suspension, but it’s quiet, especially in Denali trim, and it's more composed and easier to maneuver than any full-size truck.
2021 GMC Canyon
Comfort & Quality
The 2021 GMC Canyon ranges from the utilitarian to the luxurious.
With four trims ranging from the basic to the baller, two cabs, and two bed sizes, the 2021 Canyon casts a wide net for utility. It’s a 5.
The base Elevation Standard trim comes with an extended cab and 6-foot-2 long bed, while the available crew cab with a 5-foot-2 short bed costs $1,900 more. The crew cab can be had with the long box, too, for an extra $600. The functional interior clads itself in black and silver accent pieces, while cloth seats and carpeted floor mats provide some simplicity. The extended cab’s rear seats flip up for more storage, but you can only seat two in back on stiff, vertical rear seats with only 28.6 inches of leg room. Some coupes are roomier in back.
To seat five, and seat three in back with comfort and 35.8 inches of leg room, the crew cab does the job. Available upgrades include everything from leather seats to chrome door handles.
2021 GMC Canyon
The 2021 GMC Canyon performs poorly in crash tests.
How safe is the GMC Canyon?
NHTSA gave the Canyon four stars in crash test results, and the IIHS echoed that with a “Marginal” rating for withstanding front-end collisions on the passenger side. The IIHS also dinged it for “Poor” headlights. Combined that with the lack of automatic emergency braking and the Canyon earns just a 2.
Optional safety features include forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, and parking sensors.
2021 GMC Canyon
The AT4 trim new for 2021 comes off-road ready and with more features and options.
The new trim levels don’t reflect much new when it comes to features. Power door locks and windows, cloth seats, a 4-way power driver’s seat, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. The infotainment system boosts it a point above average to a 6.
Which Canyon should I buy?
We’d skip the $27,595 base Elevation Standard trim. Since the AT4 comes standard with popular upgrades such as the V-6 and four-wheel drive, we’d opt for a roomier crew cab and short box of the new AT4 Cloth for $39,395. The AT4 adds 31-inch DuraTrac off-road tires on 17-inch black aluminum wheels, red tow hooks, a larger grille, hill descent control, a power driver’s seat with lumbar control, and more available options. The $41,195 AT4 Leather tempts with leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, power passenger seat, heated steering wheel, and wireless smartphone charging.
How much is a fully loaded 2021 GMC Canyon?
The Denali trim crew cab with the long bed and the diesel engine costs $49,625. It comes with a Bose audio system, larger touchscreen, and heated and cooled front seats. Add any color other than white or black to climb $50,000.
2021 GMC Canyon
A wide range of powertrains on the 2021 Canyon gives shoppers a wide range of efficiency options.
Is the 2021 GMC Canyon good on gas?
The most popular engine choice, the 3.6-liter V-6 with the 8-speed automatic, is also the least efficient. The V-6 with four-wheel drive earns an EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 24 highway, 19 combined. That’s a 3 on our scale, but the inline-4 and turbodiesel would rate a 4. The Honda Ridgeline’s V-6 gets 21 mpg combined.
The 2.5-liter base engine gets 19/25/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive, while the turbodiesel inline-4 reigns with a 20/30/23 mpg rating. Four-wheel drive deducts 1 mpg combined on both.