THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: A combination of finesse and muscle – the Canyon offers real truck payload potential in a more urban-adaptable package with a smaller mid-size footprint.
What’s Worst: It’s a truck and, if you’re not into them, the un-laden bouncing takes a little getting used to. But you will make a lot of new friends on moving day!
What’s Interesting: While some manufacturers – notably Ford and Dodge – have given up on smaller trucks, GM sees some segment potential. Yes, GM’s bigger Sierra and Silverado trucks sell at more than 10X the numbers but, so far, increasing sales numbers are proving them right.
“If you build it, they will come.”
Ok, a slight misquote from “Field of Dreams” but it captures the faith still held by a few stalwarts in the compact/mid-size truck segment.
Ford and Dodge threw in the towel on smaller trucks, dropping the Ranger and Dakota lineups, arguing that customers have enough choices to reap the benefits of full-size utility, moderate pricing and modern fuel efficiency from within their wide selection of regular pickups.
But Nissan’s Frontier and Toyota’s Tacoma, both slated for coming updates, are hanging in while GM took the leap on faith last year with the release of the renewed Colorado/Canyon combo.
Tested here we have the 2015 GMC Canyon, emphasizing bling as well as brawn, with standard alloy wheels and extensive chrome brightwork on the big GMC grille, as opposed to the more muscular, body-coloured Camaro-like cues of its Chevy Silverado sibling.
Under that shiny skin, the Canyon offers a choice of two engines – a base 200 hp 2.5-litre four-cylinder or an optional 305 hp 3.6-litre V6. A six-speed manual tranny comes standard in entry-level models but the bulk of the lineup translates power via a six-speed automatic with TowHaul and auto grade braking.
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The lineup also starts with 2WD (rear-wheel-drive) models but GM boasts that the Canyon is the only truck in the segment to offer an AutoTrac automatic 4WD (four-wheel-drive) system.
There are four modes to choose from – 2WD, Auto, 4WD HI or 4WD LO. In the set-and-forget Auto mode, the electronically controlled, two-speed transfer case operates in 2WD until sensors detect a loss of traction and direct power to the front wheels.
There are two cab versions – Extended Cab and Crew Cab – and two pickup box sizes depending on model selection – a regular 1,880 mm (6’2”) box and a short box option at 1568 mm (5’2”).
Putting numbers to those choices is hard because price differences vary with trim selections, but adding 4WD will bump up the price anywhere from $4,250 to $5,200, opting for Crew Cab can add from $2,850 to $4,150, and downsizing to a short box instead of the regular box (only in Crew Cab upper trim levels) can save you from $350 to $1,950.
Filling out the last of the many Canyon configuration choices, four trim levels include a special SL version ($20,600) limited to the four-cylinder engine and 2WD, moving up through the base Canyon model to SLE and SLT versions with varying degrees of standard and available equipment levels depending customer wishes and wallet depth.
Tested here, we have a Canyon SLE 4WD Extended Cab model ($33,350) with the regular length box. Maybe not quite at the leather-clad SLT level, but this truck sits pretty high up the Canyon food chain, complete with air conditioning, four-way power driver’s chair, power group, rear vision camera, tilt/telescopic steering with audio, cruise and communication controls, overhead console, rear defogger, three USB sockets, auto-dimming mirror, remote keyless entry, an eight-inch Colour Touch radio with GMC IntelliLink and six-speaker audio, to mention just a few of the standard issue items.
An All-Terrain package ($1,750) boosts both attitude and ability with an off-road tuned suspension, 17-inch Dark Argent Metallic alloy wheels mounting P255/65R-17 all-terrain tires, body coloured trim, front tow hooks, Hill Descent Control, a transfer case shield and sporty Jet Black/Cobalt Red Cloth heated seats. It also adds a four-way power passenger seat to match the power driver’s seat.
And, last but not least, our tester was powered by the optional 3.6-litre direct injected DOHC VVT V6 engine ($1,050) making 305 hp at 6,800 rpm and 269 lb/ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. With segment leading oomph, this V6 pumps out payload hauling power and up to a 3,175 kg (7,000 lb) tow rating. Fuel economy is rated at 13.5/9.8L/100km (city/hwy) with my real world results coming in at 12.9L/100km (comb).
This is a pickup truck after all, so let’s at least mention the 1,880 mm (6’2”) box that comes with included segment-first CornerStep rear bumpers, an EZ Lift-and-Lower locking removable tailgate that allows one-handed operation and numerous tie-down locations. Our tester’s box was pretty bare bones but a long list of options and accessories include a factory spray-in bedliner, bed mats, a toolbox, tonneau cover and a variety of GearOn packages that use bars, dividers or racks and cross rails to maximize payload versatility.
Inside, the GMC Canyon is surprisingly sophisticated, well finished, roomy and comfortable, at least in the front row.
The Extended Cab layout offers a small space second row, too claustrophobic really for actual human habitation and more likely a dumping ground for bags, briefcases, whatever. I would opt for a Crew Cab for any serious second row passenger needs.
But there has to be some compromise in offering a smaller truck, after all, and the whole idea behind the Canyon was to pack modern sophistication and real truck utility into a more urban-friendly package with a smaller footprint.
With its variety of configurative choices, the GMC Canyon, designed as sort of a “crossover interceptor”, can fulfill the needs of any customer looking to blend passenger civility and modern amenities with very real trucking payload potential.
2015 GMC Canyon SLE 4WD at a glance
BODY STYLE: Midsize, body-on-frame pickup truck
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, 4WD and six-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: As tested 3.6-litre direct injection DOHC V6 (305 hp, 269 lb/ft)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 13.5/9.8L/100km (city/ hwy); as tested 12.9L/100km (comb).
PAYLOAD: 721 kg (1,590 lb)
CARGO: 1,414 litres.
TOW RATING: 3175 kg (7,000 lb)
PRICE: MSRP $33,350; As tested $36,765 includes optional 3.6-litre V6 ($1,050), All Terrain pkg ($1,755), SLE Convenience pkg ($550), Wheel Lock pkg ($60.00). Destination ($1,695) not included