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It has the features and the looks necessary to get the attention of compact pickup buyers, but next to the all-new pickups from major competitors, the 2006 GMC Canyon comes up short in power, interior room and overall fit and finish.
Versatile size, handles well on- and off-road, simple controls, available locking differential.
Not much low-end torque, no six- or eight-cylinder engine option, low tow ratings, subpar build and materials quality.
Available Canyon Models
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The GMC Canyon heads into 2006 with a new option package aimed at improving on-street handling performance. The ZQ8 package lowers the Canyon's ride height by 2 inches, quickens the steering and adds a thicker rear stabilizer bar. It also includes stiffer shocks and bushings and 17-inch aluminum wheels with 235/50R17 performance tires. Other updates for '06 include MP3-capable audio and the SLT trim being made available on extended and crew cab models.
GMC calls its full-size trucks "professional grade," and with the Canyon, the company is looking to apply that concept to the compact truck class. Slightly larger than the Sonoma truck that it replaced last year, the GMC Canyon is bigger, bolder and more refined than any compact GMC truck in years. Built on a tough ladder frame chassis, the GMC Canyon offers three body styles, two- and four-wheel drive and a choice of two Vortec inline engines. Derived directly from the 4.2-liter straight six found in the Envoy SUV, the Canyon's all-aluminum four- and five-cylinder power plants are the most technologically advanced engines ever offered in a compact GMC truck. Both engines use dual-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and electronic throttle control.
Since the majority of compact truck buyers purchase their vehicles for personal use, the GMC Canyon was given a more refined and feature-laden cabin than the previous Sonoma. The overall design is simple, with rotary dials for the climate control system and a large radio faceplate. The Canyon's build and materials quality still tends to be below average compared to that of other small pickups. Optional side curtain airbags provide head protection in the event of a side impact or rollover accident. Standard antilock brakes and optional traction control on 2WD models further contribute to the Canyon's complement of safety features.
On paper, the GMC Canyon offers the necessary ingredients to satisfy the majority of compact truck buyers. The engines provides both efficiency and power, and with three body styles to choose from in both two- and four-wheel drive, finding a configuration that meets your needs isn't too difficult. The problem is, the Canyon feels cheap, even in a class of vehicles where functionality and value come before upscale accommodations. The doors are lightweight and tinny, and the first thing you'll notice when you slide behind the wheel is how low-grade the dash looks and rough the upholstery feels. Out on the road, neither the four- or five-cylinder engine provides acceleration on par with V6 and V8 engines offered by the Dakota, Frontier and Tacoma, and the Canyon's tow rating is the lowest in the class. If you're shopping for a small pickup, make sure you explore all the options before settling on the 2006 GMC Canyon.
The GMC Canyon pickup comes in regular, extended and crew cab body styles, and all are available in two- and four-wheel drive. Regular and extended cab models have a 6-foot bed; the crew cab gets a 5-foot bed. There are four basic trim levels: Work Truck (WT), SL, SLE and SLT. WT models come standard with air conditioning, cruise control and a tilt steering wheel. The SL adds a 60/40 cloth bench seat and upgraded trim. Upgraded SLE models add titanium-colored trim, full carpeting and a CD stereo. The SLT adds dual power seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated leather seats. The Z71 off-road package offers a taller ride height, along with a locking rear differential, oversize tires and skid plates on 4WD models. The ZQ8 package bolsters on-street performance with a lowered suspension, quicker steering and performance wheels and tires. There's also a power convenience package with power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; satellite radio; and a six-disc CD changer.
Standard on all GMC Canyon pickups is a 2.8-liter engine rated at 175 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Optional on all trims is a 3.5-liter engine with 220 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is also available. Four-wheel-drive models feature a dual-range transfer case with push-button controls. Maximum towing capacity is just 4,000 pounds, the lowest figure in the class.
The Canyon was the first compact GMC truck to offer roof-mounted side curtain airbags; they're optional on all body styles. Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard, and traction control is optional on 2WD trucks. In government crash tests, the four-door Canyon earned four stars (out of five) for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact testing, it received four stars for front-occupant protection in side impacts, and five stars for rear passengers. Additionally, the IIHS awarded the GMC Canyon a "Good" rating for the truck's performance in the front-offset crash test.
Trucks may have gotten more hospitable in recent years, but don't expect anything fancy in the Canyon's cabin. Simple rotary climate controls and a large stereo faceplate make the interior seem instantly familiar as soon as you get in. The gauges are similarly basic, but functional in their design. Materials range from average to substandard in quality, and build quality is inconsistent.
After driving the 2006 GMC Canyon pickup, we found that the new inline engines are reasonably refined, but their lack of off-the-line punch and odd exhaust notes are disappointing. Shifts from the four-speed automatic are firm and well timed, and although it's still fairly vague through the gears, the five-speed manual gearbox is about as good as you're going to find in a compact truck. The stock suspension tuning is on the soft side, but the Canyon handles well for this class. Go with the ZQ8 package for sharper reflexes on pavement or the Z71 for a boost in off-road capability.
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