Though not as popular as full-size pickups, compact and midsize pickups fulfill an important role. For the many truck buyers whose towing and hauling needs don't require the capabilities of a full-size, these more nimble and fuel-efficient trucks are the perfect choice. GMC's entrant in this segment is the Canyon.
The GMC Canyon was first sold from 2004 to 2012 and then revived in 2015. Now in its second generation, the Canyon offers rugged styling, a pleasant ride, capable engines and a relatively expansive array of feature content. With enough power on tap to tow and haul, it easily handles all the functions you expect a truck to fulfill. And like many of the top pickups these days, it goes a step further by providing enough luxury and comfort to make it an amenable companion on your daily commute.
The previous generation of the GMC Canyon had handsome sheet metal, impressive crash test scores and muscle from an available V8, but it was plagued with quite a few negatives. For much of this truck's life, its standard four- and five-cylinder engines were lacking in the power department, which limited the truck's ability to comfortably haul cargo or tow heavy loads. Build quality was average at best, and many items within the truck's cabin felt flimsy and cheap.
The current GMC Canyon is a standout in its segment, and its robust power, pleasant driving dynamics and agreeable cabin should hit the sweet spot for many who are in the market for a midsize truck.
Current GMC Canyon
The GMC Canyon gives buyers a choice of two body styles: extended cab or crew cab. Extended-cab models seat four, while crew-cab models seat five. Extended-cab Canyons haul loads with a box that measures 74 inches in length, while crew-cab models offer buyers the choice of a 74-inch or 61.7-inch box.
Five trim levels are available: SL, base Canyon, SLE, SLT and Denali. SL models are sold solely with an extended cab and come with basic features such as 16-inch wheels, vinyl floor covering, a six-speaker sound system and a rearview camera. Base Canyon models are available with a crew or extended cab and add standard carpeting along with options such as OnStar telematics and remote keyless entry. The SLE model brings in 17-inch wheels, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, satellite radio and an 8-inch color touchscreen. SLT models add heated front seats, heated power-adjustable side mirrors and 18-inch wheels. The range-topping Denali is only available with a crew cab, and it includes 20-inch wheels, unique side steps, navigation and a premium Bose seven-speaker stereo.
GMC Canyon buyers have a choice of three engines. The base engine is a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower. Paired with a six-speed manual transmission, it's the only powertrain choice on SL models. This engine is also available on base Canyon models with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, and on SLE models paired solely with a six-speed automatic. The second engine choice is a 3.6-liter V6 that generates 308 hp. It's available on base Canyon and higher trims, and it's paired with an eight-speed automatic. An optional 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine is also offered. It produces 181 hp, is paired with a six-speed automatic and is available on SLE, SLT and Denali trucks. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are offered.
The GMC Canyon has received solid reviews from our editors. We found its ride quality quite polished and civilized, especially when compared to older trucks. The Canyon's handling is poised, and it feels stable and secure around turns. Seat comfort is impressive, and both body styles bolster utility by offering additional storage space beneath the rear seats. Unless your budget requires you to select the most inexpensive option, we'd recommend passing on the base engine. Both the V6 and the turbodiesel four-cylinder are satisfying choices.
Used GMC Canyon Models
The current generation of the GMC Canyon debuted for the 2015 model year., and early models were sold in SL, base Canyon, SLE and SLT trims. It was initially offered with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6, and a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The engine lineup expanded in 2016, when an optional 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine joined the fray. That year, the Canyon also received upgrades that allowed it to support Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. With 2017 came revisions that boosted the power of the Canyon's V6, and the revised engine was matched with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. That year, the top-of-the-line Denali trim was added to the lineup.
The first-generation GMC Canyon was sold from 2004 to 2012. Three configurations were available: standard cab, extended cab and crew cab. Extended-cab and crew-cab models featured four doors; crew-cab Canyons had four standard-size doors and a 60/40-split folding rear seat that provided seating for three adults, while extended-cab versions offered two small reverse-opening doors and rear jump seats. Canyon crew cabs hauled loads with a 5-foot bed, while the other two configurations got the job done with a bed that measures 6 feet.
Three trim levels were available: Work Truck (WT), SLE and SLT. WT models offered features like air-conditioning, side curtain airbags, cruise control and an AM/FM stereo. The Canyon SLE model added an improved stereo and a more extensive options list, though power accessories were an extra-cost option on regular-cab SLEs (standard on extended-cab SLEs). The SLT stepped it up with leather upholstery and power seats. There were also two optional suspension packages. The Z71 suspension improved the off-road performance of 4WD trucks, while the ZQ8 package for 2WD trucks enhanced on-road handling and grip.
GMC Canyon buyers had a choice of three engines. A 2.9-liter inline four-cylinder produced 185 hp, and was standard on WT and SLE models. It came with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder was more robust, offering 242 hp. Both a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic transmission were available. There was also an available 5.3-liter V8 that cranked out 300 hp. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive were offered, and the 4WD system had a dual-range transfer case and push-button controls.
The first-generation GMC Canyon was met with middling reviews from our editors. Its interior was criticized for being below average in build and materials quality. Its engines, too, were panned as lackluster, though the optional V8 was possibly the most enjoyable engine in the compact truck segment at that time. In consumer reviews, owners praised the truck for its stylish exterior and quiet ride, but have expressed reservations about its build quality.