2011 GMC Canyon Review
2011 GMC Canyon Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Affordable price
- composed handling on- and off-road
- varied engine choices.
- Non-V8 engines lack power
- mediocre seat comfort
- subpar build quality.
For 2011, the GMC Canyon sees just a few minor changes, such as newly standard Bluetooth connectivity, six free months worth of OnStar's Directions and Connections, and redesigned headrests.
The 2011 GMC Canyon is a handsome light-duty pickup that looks good on paper. But on the road or trail, where passenger comfort and refinement really count, it doesn't quite measure up.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2011 GMC Canyon Work Truck 2dr Regular Cab SB (2.9L 4cyl 5M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.52 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$208/mo for Canyon Work Truck
Canyon Work Truck
Avg. Compact Truck
The 2011 GMC Canyon is a prime example of a vehicle that seemingly has all the attributes buyers would want, yet is not one that we would recommend. Consumers shopping the compact/midsize pickup truck segment typically want rugged styling, multiple engine and body style choices and the availability of an off-road package. Those who need to tow their small business' equipment or weekend toys would add plenty of power to that list of requirements. The GMC Canyon offers all this, but remains a truck that still can't compete with the few major-league players that dominate this class.
Two main flaws conspire to keep the current Canyon (and its Chevy Colorado cousin) down in the minor leagues. One is an aging cabin with subpar materials and so-so seating comfort. The other is the lackluster performance of its top volume engine, an inline-5 that pales in comparison to rivals' V6s that offer more power and refinement. The base inline-4 isn't bad for light-duty service and the available powerhouse V8 is a capable workhorse, but its thirst for fuel doesn't give this smaller truck any fuel economy benefit over roomier full-size pickups.
Like many lower-rated entries in the automotive marketplace, the 2011 GMC Canyon is still essentially a competent vehicle. However, the traditional segment leaders, the 2011 Nissan Frontier and 2011 Toyota Tacoma, are better trucks in almost every regard. If you must have a V8 in your smaller pickup, then the Canyon (and Colorado) is worth a look, as only the GM twins and the 2011 Ram Dakota offer V8 power in this class. However, those seeking a thoroughly refined and up-to-date midsize pickup will likely be disappointed and should check the competition first.
Performance & mpg
No fewer than three different engines are offered for the 2011 GMC Canyon, including an inline-4, an inline-5 and a V8.
The standard 2.9-liter four-cylinder makes 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, and an optional 3.7-liter inline-5 produces 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. The 5.3-liter V8 (only offered on extended-cab and crew cab models) makes 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. The Work Truck and SLE models come standard with the 2.9-liter engine but can be equipped with the 3.7-liter engine. The 3.7 is standard on SLT models, and SLE and SLT trims can be outfitted with the V8.
The 2.9-liter four is paired with a standard five-speed manual transmission except in the crew cabs, which only come with a four-speed automatic. All manual-shift Canyons are eligible for an upgrade to the automatic, and the two larger engines are automatic only. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while the available four-wheel drive features a shift-on-the-fly two-speed transfer case with push-button controls and an optional locking rear differential.
Fuel economy estimates start at an impressive 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined for 2WD models with the 2.9-liter engine; by the time you get to the top-of-the-line V8-powered crew cab, however, those numbers have dropped to 14/19/16.
The 2011 GMC Canyon comes standard with the OnStar emergency communications system, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and head curtain airbags.
The GMC Canyon has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Last year the crew cab scored a perfect five stars for the protection of the driver and front passenger in frontal impacts, three stars for front side impacts and five stars for rear side impacts. The extended- and regular-cab styles earned four stars for driver and front passenger in frontal impacts and four stars for front side impacts.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash testing, the Canyon extended cab earned a top rating of "Good," while the crew cab got an "Acceptable" rating (second highest of four). However, in that agency's side-impact tests, the crew cab received the lowest rating of "Poor."
The 2011 GMC Canyon's cabin is relatively tranquil around town, though wind noise around the doors tends to increase at highway speeds. The four- and five-cylinder engines are smooth enough, but performance lags behind that of the larger V6s of the Canyon's competitors. The available four-speed automatic transmission doesn't offer as many gears as its rivals, though at least its shifts are smooth and well-timed.
Those looking for abundant power and towing capability will, of course, want to specify the available 5.3-liter V8, which places the Canyon in the same league as its brawny V8-powered Dodge Dakota rival. The Canyon's standard suspension is calibrated for a soft and comfortable ride on pavement, while the available Z71 Off-Road Suspension package improves off-road performance at the expense of on-road compliance. The ZQ8 sport suspension provides much crisper cornering response.
While its competitors have evolved over the years with higher levels of luxury and refinement, the GMC Canyon is let down by subpar materials and mediocre seat design. However, the Canyon does deserve high marks for the simple and straightforward layout of its controls and gauges. Rear legroom is a bit pinched on extended-cab and crew-cab models, while ingress and egress for rear passengers can be a bit of a challenge due to the smallish rear door openings. Out back, the Canyon's cargo boxes feature two-tier loading, and the dual-position removable tailgate can be secured partly open to support the placement of 4-by-8 sheets of wood atop its wheelwells.
2011 GMC Canyon models
The 2011 GMC Canyon is a compact truck available with two- or four-wheel drive in three body styles: regular cab, extended cab and crew cab. Crew cabs are equipped with a 5-foot cargo box, while other Canyons feature a 6-foot bed. There are three primary trim levels to choose from -- Work Truck, SLE and SLT -- with slightly different equipment allocations based on body style.
The regular-cab Work Truck comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, a bedliner, a 60/40-split front bench seat, air-conditioning, cruise control, six months free of OnStar's Directions and Connections, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio. The regular-cab SLE model adds aluminum wheels, foglights, chrome interior accents and an upgraded radio with a CD player, but power accessories must be added at extra cost. The extended-cab SLE boasts full power accessories and remote keyless entry. The extended-cab SLT adds chrome wheels, a leather-trimmed interior and power heated front bucket seats, while the crew cab SLT comes with these features as well as a heavy-duty suspension.
Available on the SLE and SLT trims are the Z71 Off-Road Suspension package (including larger wheels and tires, skid plates and a locking rear differential on 4WD models) and the ZQ8 Sport Suspension package (including a lowered suspension, quicker steering and 18-inch wheels with performance tires). Other options on various models include 17- and 18-inch wheels, remote keyless entry, foglamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, running boards, front bucket seats and a six-CD changer.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
4.75 out of 5 stars
Nice Little Ride
2008 GMC Canyon SLE 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (3.7L 5cyl 4A)
Purchased the 2008 SLT Crew Cab 5cyl 4WD Dec 4th, 2007. To date we have around 6000 miles from 60 miles/day commute. Initial gas mileage was avg, but has steadily increased after continued break-in. Don't expect great mpg due to weight, but to date at 16mpg hwy. Will get cold air induction, better plugs, and go to synthetic old to eek out some more mpg. Build quality good, but sparse. … This is your basic truck. Throw about 10k more for full size goodies and vanity mirrors. Nothing broke to date. Fun vehicle to drive, but turns like a ship. I hope GM fixes this and gets 5speed tranny. Roomy interior and ample hauling capability. Satisfied with money spent.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Not that bad
2010 GMC Canyon SLE 2dr Regular Cab SB (2.9L 4cyl 5M)
I wanted a small truck to haul small loads. I wanted an American truck. So far its not that bad, its really good on the highway, not that much noise. The seats could be better, but they are ok. The cd player though does have an old style to it. One weird thing, on the armrest there is a cassette tape case holder. Who uses cassettes anymore, it's a waste of space. It's easy to drive, my … wife likes to drive it. It needs a place for your change, you don't have a storage place on the dash for your change or anything important. I haven't yet taken it offroad.
4 out of 5 stars
Nice Truck at a Reasonable Price
GMC Owner, 07/13/2009
2008 GMC Canyon SL 2dr Regular Cab SB (2.9L 4cyl 5M)
I previously owned a 4 cylinder, manual 5-speed S-10 with 118 hp, and it was running perfectly with 180,000 miles when I bought this new GMC. THE S-10 total cost of repair was less than $1,000 during the time I had it, and I hope this GMC can get close to that. The 242 hp of the GMC Canyon is a big improvement, and I don't have to worry about keeping up with traffic on steep freeway … hills anymore. The suspension is awesome compared to the S-10. The drastically increased power, and much better braking make the truck fun to drive. I get about 25 mpg highway and about 16 mpg city. In contrast, my S-10 got about 31 highway and 22 city.
4.88 out of 5 stars
2008 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab 4cyl
2008 GMC Canyon SLE 4dr Crew Cab SB (2.9L 4cyl 4A)
I've had this truck for almost 2 mos. now. It replaced my 1995 Chevy p/u that had just under 370K miles on it. I was quite please with the price paid (just over 18K after rebates & GM card bonus for a base model w/ tow package) and the buying experience at the dealership. The truck itself is the best buy out there for the money. In my opinion, the 4 cyl is not much different … power-wise from the 5 cyl (I test drove both) and the gas mileage is great (have been averaging 22-23mpg in mixed city-highway driving). Plus, the 4cyl was much quieter than the 5 cyl. The interior is very nice and well-laid out. There is plenty of room for five people. It rides like a dream. Great job GM!
We have a limited number of reviews for the 2011 GMC Canyon, so we've included reviews for other years of the Canyon since its last redesign.
2011 Canyon Highlights
|Combined MPG||21 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$208/month|
|Drivetrain||rear wheel drive|
|Max Towing Capacity||4,000 lbs.|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|
NHTSA Overall Rating
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriverNot RatedPassengerNot Rated
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriverNot RatedPassengerNot Rated
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover18.5%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestNot Tested
- Small Overlap Front Passenger-Side TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – OriginalGood
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – OriginalNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintMarginal