Used 2015 GMC Canyon Extended Cab Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2015 GMC Canyon is now the most up-to-date and refined midsize pickup truck available. Compared to dated rivals or even as an alternative to full-size trucks, this new Canyon is very appealing.




What's new for 2015

The 2015 GMC Canyon has been fully redesigned.

Vehicle overview

In recent years, there hasn't been a whole lot to choose from for compact or midsize pickup trucks. GMC even stopped producing its Canyon for a few years. There's some good news for truck shoppers, though. The GMC Canyon is back for 2015, and this time it's a much more appealing truck in every regard.

Built on the same platform as its Chevrolet Colorado cousin, the new Canyon is dimensionally larger than the version GMC discontinued three years ago. It's now more or less the same size as its Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier rivals. From there, GMC's design and engineering teams turned their attention to enticing buyers with an appealing combination of performance and cutting-edge technology.

Starting with the practical improvements, the Canyon's new four- and six-cylinder engines are both more fuel-efficient and more powerful, with V6-equipped models now capable of towing up to 7,000 pounds. The interior gets an equally important update, highlighted by improved materials and an available 8-inch touchscreen, which comes complete with smartphone-like apps and voice controls designed to make it easier and safer to interact with mobile technology. As with many other GM vehicles this year, the Canyon also benefits from the latest version of OnStar, which includes a fast 4G LTE connection and in-car WiFi hotspot functionality. Other notable technology includes safety-oriented options like available forward collision and lane departure warning systems and a standard rearview camera.

The GMC Canyon does have a few minor shortcomings. Its newness is paired with a price premium, and chances are you'll pay a little more to get a Canyon than for some other rival trucks. Also, the minimal price difference and fuel economy savings between this new compact model and many light-duty full-size trucks -- once the two chief arguments for buying a smaller pickup -- may also turn out to make it less attractive than in previous years.

In your consideration process you'll want to compare the Canyon back to back with its two long-running rivals, the 2015 Nissan Frontier and 2015 Toyota Tacoma, to see just how far the midsize pickup segment has come. The Frontier and Tacoma are priced lower than the Canyon, but they're both nearly a decade old. To get a broader view of your alternatives, you may also want to have a look at the roomier, more capable and yet still fuel-efficient full-size pickups like the redesigned 2015 Ford F-150 and 2015 Ram 1500. But with so many positive qualities, we think the 2015 GMC Canyon is definitely a pickup you'll want to consider this year.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 GMC Canyon is a midsize pickup offered in two- and four-seat extended-cab and five-seat crew cab body styles. There are two bed lengths and four trim levels available: SL, Canyon, SLE and top-of-the-line SLT.

The entry level SL base model, which is essentially a well-equipped work truck, comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, projector-style headlights with LED daytime running lights, outside mirrors with built-in spotter mirrors, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a four-way power driver seat with manual recline, deletion of the rear jump seats, black vinyl floor covering, a tilt-only adjustable steering wheel, power windows, a rearview camera and a six-speaker audio system with a 4.2-inch color display and a USB port.
Stepping up to the Canyon trim level adds fold-up rear jump seats (extended-cab models only), as well as color-keyed carpeting and floor mats. Notably, this trim also allows you to add desirable options like an available Convenience package that includes keyless entry, cruise control, a rear window defogger, theft-deterrent system and the EZ-Lift tailgate. Other available options include the OnStar telematics system (with a 4G LTE connection and in-car WiFi hotspot) and an upgraded audio system with an auxiliary audio input jack, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and voice controls.

Springing for the upscale SLE gets you 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, body-color outside mirrors and door handles, a rear window defogger, keyless entry, a folding rear bench seat (crew cab models only), an overhead console, nicer soft-touch interior trim materials, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a tilt-and-telescoping adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and an upgraded audio system built around the 8-inch color touchscreen that provides access to GMC's IntelliLink infotainment system that also adds satellite radio and three more USB charging outlets. OnStar telematics, Siri Eyes Free voice controls that work with late-model iPhones and a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot are also standard.

Option high points include an All-Terrain package, which is offered only on SLE models, that bundles 17-inch dark-tinted alloy wheels and all-terrain tires, an off-road-oriented suspension, automatic locking rear differential, hill descent control, front recovery hooks, heated front seats including a four-way power passenger seat and distinctive cloth upholstery. Also available is a Convenience package that includes automatic climate control and remote starting capability. An optional sliding rear window (requires the Convenience package) and a safety-oriented Driver Alert package that features forward collision and lane change warning systems round out the major add-ons.

The top SLT trim starts with most of the SLE's features and then tacks on remote starting, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a four-way power front passenger seat, driver and front passenger power lumbar adjustment and heated front seats. The main options here include the Driver Alert package, the sliding rear window, a navigation system and a premium Bose seven-speaker audio system.



Performance & mpg

Beneath the hood, the 2015 GMC Canyon offers a choice of two new engines. The 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder that puts out 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque is standard across much of the lineup. A six-speed manual transmission, which is offered only on the extended-cab two-wheel-drive base model, returns EPA fuel economy estimates of 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway). With the available six-speed automatic transmission, it again rates 22 mpg combined (20/27) with two-wheel drive and dips to 21 mpg combined (19/25) with four-wheel drive. Properly equipped, four-cylinder models can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The available 3.6-liter V6 produces 305 hp and 269 lb-ft and comes mated to the six-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy estimates for V6-powered two-wheel-drive models are 21 mpg combined (18/26); four-wheel-drive models are rated at 20 mpg combined (17/24). Properly equipped V6-powered models have a maximum towing capacity of 7,000 pounds. During Edmunds performance testing, a crew cab long bed Canyon equipped with the V6 and rear-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds.

On the subject of the Canyon's four-wheel-drive system, buyers should know it differs from the version offered on the Colorado by way of its additional "Auto" setting. This mode allows it to function like an all-wheel-drive system by automatically shifting power to the front wheels when road conditions turn dicey, but aren't yet bad enough to necessitate engaging either the 4WD High or 4WD Low settings via the dash-mounted knob.

Safety

Standard safety features on the 2015 GMC Canyon include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front seat side impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a rearview camera.

Advanced safety technologies including forward collision and lane departure warning systems are offered as options on select models. The available OnStar telematics system can also provide emergency crash notification, stolen vehicle notification, roadside assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.

During Edmunds testing, a GMC Canyon in crew cab long bed configuration with rear-wheel drive and the V6 engine came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is a very good result for a midsize pickup. Rivals and full-size pickups average about 10 additional feet.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2015 Canyon its highest possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap frontal offset crash test, the only test that agency has conducted thus far on this vehicle as of this writing.

Driving

The 2015 GMC Canyon's ride quality isn't exactly plush, but it feels a good bit less truckish than you might expect. Handling feels equally secure, with relatively little body lean when you're driving around turns. Also, the Canyon feels genuinely maneuverable from behind the wheel. It may be larger than the compact trucks of yore, but it doesn't feel nearly as intimidating around tight bends or in parking lots as its big brother, the Sierra 1500.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder is underwhelming, as it just doesn't have enough power to really motivate a vehicle this large, especially if you plan on doing any towing or hauling. Real-world fuel economy can suffer, too. If you need more muscle for toting heavy loads like dirt bikes or towing a good size boat or camping trailer, the 3.6-liter V6 is most definitely the way to go. Besides the engine's added brawn, the six-speed automatic's Tow/Haul mode and the stability system's trailer sway control are nice extras. The transmission does have a tendency to shift to the highest gear whenever possible, however, and it can be slightly hesitant to downshift when you need a bit more acceleration than that provided by just squeezing on the gas pedal.

The Canyon won't be your best choice for off-roading. The truck's modest ground clearance combined with the low-hanging front airdam, which is meant to improve aerodynamics and therefore fuel economy at highway speeds, limits how much tough terrain it can take on. You'll certainly want to remove the airdam if you're planning on doing any serious four-wheeling.

Interior

While the interiors of GM's new trucks are a huge improvement over those in both their own ancestors and their current competition, look a little closer and you'll find the 2015 GMC Canyon is just a little nicer inside than the Colorado. Examples include the use of higher-quality materials, from soft-touch plastics and padded door panels to the genuine aluminum surround that frames the 8-inch color touchscreen used to access GMC's IntelliLink infotainment system. The available All Terrain option package adds soft leather and unique trim that makes it seem at once rugged and cushy. As in the Colorado, the extra sound-deadening materials used in the Canyon's passenger cabin result in low noise levels that add to the upmarket feel.

Gauges, controls and displays are ideally positioned for easy use. Even the IntelliLink system uses large icons like those on a smartphone that make it easier to navigate than similar touchscreen setups. Better still, the system can be controlled by voice commands, and the built-in Siri Eyes Free technology allows users of late-model iPhones (it also works to a more limited degree with Android phones) to further expand this functionality. Unfortunately, we've found that the touchscreen can sometimes be slow to respond to inputs or require a reset before it responds at all.

On a more practical front, the crew cab's rear seat offers a few additional inches of legroom compared with that of its rivals, which is convenient if you plan on transporting any adults or locking large items in the cab. The seating is pretty comfortable for two normal-size adults, though full-size crew cabs are still the way to go for three-across seating and/or superior legroom.

As in most extended-cab models, the rear jump seats in the Canyon are no place you'd want to put an adult for more than a short jaunt. Both body styles offer storage space under those rear seats for valuable tools or gear you'd rather not leave unprotected in the bed. For those shoppers who are interested in the extended cab, GMC has integrated a feature where the rear headrest doubles as an extension to the rear seat bottom, allowing for the installation of a child seat.

The Canyon's taller sides and tailgate (they're almost full-size truck high) provide superior ease of hauling bulky payload items, and the Canyon long bed model can carry standard 4-by-8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate down without any overhang. The available EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate makes opening and closing the tailgate less of a workout, too.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.