2021 GMC Canyon
- Starting around $23,500
- Fall 2020
What to expect
- New AT4 off-road trim
- Revised Denali content, including larger grille and upgraded cabin materials
- Part of the second Canyon generation introduced for 2015
What is it?
The 2021 GMC Canyon is receiving a handful of updates to breathe new life into this aging midsize truck. First up: The luxe Denali adds enhanced cabin materials and a new grille reminiscent of the one on the full-size Sierra 1500 pickup. The new AT4 model goes the other direction, equipping the Canyon with previously unavailable off-road upgrades. Both speak to the truck's versatility, provided you're looking to buy a Canyon in one of its more expensive trims.
This year's changes to the Canyon Denali widen the gulf between it and a loaded Chevrolet Colorado. Open-pore wood trim, aluminum accents and a unique color scheme dress up the interior, while a new gunmetal grille carries a similar design to the one on larger GMC pickups.
The new AT4 model, meanwhile, borrows off-road enhancements from the Colorado Z71. The Canyon AT4 starts with standard four-wheel drive, a locking rear differential and massive 31-inch all-terrain tires. An off-road-tuned suspension, hill descent control and a protective skid plate for the transfer case also make the grade. The AT4 comes with the redesigned grille, but red tow hooks are unique to this trim.
Both the Denali and AT4 are available with your choice of a 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine or a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel.
Why does it matter?
Aside from last year's redesigned infotainment system and a sprinkling of new features throughout the years, the Canyon has largely stayed the same since its 2015 debut. That means any significant change is important, even if it only affects big spenders. Upgrades to the Denali's interior will only help justify its eye-watering price tag, and given the popularity of full-size luxury trucks, it makes sense to see more premium touches make their way to the midsize truck market.
The new AT4 trim helps bolster the Canyon's off-road cred, which we've found was oddly lacking over the last half-decade. Midsize trucks are popular off-road vehicles since their smaller footprint makes navigating trails an easier task. Aside from the Honda Ridgeline, every competitor already offers some serious off-road upgrades.
What does it compete with?
Competitors start with the Canyon's mechanical twin, the Chevrolet Colorado. The Colorado is slightly less expensive and doesn't offer a Denali equivalent. On the other hand, its Z71 trim approximates the Canyon's AT4 trim, and the Colorado ZR2 offers an even higher level of off-road ability, especially if you opt for the Bison. There's also the Toyota Tacoma, a midsize known for its solid reliability and rock-crawling prowess.
The Honda Ridgeline is roomier and more comfortable, and it feels more luxurious in its upper trims than most rivals, but it's much more oriented to on-road performance. And if venturing off the beaten path is in your future, you really can't do better than the Jeep Gladiator, which pairs the performance of a Wrangler with the utility of a pickup.
While getting on in its years, this GMC Canyon generation has remained competitive. A revised Denali trim and new AT4 variant help extend its sell-by date.