We had been driving the 2015 GMC Canyon pickup around town and on the freeway for two or three days when Barbara said, “I don’t feel like I’m in a truck!”
Mostly that was because the GMC Canyon SLT interior is nicer and more comfortable inside than many of the cars we get to drive and partly because the Canyon wasn’t one of the humongous full-size pickups.
New mid-size versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon debuted last fall as 2015 models – they had been dropped from the GM lineup a couple of years earlier. The new trucks are not just a rehash of old models, instead GM designers and engineers learned from the global truck market and designed new GM trucks that are more rugged, efficient, stylish, quiet and innovative.
The two trucks make individual design statements; the Chevrolet and GMC trucks are alike in structure, but very different on the surface, each taking on strong family characteristics of their brand. The GMC Canyon has a more muscular look, or as GMC calls it – Professional Grade, while the Chevrolet Colorado is a sleeker, smoother design.
The Canyon comes in three sizes, with two engines, two transmissions and rear- or four-wheel drive. There is an Extended Cab version, with a six-foot, two-inch box; a Crew Cab with five-foot, two-inch box and a Crew Cab with the six-foot, two-inch box. A six-foot, two-inch bed is long enough to carry an eight-foot long cargo without it hanging over the end of the tailgate. (No, sheets of plywood will not fit between the wheel wells, but it’s easy to configure them above the wheel wells.) Both cab sizes serve a need with the Extended Cab rear area best suited for cargo and maybe an occasional passenger. The Crew Cab can easily carry a family or workers.
By the tape measure, the full-size GMC Sierra is about 14 to 17 inches longer than the equivalent mid-size Canyon. That might not seem like a big difference, but we noticed it in our garage. We could actually walk around the Canyon, but the Sierra required squeezing through or opening the garage door to get to the other side.
The GMC Canyon has some nice extra features like steps on the rear corners to make access to the bed much easier and a tailgate designed to open softly without dropping and easier to raise. It can be easily removed and locked. There is also an available spray-in bed liner for protection against scratching and rust. In addition, the top surfaces of the box edge have extra protection against scratching and denting.
Our test truck was powered by the standard 200-hp 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission; it is also available with a six-speed manual transmission. The automatic transmission is equipped with auto grade braking which automatically downshifts during deceleration to take advantage of engine braking. It produces good acceleration, but tends to be a little noisy under full-throttle; however at highway speeds it’s mute. This is a very good engine for most driving, and with light loads. It has a 3,500-pound towing capacity in all the configurations. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for the two-wheel drive version and slightly less with four-wheel drive. Our rear-wheel drive test truck averaged 23.4 mpg during our week of local driving.
Bill drove the Canyon with the optional 305-hp, 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 engine and standard six-speed automatic transmission at the introduction last September and found it to be significantly more powerful, less noisy under full throttle acceleration and equally quiet on the highway. The V-6 engine also has a 3,500-lb. towing capacity, but it increases to 7,000 pounds when equipped with the Z82 trailering package. Fuel economy is 18/26 mpg for the two-wheel drive and 17/24 mpg for the FWD.
The 2016 model will be offered with a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo diesel option and unofficially is expected to break the 30 mpg fuel economy level.
Engineers have designed in several aerodynamic features to help improve fuel economy including active aero shutters behind the grille to send air flowing around the truck when it’s not needed for cooling. They also included a deep front air dam, which can be easily removed for off road driving. There are several other air flow tweaks around the wheels, on the rear tailgate and in body gaps.
The interior is quite spacious. The rear seat of our Crew Cab model can seat three adults. There’s actually more space in the rear seat of the Crew Cab than in the rear seat of a Chevy Impala. The seat back is split and can be folded to create more interior cargo space, plus the seat cushion hides an under seat storage space.
The instrument panel on the Canyon is a simple two-pod design with fuel and temperature gauges toward the top and a digital screen below between the tachometer and speedometer. The center stack is mounted high with simple climate control dials and buttons below and the audio controls and a large screen mounted high for easy visibility. The available eight-inch MyLink touch screen is at home on the top of the well-defined center stack. The high position on the dash not only makes it easy to see with a sideways glance, it’s also easy to reach to make changes in audio entertainment, communications, vehicle settings or navigation. All trim levels are equipped with a backup camera which displays on the same screen. The MyLink system has Bluetooth, gesture recognition, natural voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, text message alerts and other apps like Pandora.
Techies will like the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot system which allows up to seven tablets, computers or other devices to be connected to the Internet through the truck Wi-Fi. The system has a range of about 50 feet around the truck when it’s running or on accessory mode. It uses a more powerful antenna than a smartphone and, of course, doesn’t suck all the power out of your smartphone. The system supports video streaming and is 10 times faster than 3G.
The GMC pricing currently starts at $26,725 for the two-wheel drive Crew Cab Canyon base trim and goes to nearly $41,000 for a fully-loaded SLT 4WD, plus there is a long list of available dealer-installed accessories to customize the Canyon. And if someone wants the ultimate in plush pickups, there’s a Denali version in the works.