An AT4 trim showcases the off-road prowess of the GMC Canyon.
Pickup trucks come in various sizes with some seeming downright colossal. Soon, we’ll see a new breed of compact trucks, sized slightly larger than the models Japan sent us from the 1970s to the 1990s. In between the two is the revived midsize model class with more than a half-dozen contenders, including the GMC Canyon.
GMC offers the 2021 Canyon in Extended and Crew Cab body styles, four trims, and two bed choices. This model comes with standard rear- or available four-wheel drive and is priced from $26,100 to just over $50,000, in addition to a $1,195 destination charge. GMC offers three engine choices including a turbodiesel.
For 2021, the Canyon gains four extra-cost metallic colors, two new interior colors, and underwent package shuffling. Everything else about this model remains the same.
The GMC Canyon shares a square-edged and muscular vibe with the larger Sierra, but there are differences of note. Both come with an oversized grille, but the Canyon’s has rounded edges. A broad hood, oversized fender flares, and a rising beltline are other distinctive features of note. All trims come with aluminum wheels; LED lighting, including fog lamps, is optional.
You won’t find a regular cab midsize truck anywhere. Instead, some models feature Extended and Crew Cab choices. With the Extended Cab, the Canyon features a pair of rear-hinged rear doors for access to the second row. That row features two seats with limited legroom. On the other hand, the Canyon Crew Cab has two full-size doors and a rear seat with room for three.
The Canyon’s interior is straightforward with most trims featuring a thickly padded dashboard, ample storage pockets in the doors and between the front seats, and under-seat storage in the second row. A pair of bucket seats are in the first row; a 60/40 split fold-up bench seat is in the second row. If a five- or six-foot bed isn’t enough storage space, the Canyon’s interior can easily be utilized to hold more equipment.
GMC equips the Canyon with full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, air conditioning, and cloth seats. Among the upgrades are leather-trimmed seats, a 6-way power-controlled driver’s seat, heated front seats, and ventilated front seats. The only feature missing that surprised us is a 110/120-volt outlet. You won’t find one in the bed, which is the customary place, nor inside. For people buying one as a work truck, a 12-volt outlet may not be enough.
Safety & Tech
If you’re looking for a suite of driver-assist safety features, you won’t find it with the GMC Canyon. That’s not uncommon in this class, but some competing models such as the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger just do it better. Move up through the trim range and the Canyon gains lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, and rear park assist. Desirable features such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are not offered.
On the tech front, GMC equips the Canyon with a 7-inch touchscreen display, USB ports, Bluetooth streaming, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility. Among the upgrades are a 7-speaker Bose audio system, an 8-inch display, and wireless charging.
GMC Canyon Performance
Several competing models offer just one engine, while GMC gives customers a choice of three. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is standard. This one develops 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque with power sent to the wheels utilizing a 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine is available only with the Extended Cab.
A 3.6-liter V6 engine with 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque is standard with most trims and is available optionally everywhere else. This one works with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Few models in this segment offer a turbo-diesel engine, but the GMC Canyon is one that does. A 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine makes 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Not only does this one tow up to 7,700 pounds, but it reaches upwards of 30 mpg.
Our test AT4 model came with the V6 and four-wheel drive. This engine offers solid off-the-mark acceleration and laudable passing power. It is also a gem when operating off-road, moving down gravel roads with authority, conquering mud, and simply helping the truck stay upright under treacherous conditions.
Give credit to the GM drivetrain system which allows this truck to move between rear- and all-wheel drive as well as between four-wheel high and four-wheel low, the latter ideal for getting unstuck. But only the two top trims come with a rear locking differential, which keeps the wheels turning in unison. And that means you’re less likely to call for help as you gradually work your way out of the muck.
Our test AT4 model proved its mettle and is worth exploring. As much as we like the V6 gas engine, we would opt for the turbodiesel. But on some trims, you’ll pay a hefty premium, upwards of $4,420 over the V6 to upgrade. Consider this option if you drive a lot and plan on keeping your pickup truck for a very long time.
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