Trucks are hugely popular; they sell so well that major automakers like Ford and GM have been dropping cars from their lineup to make room for more trucks (and truck-like SUVs).
But trucks have also been getting huge. Current full-size trucks are so big and so tall that some come with ladders built in to their tailgate.
Not everyone who needs a truck needs one that big. Enter more manageably sized trucks like the GMC Canyon.
What It Is
The Canyon is a midsize pickup truck and the GMC-badged version of the Chevy Colorado pickup.
The trucks are mechanically identical, but each has brand-specific exterior and interior trim, as well as standard and optional features.
GMC is considered slightly more upscale than Chevy, so the Canyon’s prices are slightly higher than the Colorado’s. You can pick up a base-trim two-wheel-drive Canyon Extended Cab with a 6.2-foot bed, 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission for $22,200 to start. A mechanically identical (except for the engine) Chevy Colorado is $21,300. A top-of-the-line Canyon Denali trim costs $44,995.
In addition to their standard four-cylinder gas and optional gas V-6 engines, both trucks offer a turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, a feature none of the other trucks in this class — models like the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma — currently offer.
The new Ford Ranger, which returns for 2019 after an eight-year absence from Ford’s lineup, will reportedly offer one later this year.
But for now, the GM twins are the only not-too-big trucks available with a brawny diesel engine.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto5 are standard in all trims (formerly optional in some), and all versions get an updated touch screen and apps.
SLE trims also get a high-resolution back-up camera.
It’s not too big a truck.
It has big capability — including a 7,700-pound maximum tow rating.
An available diesel engine and standard automatic transmission.
What’s Not So Good
There’s no regular cab/long bed version.
Four-wheel drive is only available with the optional V-6 and diesel engine.
Manual transmission is only available with the four-cylinder engine.
Under the Hood
The Canyon offers three engine choices, an upgrade over the usual two — including the only diesel engine currently available in a midsize pick-up.
Standard equipment is a 2.5-liter 200-horsepower four-cylinder, which comes paired with a standard six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic is also available.
Canyons with the 2.5-liter engine are not available with 4WD.
The next-up engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 that has 306 horsepower. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic, the only transmission offered with this engine. However, you can pick either 2WD or part-time 4WD, with driver-selectable high- and low-range gearing.
The Canyon’s most unique engine offering is its 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine, which has 181 horsepower and a very stout 369 foot-pounds of torque, as much as a typical 5.7-liter gas-burning V-8. It comes paired with a special heavy-duty six-speed transmission, heavy-duty cooling system and alternator. It’s also available with or without 4WD.
On the Road
No one sells compact-sized trucks anymore, in part because they lacked power and capability. The Canyon has both, regardless of the engine you pick.
The least it can pull is 3,500 pounds, which is as much as many compact trucks were able to pull, period.
With the diesel, it can pull almost 8,000 pounds — very close to the capability of some full-size tucks.
It’s also not slow.
With its midrange 3.6-liter V-6, the Canyon can get to 60 mph in just over 7 seconds, speedy for a 4,200-pound pick-up. And while the manual-equipped version with the standard 2.5-liter engine isn’t as quick, it’s lots of fun being able to run through the gears and play with the clutch.
At the Curb
The Canyon is about the same overall length (224.6 inches for the crew cab variant) as some ’90s-era full-size (1500 series) trucks, which means it’s more manageable than today’s full-size trucks, which are about two feet longer than the Canyon.
The main downside — and it might not be one if you don’t need it — is that the Canyon isn’t available in a “work truck” regular cab/long bed configuration.
But none of its rivals offer that arrangement, either.
The optional diesel is expensive — $4,965 — and Chevy only lets you tick that option if you spring for the higher-up SLE, SLT and Denali trims. But you can earn that investment back by leveraging the inherently longer lifespan of a diesel engine, which ought to run reliably for at least 250,000 miles with regular maintenance.
It will also cost you less to drive, because equipped with this engine, a Canyon rates 30 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in the city, which is outstanding mileage for a truck with this level of capability.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for husky but not too husky, the Canyon could be the right size for you.
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