If you were to just look at the popularity of pickup trucks in North America, you’d be forgiven in assuming that our society is made up entirely of contractors, landscapers or boat owners. Of course we’re not, but the fact remains that year after the year, the top three most sold models in Canada and the United States are full-size pickups (when you combine General Motors’ duo of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra).
Capitalizing on this pickup preoccupation, automakers have been branching out and reviving the mid-size pickup market, the latest additions being the Ford Ranger and the Jeep Gladiator. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has also said it will be bringing a new mid-sized Ram into the fold in the near future. And that’s on top of the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon that are already here.
With such competition in the segment, you’ve got to be able to stand out with toughness, power and even technology. And this All Terrain 4WD Crew Cab version of the GMC Canyon does indeed bring a lot to the table.
Every pickup needs a decent amount of power. Under this hood is the optional 3.6-litre, naturally aspirated V-6, good for 308 horsepower and 275 lb-feet of torque. While it’s certainly no barn-burner, it offers decent acceleration and power. More importantly, it also helps give the Canyon a tow rating of 7,000 lbs and a payload of 1,500 lbs, which are both near the top in its class.
Coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the ability to deactivate cylinders in the engine, the package delivers a respectable combined fuel economy of 12.2 L/100km, which is pretty good considering the size and capability of this truck (of course, if you really are towing, that number will explode exponentially). The Ranger has more torque, but it’s also turbocharged (a four cylinder, no less!), which may or may not suit your needs.
The ride and handling are surprisingly good for such a large “mid-sized” truck. Comfortable on the highway – and amazingly quiet in the cabin – this Crew Cab with the five-foot box is also fairly manoeuverable in town, and the suspension soaks up the roughness on unpaved roads. While this All Terrain version is meant to be more capable off-road, enthusiasts may prefer the Colorado ZR2 given its higher ground clearance and being better over all for serious adventure. Braking on the Canyon, however, is superb, with a firm pedal feel and strong stopping power.
While the Canyon is nearly identical mechanically to its Chevrolet stablemate, it’s inside where you see the differences between the two. The optional leather seats are comfortable, although a bit on the narrow side, and the whole of the interior has a quality feel – although, for a $52,000 vehicle, there’s far too much hard plastic. The rear seats are good for three adults with ample legroom. The optional sidestep bars, however, are dreadful; the truck isn’t high enough to warrant them, and they only get in the way when you’re trying to step out of the vehicle.
When it comes to actual truck capabilities, the Canyon has a few goodies to help with the work. Unique to the segment is the four-wheel-drive system – besides being off (for rear-drive only) or fully on, there’s also an automatic mode, where it will switch from rear-drive to 4WD when it senses slip, to save fuel without sacrificing surefootedness. Of course, a trailer tow mode and hill descent can be useful, and there is now not only a rear-view camera, but also a rear parking-assist system to help with backing up. All in all, the Canyon is a capable, comfortable and practical truck.
So if this package is so good, why then, is the Canyon selling so poorly? GMC sold just 33,493 units of the second-generation Canyon last year. By comparison, Chevrolet sold 134,842 Colorados last year, while the best selling truck in the class – the Tacoma – had 245,659 in sales. It doesn’t help that the Tacoma was voted by Kelly Blue Book earlier this year to have the best resale value of any vehicle on the road, but the Canyon deserves better.
There’s no mistaking this for anything other than a macho pickup. The hulking fenders and high beltline of the windows give it a very solid look; I especially like the Dark Sky Metallic paint that shimmers in different light. It may be a mid-sized truck, but it looks big.
Again, it’s pretty good, but falls short of what you’d expect for this level of money. But ergonomically, everything falls into place, and there’s plenty of head and legroom for all. The heated leather seats on this model are appreciated. It’s worth mentioning twice how quiet the interior is, even at highway speeds, making conversations a breeze – whether you want to talk with your passengers or not.
The 3.6L V-6 is the best bet for most uses; the standard 2.5L four cylinder is wimpy and delivers similar fuel economy, while the 2.8L Duramax diesel four-cylinder may be better for those who tow more often, but it’s also a lot more expensive on the option sheet. The eight-speed auto shifts seamlessly, and the ride is a good balance between firm and soft, even with the dedicated offroad suspension upgrades.
There’s some systems in here you wouldn’t normally expect in a pickup, not the least of which is an induction charging system for your phone. Up front, the eight-inch colour touch screen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it’s all pretty easy to navigate. Two USB ports are both up front and in the rear, along with two 120V ports. Standard on the Canyon is the Teen Driver mode, which lets parents set parameters for both speed and radio volume.
The 5.2-foot bed is a little short for many things, but with the damped tailgate down it will take your motorcycles or sheets of plywood. The built-in steps in the bumper are brilliantly simple for getting into the back, while the optional spray-on bed liner is an absolute must, in my opinion. If you have no passengers in the rear seats, they can be folded up for more secure storage.
The verdict: 8.0
Over all, this is a truck that would fit the needs of most people who need the towing and carrying capabilities. It’s comfortable, powerful and loaded with technology. But it’s also hard to beat Toyota’s dependability or generally lower prices of others in the segment.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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