SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: Call the GMC Canyon Baby Bear, because it’s juuuuust right. Well, almost. There is a little matter of that sticker, but we’ll get to that.
Meantime, driving the GMC Canyon is so comfortable, so easy, it makes one question why we all but abandoned the segment in the first place. I say that not just as a former compact pickup owner (though I really did love my Ford Ranger), but because full-size trucks have bloated to such comical proportions that it’s curious we still flock to them in such numbers. Seriously, for every compact pickup sold last year in the U.S. (mostly Toyota Tacomas, but with some Nissan Frontiers and a few dozen carryover GM compacts), almost eight people made space in their driveway for a Ford F-series, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra, Ram or Nissan Titan. And seeing as they can’t all be construction site managers or farmers, that makes for a heckuva lot of suburbanites trying to squeeze their King Ranches between the Toyota Priuses populating most suburban parking lots.
The Canyon, on the other hand, strikes a really good balance between delivering those things car buyers really want in a vehicle and making happy those with genuine trucky needs. It boasts a really smooth ride; it doesn’t suffer from that jumpiness most unladen pickups are prone to, requiring a couple hundred pounds of payload to smooth over. The cabin has good noise isolation, too, and remains impressively quiet even at speed. And the engine, turning out a healthy 305 hp, moves the Canyon out with a good amount of go.
The biggest plus, of course, has to do with the truck’s size. As a counterpoint, every move in our long-term Silverado requires a good amount of planning. Simply making a 90-degree turn calls for a meticulous double-checking of angles and curb placement and widths of lanes and clearances to all obstacles. Even then, knowing exactly where the corners of the vehicle are is a matter of trust more than anything. Tight parking lot maneuvers often involve an endless inch-by-inch creep forward then back, forward then back. It gets seriously tedious really quickly.
The Canyon makes easy work of turning, of parking, of generally moving around. Consider: It uses up just 41.3 feet to turn around to our Silverado’s 47.2 feet. It will carry 1,550 pounds to the bigger truck’s 2,060, and tows 7,000 pounds, giving up 2,200 pounds on the full-size. It seems to me that most people would be well served by those “lesser” specs.
Besides, the Canyon is only small in a relative way. The cabin isn’t even close to feeling tight but still offers the driver easy access to all controls, the glovebox, the passenger seat, etc. In every way, the Canyon is about as perfectly sized a vehicle as there is, with a well thought-out, designed and built interior. Its styling also blows away that of its platform-mate, the Chevy Colorado, which is as dull a vehicle to look at as there is, a pickup truck interpretation of the snooze-fest VW Passat if ever there was one.
And yet…that sticker! That is a lot of cash to hand over for any vehicle. As much as I appreciate the build quality, the materials, the refinement and packaging of the Canyon, I’m not sure I could swallow handing over almost 40 grand for one. Perhaps it’s a sort of psychological hangover from the decades of bigger-is-better, but when you can get a similarly equipped full-size pickup for maybe $5,000 more, who would put up with a few parking lot headaches?
The 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab Short Box comes in at a base price of $34,935 with our tester topping off at $39,090.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Someone who managed to sleep through the recent bloating of the full-size pickup range would be shocked to learn that the Canyon is classified as midsized truck; it looks more like a 5/6th scale reproduction of the Sierra than a small truck designed from the ground up.
It certainly has a beefier character than its Chevy counterpart. From some angles, the Colorado looks like a Captiva, or maybe a City Express with a bed. The Canyon takes the Tonka Truck styling of the Silverado and Sierra and scales it down -- but again, not too much. What’s not to like?
Well, there’s price. Compare this loaded Canyon with a $27,000 base Sierra and the first impulse is to super-size things. But that’s not a fair comparison. A 4WD Sierra 1500 with a comparable set of options -- SLE package, bed liner, the works -- stickers for close to $49,000. Fuel economy is nearly equivalent if you opt for the V6 (but honestly, who does that?).
Select that 5.3-liter V8, an extra $1,100, and you’ll be able to haul and tow more than you will in a Canyon. When it comes to capacities and capabilities, the full-sizers are going to win out every time.
But you chase raw capability at your own peril -- especially in an era when full-size trucks have more potential than any would-be Tom Silva can ever hope to tap. It’s nice to have the biggest, baddest truck on the block -- provided you don’t have to park it every day (Natalie breaks down the specs nicely). I’ve said similar things about the Colorado, but there’s a case to be made for paying a relative premium for the convenience a smaller truck, especially once you realize a stationary Silverado or a Sierra can render your driveway impassable.
Though I don’t think GM is doing its new midsized trucks any favors by pricing them to within spitting distance of its full-sizers, and it’s hard to make the case when it comes to fuel economy, I do think there is a market for the Canyon and Colorado among those who want the refinement and comfort of today’s big trucks, while remaining realistic about how often they’re actually going to be towing a flatbed of cinder blocks. At the very least, you should try this before you dive into a Sierra.
The interior of the 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab Short Box is well thought-out and well assembled.
2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab Short Box
Options: All-terrain package including Z71 off-road suspension package, hill descent control, all-terrain blackwall tires, 17”x8” dark argent metallic wheels, rear bumper body color, transfer case shield, jet black and cobalt red interior, heated driver and passenger front seats, four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, power lumbar front seats ($1,190); RVP 3-inch step bars ($745); SLE convenience package including remote vehicle start, automatic air conditioning ($500); premium Bose audio system ($500); color touch with navigation and IntelliLink 8-inch diagonal screen ($495); CGN spray in bed liner ($475); trailering equipment package ($250)
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