EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Right out of college, I bought a Jeep Comanche, a smallish/midsize pickup. It had all-wheel drive and not much else. I loved that truck. It was just an honest, hard-working vehicle. Wish I will still had it. Like that Jeep and theSubaru XV Crosstrek I drove earlier this week, the GMC Canyon is just an honest car. Er, truck. Nothing fancy or frilly -- just a solid, really good-looking midsize pickup I predict is perfect for a ton of buyers.
And I mean solid both in the honesty mentioned above and solid as in this is one stiff chassis, no shakes, no shimmies. As Neff pointed out in December after driving another Canyon we had come through the office, the size is so handy it makes one wonder why all the automakers ditched the midsize category. The Canyon’s balance between being able to handle most pickup truck chores and maneuverability, ease of parking and on-road comfort is about perfect.
The ride is smooth and road/wind noise minimal. The 200 hp four-cylinder is OK; many might opt for the V6. I don’t know that I would unless I had heavy-ish towing requirements. The four tows 3,500 pounds or so, enough for plenty of people, I’m guessing.
The cabin is nice and roomy but everything’s accessible within arm’s reach, reinforcing again: the Canyon is about the perfect size. Big knobs control most functions; it’s easy to adjust stuff with gloves on.
When we awarded the Canyon our 2015 Best of the Best/Truck award, we said that while it’s truly a truck in the most honest sense of the word, it offers refinement, modern conveniences and amenities, high-quality build, practicality and style.
That sums up nicely what I thought driving this one.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I spent some time in the new Ford F-150 before hopping into the Canyon, and while this GMC lacked the Ford full-sizer’s towing and hauling capability, I didn’t really feel like I was downgrading. Certainly, the Canyon didn’t feel small; the Ford just felt big by comparison. Huge, even. And that’s representative of the big question facing pickup buyers today: Do you want capable and comfortable, or do you want even more capable and comfortable?
Not a bad spot to be in, if you’re a buyer. This Canyon, for instance, gets nearly all of the creature comforts of our long-termChevy Silverado and packaging better suited to suburbia than its bigger sibling without many hits to real-world capability. Take towing: Don’t kid yourself -- how often do you need to haul more than 3,500 pounds, anyway? That’s within the range of a loaded lawn-service crew trailer, or a pair of big jet skis, or a respectable popup camper.
Still, despite good figures on paper, I’m still somewhat undecided about the 2.5-liter engine. It wasn’t underwhelming in the rear-wheel drive, manual-equipped Canyon I drove ahead of this truck. But it did seem to want for power at higher speeds here, and it didn’t always play nicely with the six-speed automatic. There was some searching and clunking between 25-45 mph (the morning rush hour crawl) as well as frequent downshifts. But it’s nothing I couldn’t live with.
Pricing will raise some eyebrows, but you can shave some off this $37,370 sticker. Lane departure warning and forward collision are honestly more annoying than helpful, so I’d ditch that option and put the money toward the V6. (I do occasionally need to tow a car slightly heavier than the 3,500-pound max here.)
You’ll be looking at a nearly $40,000 truck at that point. That does shock me a little bit -- you can get into a somewhat less content-packed full-size pickup for that much -- but a solid weekend of driving, parking and refueling the Canyon convinced me that, to the extent that I need a pickup at all (and really, I don’t), it’s the right size for me. Perhaps it’ll fit neatly into your life as well, at which point you’ll realize that bigger isn’t always better.
The 2015 GMC Canyon interior is comfortable, heavily equipped and well connected.PHOTO BY GMC
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I’m all for downsizing a bit -- most of us feel like we need far more than we actually do need, and a four-cylinder midsize pickup truck is nice to see on the market again in the U.S. I like everything about the ideabehind our Canyon SLT I4…I just don’t particularly like this truck.
Yes, I know the Canyon won the Autoweek Best of the Best/Truck award for 2015; our tester was a V6 crew cab model that stickered for about the same amount as this four-cylinder, but was missing some of the electronic upgrades. I’ll concur with Graham that the V6 is a far better place to spend your money if you plan to do anything of significance with your Canyon -- and the crew cab, if you plan on rear-seat passengers larger than a 6-year-old for any length of time.
Even commuting in the I4 AWD Canyon is a noisy, unpleasant affair, in part simply because of the disconnect between what you see when you look at the Canyon and what you experience from behind the wheel. “I’m pretty sure I climbed into a high-riding, beefy-looking mini Silverado, but my ears and butt are telling me I’m driving a jacked-up Sonic.” This just isn’t enough engine for 2 tons of 4WD, evidenced by fuel economy that never touched even the optimistic city rating. I was in the 16-mpg range in mostly city driving, ending with an average of about 17.2 mpg after a decent freeway stint. You have to bury your foot in the pedal to get any kind of acceleration -- that burns gas, no matter how small the engine is.
I had a hard time getting comfortable in the Canyon; the seat raises and lowers by tilting forward -- it’s a fairly common feature on import economy cars, and it results in the disconcerting sense that you're being tipped toward the dash in any setting other than flat on the floor. I expect better adjustability from the leather thrones on a $37K anything. The interior is nicely trimmed for this class of pickup, but again, it’s no more or less than I’d expect for the base price.
Finally, I’m not entirely sure what my colleagues might be smoking, but to compare the I4 Canyon to the 2.7-liter EcoBoost F-150 is ludicrous. The only thing these vehicles have in common is a bed out back and the fact they were both in our fleet at the same time. The Ford is larger, infinitely smoother and more refined, better equipped, more powerful and got about the same gas mileage. It’s also $18K more expensive; to mention the two trucks in the same review does justice to neither.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: The Dodge Dakota died in 2011, the old Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon in 2012. That left the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier in the dwindling midsized truck market, which was fine, since sales there were tepid at best. Well, take a hike, tepid, because GM has introduced a new pair of midsized models that could be the perfect truck solution for, um, urban truck intenders with active lifestyles? Or…?
The midsized GMC Canyon 4x2 I drove here in California is a foot and a half shorter, 4 inches lower and 6 inches narrower than the full-sized GMC Sierra pickup. GM thinks there are buyers galore out there who want those more compact dimensions yet also want almost all the towing and hauling capacity of a full-sizer. After a week behind the wheel, I can maybe see that.
It’s smaller than the full-sized Chevy truck my neighbor with the mustache and crew cut drives, and it fits into my ancient, skinny driveway a lot easier than a full-sized truck or SUV. At the press launch last year, GM said it was aimed at urban dwellers who had active lifestyles, but still needed to park it somewhere in the narrow confines of the big city. Hey, that could be me! First thing I did when I got it was to stuff two mountain bikes in the back and drive an hour up into the mountains. Sure, the bikes had to go in diagonally but they fit just fine. My truck had the crew cab with the short 5-foot, 2-inch box. I also had the $475 optional spray-in bed liner, which would have kept the bikes from scraping up the bed if I’d just thrown them back there instead of cinch-strapping them down in the upright position. The bed later held a bunch of backpacks, then a cello (the latter only very briefly on a cloudy day and in a bomb-proof case, so don’t send me your philharmonic hate mail).
I can see this working as an urban assault vehicle, especially if I had to tow anything. I don’t have to tow anything, but it would work if I did. It’ll tow up to 7,000 pounds, GMC says. At the long lead I towed a 4,500-pound jet boat and found the 3.6-liter V6 was more than up to the task. The V6 is a $950 option. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter four, which, I recall, worked just fine, too, and what the guys back in Detroit had in their test truck.
However, trucking neophytes used to the comfort of a unibody crossover SUV might not be ready for the feel of a real, frame-rail-ridin’ truck. If you haven’t driven a medium to big truck lately, especially if you’ve been in vehicles with independent suspensions all around, you’ll notice the bounce and weirdness of the solid beam rear axle on a pickup truck right away. There’s a little hop and a little tramp. It’s weird at first, more so with an empty bed in back, then you stop noticing it and just drive. Until you notice it again.
The back seats in the crew cab configuration are not all that spacious longitudinally i.e. knee room, but have loads of elbow room. Still, would I choose one of these for myself? No. I think, unless you need to tow something big, and even though it’s sacrilegious to think so, that a minivan would be a better active lifestyle vehicle. You can fit lots of bikes, surfboards and other gear inside (no one needs to carry kayaks everywhere) and in many of them you can fold all the seats flat and sleep in them. I myself own an entirely serviceable minivan that does all of the above, a 2003 Volkswagen Eurovan. I must be a freak.
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