It’s not too often an automaker jumps into a dwindling segment, and it’s even rarer that one does with an expensive, luxury-oriented product, but that’s exactly what GMC‘s done with the 2015 Canyon. Like all GMCs, it’s a nicer version of a Chevrolet, but more than that, the Canyon is a really good little truck.
Our test truck was the full-boat Crew Cab (four-door) Long Box SLT model with four-wheel drive. As such, it was equipped standard with the 3.6-liter V-6 engine good for 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque and backed by a six-speed automatic and two-speed automatic transfer case. Testing in rear-wheel drive, as we always do with trucks, the Canyon hit 60 mph from rest in 7.7 seconds and completed a standing quarter mile in 15.9 seconds at 88.3 mph, which felt reasonably quick to us. It stopped from 60 mph in a sedan-like 125 feet and, for what it’s worth, pulled 0.79 g average on the skidpad and lapped our figure-eight test in 28.2 seconds at 0.70 g average. A smaller cab and box will reduce weight and likely improve performance slightly. As is, the Canyon weighed 4,565 lbs.
For comparison, a more off-road-focused 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro we recently tested hit 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and completed the quarter in 16.1 seconds at 84.7 mph. It needed 143 feet to stop from 60 mph and pulled 0.69 g average on the skid pad and finished the figure eight in 29.5 seconds at 0.66 g average. It weighed 4,357 pounds with four full doors.
We were able to perform a more complete test on our old long-term Nissan Frontier, a 2012 Pro-4X model. That truck hit 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and ran the quarter in 15.7 seconds at 89.8 mph. It stopped from 60 mph in 125 feet, pulled 0.72 g average on the skidpad, and lapped the figure eight in 29.2 seconds at 0.52 g average. It weighed 4,399 pounds and was not a full four-door truck.
As far as actually driving the truck goes, it’s a resoundingly good experience. As noted, the truck feels quick enough around town and on the highway that we weren’t wishing for more power. We did wish that the transmission would stop clinging so tightly to sixth gear and give up downshifts easier, but we considered it a minor annoyance, not a deal-killer. The brakes provided good feel and solid stopping power. We most liked the steering, which some remarked was the best of any truck they’d driven. It responded quickly and precisely, provided good feedback, and generally made the truck feel nimble. Despite its weight, the Canyon felt light on its feet and was actually enjoyable to drive on a curvy mountain road. It holds the road well and never lets its weight or the fact it’s a truck diminish its driving experience. It even rides nicely and is surprisingly quiet inside.
We also had an opportunity to do some driving with payload in the bed and, later, with a trailer. Loaded with 500 pounds in the bed (this model has a maximum payload rating of 1,470 pounds), the Canyon felt the weight in acceleration but wasn’t severely hampered. Ride quality didn’t change much, nor did handling. You won’t forget the weight is present, but it doesn’t ruin the truck by any stretch.
When it came to trailering, we selected a segment-average weight of 3,000 pounds, though the truck is capable of pulling up to 7,000. The truck certainly felt noticeably slower in straight-line acceleration, but the naturally aspirated engine produced a smooth, linear pull all the way up through the revs. Braking was confident, as was handling. You felt the weight, but it never felt like the trailer was driving the truck. Reversing with the trailer was easy thanks to wide door mirrors and good steering. Driving a small truck with a short trailer doesn’t hurt, either.
If the Canyon has any obvious drawback, it’s that under the baby Sierra skin, there’s little to differentiate it from the Colorado (unique or at least differentiated styling from the Sierra wouldn’t hurt, either). This is a traditional weakness for GMC products, but it doesn’t stop General Motors from selling a boatload of them. In the Canyon’s case, differentiations are limited to a larger full-color screen in the instrument cluster and better seat materials. Oh, and the fatter price tag, which at nearly $40,000 fully loaded is well into half-ton truck territory, though it is competitively priced with top-shelf Toyotas and Nissans if not slightly more expensive.
The only other pervasive complaint against the Canyon was against its superfluous optional side steps. The simple bar step (and especially the tubular steps on the All Terrain model) mostly just gets in the way. The truck is so much lower than standard half-tons that you don’t need the step, and the step sits so high you’re practically stepping up into the truck as it is. Rather than help, the step generally just gives you something to step over on your way in or out of the vehicle, hopefully without getting your pants all dirty. Don’t confuse these with the optional Cornersteps at the ends of the rear bumper, which are very helpful when climbing into the bed.
The new Canyon is a solid little truck that’s a ton of fun to drive and the right size for everything but hauling a gooseneck trailer. It not only drives well empty but also while loaded and trailering and does it all while being anywhere from a little bit to a lot more plush than anything else in the segment. We wish it didn’t look like a three-quarter-size Sierra (seriously, you almost can’t tell from 100 feet away) and the price tag weren’t so hefty, but any customer who isn’t bothered by all that will find a lot to like and little to hate in this truck.
|2015 GMC Canyon SLT 4×4|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,565|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||3.6L/305-hp/269-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4565 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||224.6 x 74.3 x 70.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.9 sec @ 88.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.2 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/24/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.99 lb/mile|
Below are 2015 GMC Canyon photos provided by the automaker