2016 GMC Canyon Diesel

MOAB, Utah — The GMC Canyon is the costlier up market counterpart to the Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup truck. After a two year hiatus due to low demand and slumping sales GM brought back the trucks for 2015. It was seen as a surprise because other smaller trucks such as the Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline and Dodge Dakota had already left the market. That left just the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier and, neither of those trucks had seen a redesign since 2005 until the Tacoma this year.

For the record, the Colorado and Canyon aren’t called small trucks anymore and with less than 6-inches narrower and just 5-inches shorter than the GMC Sierra they’re now considered mid-sized.

While that size difference doesn’t seem like much, it makes driving and parking the Canyon so much easier than a full sized truck.  Of course a smaller truck means a smaller engine and GMC equips the base Canyon with 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 200 horsepower. There’s an optional 305 horsepower V6 and for 2016 it’s the only mid-size truck available with a diesel engine.

Our test Canyon was equipped with the optional 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax turbo diesel with 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Our four-wheel drive SLT crew cab, short bed Canyon was rated at 20-MPG city and 29 MPG highway but we were only able to get 27 MPG on almost exclusive highway driving during our weeklong use of the truck.

The Canyon seats four in extended cab models and five in the crew cab models and is available in four trim levels: base, SL, SLT and a just announced Denali.

Outside the Canyon is an extremely handsome truck with big time curb appeal and carries the signature grille that’s featured on all GMC product models. We especially liked the steps cut out in the rear bumper making it easy to step up and into the cargo bed. We also liked the easy lift and load tailgate that slowly lowers rather than dropping with a crash.

Typical for GMC the interior of our SLT was completely upscale and refined with noticeable attention to quality materials and build quality. It completely outclasses the competition. Our leather seats were very comfortable with ample room and we never fatigued on long drives. Operating controls are big and simple to use with a large touch screen for most functions. Thoughtfully, there are redundant knobs for the climate control and audio system.

There are also some much appreciated safety features like a standard backup camera and the $395 optional forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems. Both are exclusive in this segment. We were disappointed that a blind spot warning system is unavailable.

On the highway the Canyon is sedan like with a smooth, quiet, confident, and comfortable ride. On surface streets there is a more noticeable truck-like ride but certainly not uncomfortable. We did spend a bit of time off road on rural gravel and washboard surfaces and it did get fairly bouncy, but still remained controlled and comfortable.

Our optional Duramax turbo-diesel will set you back an extra $3,730, which is a lot of money. However it comes with an impressive 7,600-lbs tow rating, 900-pounds more than a similarly equipped Toyota Tacoma. So if you will regularly use your Canyon for towing a trailer, boat or hauling large payloads or just looking for long distances between fill-ups you might find it worth the extra cost. And, as an added bonus the diesel doesn’t sound like a clattering diesel either. It’s exceptionally quiet inside with no telltale diesel signs.

Overall, after spending more than 1,000 miles in the Canyon we came away thoroughly impressed, enough so to place it at the top of its class and give it the nod over the best selling and newly redesigned Tacoma. And while yes, $44 grand is a lot for a mid-sized truck, it did come with every bell and whistle available and, a similarly equipped full-sized GMC Sierra will cost you almost $10 grand more.

Vital Stats

Price: $20,995 - $38,375
Price as Tested: $44,365
Seating: 5
Engine: 2.8L Duramax Turbo-Diesel I-4
Horsepower: 181
Fuel Economy: 20/29 – City/Highway

Fab Features

Handsome, upscale looks inside and out
Premium upscale interior
Very enjoyable to drive

— Jim Prueter