The 2017 GMC Canyon is probably all the pickup truck most buyers will need.
Although it may not be the compact pickup truck it once was, the 2017 GMC Canyon is as upmarket as you'll find if it's a mid-size truck you're after.
For 2017, the Canyon has been made even classier with a new range-topping Denali trim level that piles on more luxury than has ever been seen in a (somewhat) small pickup.
Overall, the GMC Canyon rates a 6.2 out of 10 before safety and fuel economy are factored into the scores. We like its stylish exterior and its convenient interior, as well as its wide powertrain range. It loses some ground because of the bumpy ride quality that's typical to pickups, as well as a price that can climb rapidly with options. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Denali joins the existing work-oriented SL, base, SLE, and SLT trim levels, most of which are available with a choice of two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, gasoline inline-4 and V-6 engines, and a diesel 4-cylinder. Oh, and then there are three bed and cab configurations.
For 2017, the Canyon also replaces last year's 305-horsepower V-6 with a new, slightly more powerful V-6 mated to an 8-speed automatic. A trailer brake control system is also newly available.
GMC Canyon styling and performance
The Canyon is a kissing cousin with the Chevrolet Colorado. Aside from the Denali trim level, the two essentially mirror one another, although there are some minor packaging differences that may make one more appealing than the other.
Granted, there are some minor stylistic differences designed to link the Colorado to the larger Chevrolet Silverado and the Canyon like the GMC Sierra.
Like the Sierra, the Canyon boasts a ruggedly burly look that implies capability. The front fascia is styled in a familiar, traditional way, with crisp lines and an almost universally horizontal set of lines. We like it; it ties this slightly smaller truck to its bigger sibling in a way the Colorado doesn't quite pull off. The tail is just as tidy and rectilinear, and the squared-off, flared wheel arches fit in neatly with the theme, too. There's a hint of international flair in its side profile, where the shoulder line sweeps up at the rear pillar—a small reminder that the Canyon is actually global product designed to be sold in far-flung markets.
The new-for-2017 Denali package is more restrained in the Canyon than on other GMC products, with only a few cosmetic differences.
Inside the Canyon, the Sierra influence remains present. A central dash pod houses the primary controls and display unit, while a beefy steering wheel with its own control buttons sits in front of a gauge pod. The Canyon Denali brings with it air conditioned seats, a segment first.
Under the hood, the Canyon comes standard with a base 2.5-liter inline-4 and offers two upgrade choices: a 3.6-liter V-6 or a diesel-fueled inline-4. With 200 horsepower on tap, the base engine is remarkably adequate for most basic needs and it works well with its quick-shifting 6-speed automatic. The V-6 provides improved towing and more grunt overall, and it is mated to a new 8-speed automatic. The class-exclusive turbodiesel (if you ignore the Colorado), meanwhile, delivers the highest towing capacity—up to 7,700 pounds—and the best fuel economy, but it is about a $4,500 premium over the gas V-6.
The Canyon is reasonably nimble for a pickup and its ride is smooth and composed without the bounciness found in its arch rival, the Toyota Tacoma. Although it isn't a canyon carver like its name might imply, the truck does corner confidently. Four-wheel drive is optional and includes an automatic mode safe for use on dry pavement.
Canyon utility, safety, and features
GMC offers the Canyon as either an extended-cab truck, with little room in the back for much other than child seats and smaller sized cargo, or a true crew cab, with four front-hinged doors and reasonable seating for four adults. Both cab configurations are comfortable for front seat passengers without the legs-outstretched position found in the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. The Canyon's 6-foot-2 and 5-foot-2 beds offer myriad add-ons beyond the standard bed step and soft-drop tailgate. They can accommodate a spray-in or drop-in bedliner, include a total of 17 bed tie-downs, and can be further outfitted with cargo dividers and a tonneau cover.
Safety features included in the Canyon include six standard airbags and a rearview camera. Oversized side mirrors enhance rearward visibility, as well, and all models include trailer sway control. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are optional and remain rare features for mid-size pickups.
GMC offers a wide range of flexibility in the Canyon, bolstered at the top end for 2017 by the Canyon Denali. Even the base model has a USB port, air conditioning, power windows, and a power driver's seat. The SL differs from the base largely in that it has vinyl instead of carpeted flooring. The Canyon SLE brings with it a 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, and far more optional features. An off road-oriented All Terrain X package is new for the Canyon SLE and it includes skid plates, hill descent control, and more rugged all-terrain tires.
The Canyon SLT was last year's range-topper with its heated leather seating surfaces and automatic climate control, but the Denali adds air conditioned seats and a heated steering wheel.
The most efficient Canyon model topped out at 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined in rear-wheel-drive diesel form this year. The gas-powered, inline-4 with an automatic managed even 20/26/22 mpg. With a manual transmission, the same setup earned 19/26/22 mpg.
The V-6 Canyon has been rated at 18/25/20 mpg in rear-drive configuration, 17/24/19 mpg with four-wheel drive. Those figures actually dipped a bit compared to last year's previous V-6 and 6-speed automatic, but that's mostly due to a change in the way the EPA tests vehicles. GMC tells us that the Canyon should be a little more fuel efficient in the real world now.