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2018 GMC Canyon: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2018

The full-size pickup segment is about to be awash in all-new, exciting trucks, but don't ignore the segment below that enjoyed its own renaissance in recent years. The 2018 GMC Canyon is a member of this diverse midsize truck segment, which presents pickup shoppers with distinct choices that cater to particular wants and needs. Heck, even the Canyon's Chevy sibling, the Colorado, offers greater differentiation than you would've found in the past. For instance, while the Canyon offers a bit more luxury, especially in its Denali trim, the Colorado offers the hardcore, off-roading ZR2.

At the same time, both of these trucks can be described as junior full-sizers, mimicking the look, capability and driving experience of their bigger siblings, but with a far more manageable size and lower price tag. Even if you can technically afford one of those full-sizers, you may find that the Canyon is just a better fit for your needs and lifestyle (not to mention your garage).

This compares to the sportier and more off-road focused Toyota Tacoma, which is also less spacious and comfortable. And then there's its polar opposite: the more comfortable and less capable Honda Ridgeline. The Canyon effectively fits somewhere between those poles and presents a midsize truck recipe that should be exactly what many are looking for.

What's New for 2018?

After significant updates last year, the Canyon is effectively unchanged for 2018.

What We Like

Stout power and towing capability from the V6 and diesel engine options; more manageable size than a full-size truck; easy-to-use tech controls

What We Don't

Ride is still pretty bumpy; front-seat comfort can be insufficient; efficiency friendly front air dam must be removed for off-roading; no equivalent to Chevy Colorado ZR2

How Much?

$21,100-$43,600

Fuel Economy

The Canyon is available with two engines. Base-level models use a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes a respectable 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. It's offered with 6-speed manual (rear-wheel-drive models only) or 6-speed automatic (on rear- or 4-wheel-drive Canyons) transmissions. Rear-drive Canyon models return 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined with either transmission. Four-wheel drive (4WD) lowers those figures to 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.

The Canyon's optional 3.6-liter V6 produces 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy with RWD is 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined. These lower by one mpg with 4WD.

Shoppers interested in getting the best blend of fuel economy and tow-friendly torque should consider the 2.8-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 186 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It comes with the 6-speed automatic. It returns 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with RWD and 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with 4WD.

Standard Features & Options

The Canyon comes in five trim levels: SL, base Canyon, SLE, SLT and Denali. There are extended and crew cab styles available, while 5-foot-2-inch and 6-ft-2-in beds are available. Not every configuration is available on every trim level.

The base-level Canyon SL ($21,100) is only offered in the truck's base-level extended-cab configuration. Pitched as a bare-bones work truck, it includes a backup camera, a part-power driver's seat (manual recline), LED daytime running lights, vinyl floor coverings, no rear seats, air conditioning, a USB port and a 6-speaker sound system. It skips out on essentials such as cruise control and remote keyless entry.

If you want a few more features, enter the Canyon ($24,600), which adds rear seats and carpeted floor coverings to the mix. More importantly, it opens the door to a wide range of desirable options including remote keyless entry, cruise control and many of the items included on the SLE. It is the crew cab's base trim level.

Next up is the Canyon SLE ($28,500), which includes 17-in wheels, power mirrors, the IntelliLink touchscreen interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot capabilities, two additional USB ports in the rear, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel and an auto-dimming mirror. Automatic climate control, remote ignition and a sliding rear window can be added with the SLE Convenience package. It can also be equipped with the All Terrain X package, an off-road-oriented variation that boasts a special suspension, all-terrain tires, dark windows and exterior trim, a rear locking differential, hill-descent control and few extra interior niceties. It should be noted that this is not the GMC equivalent to the far more advanced Chevy Colorado ZR2.

The Canyon SLT ($34,800) includes the SLE Convenience package items plus the V6 engine, leather and heated power front seats.

Additional Canyon options include the diesel engine, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, running boards, an innovative in-bed cargo-divider system, chrome wheels, a navigation system and a Bose sound system.

And then there's the new Denali ($43,300), which gets the majority of options listed above plus 20-in wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a wireless smartphone charging and special styling.

Safety

All 2018 GMC Canyon models come standard with dual front airbags, along with side-curtain airbags for front and rear occupants. The Canyon also includes a standard backup camera and traction control. Options include forward-collision alert and a lane-departure warning system.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the Canyon earned four stars overall, comprised of a 4-star frontal crash-test rating, a 5-star side-impact rating and a 3-star rollover rating. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Canyon crew cab the best possible rating of Good in all crash tests. And while the extended duplicated those results in the moderate overlap front test and the roof strength test, it got the second-lowest Acceptable score in both the side and driver-side small overlap front tests. Both cab's headlights were rated Poor.

Behind the Wheel

For better or for worse, the GMC Canyon drives more like a full-size pickup than its Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline competitors. It offers a more comfortable ride than the former, but a less comfortable ride than the latter. Its handling and maneuverability are worse than both, but then it can also tow more than both. At the same time, the Canyon is quite obviously much smaller than a full-size truck, and as such almost feels like a sports car by comparison when behind the wheel. If you deal with tighter roads or just don't need all that much truck, the Canyon should be a great alternative to the half-ton Sierra.

In terms of engines, go ahead and skip the base 4-cylinder, since there's just too much to like about the advanced gasoline V6 and efficient turbodiesel. Both are capable of towing at least 7,000 pounds, with the diesel providing the best-possible tow rating of 7,700.

Inside, the cabin that once impressed us in comparison to other midsize trucks has now fallen back to the pack with the introduction of its revised competitors. The Ridgeline in particular provides a far more comfortable, spacious and versatile environment. Still, there is much to like about the Canyon's user-friendly tech and the new Denali trim that offers a premium vibe not offered on the mechanically identical Chevrolet Colorado. On the other hand, the Chevy offers the hardcore off-roading ZR2 model.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Chevrolet Colorado -- The Canyon's Chevrolet-badged stablemate is obviously worth considering, as the trucks are virtually identical. The Colorado isn't offered in an equivalent Denali trim, but the Canyon can't match the hardcore Colorado ZR2 off-road model.

2018 Toyota Tacoma -- The Tacoma is sportier than the Canyon and more off-road oriented. It's also less comfortable, spacious and refined. You may have more fun in the Tacoma, but you may be less happy in daily driving.

2018 Honda Ridgeline -- The Ridgeline is effectively the Tacoma's polar opposite, and thus the Canyon rests somewhere in between them. Though it is effectively a crossover SUV with a truck bed, the Ridgeline's truck capabilities are nevertheless impressive and it boasts superior space, comfort and versatility as a result of its unique structure. Read Honda Ridgeline vs Chevrolet Colorado: Which is Better? for more information.

Used GMC Sierra -- If you need more capabilities than the Canyon can offer, consider a used Sierra. Given that the Canyon and Sierra prices aren't that different when new, you should be able to get a comparable used version.

Autotrader's Advice

Our dream Canyon is a well-equipped SLE model with the pickup's optional 3.6-liter V6 engine. That way, we could get a wide range of amenities without spending big money -- and we'd still have the pickup's bulky 6-cylinder engine for muscle when necessary. The turbodiesel would certainly make us think twice, though.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 GMC Canyon: New Car Review - Autotrader