2012 is the last year for the first generation of GMC’s midsize Canyon pickup, which has since been completely redesigned for 2015. The 2012 GMC Canyon is available as a 2- or 3-passenger regular cab, a 4- or 5-passenger extended cab or a 5- or 6-passenger crew cab.
The regular cab has two doors, and the crew cab has four. The extended cab offers two full-size front doors and a pair of rear-hinged half-length rear doors with two fold-down rear jump seats. The regular and extended cabs come with a 6.1-foot bed, while the crew cab uses a 5.1-ft bed. Both rear- and shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel drive (4WD) are offered. Safety gear includes 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, dual-stage front airbags, head-curtain airbags and StabiliTrak stability and traction control.
The lowered ZQ8 sport suspension and the off-road-oriented Z71 return as options, and tow capacity jumps to 6,000 pounds with the V8. New features for 2012 include standard Bluetooth connectivity and a locking rear differential on all crew cabs and 4WD models.
What We Like
Standard Bluetooth; maneuverable size; V8 performance; roomy front seats; smooth-shifting transmissions; configurable tailgate
What We Don’t
Cheap-looking dash and door trim; ride harshness; no navigation system; small rear jump seats on extended cab
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The 2012 GMC Canyon is available with a 2.9-liter dual-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) 4-cylinder, a 3.7-liter DOHC 5-cylinder or a 5.3-liter OHV V8.
The base 2.9-liter 4-cylinder develops 185 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque on regular unleaded fuel. Two-wheel-drive (2WD) versions are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with the standard 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic. Four-wheel-drive versions get a 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy rating.
Standard on 4WD crew-cab models and 2WD Z71 crew cabs, and optional for SLT and SLE, the 3.7-liter inline 5-cylinder engine makes 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. A 4-speed automatic transmission is standard with the 5-cylinder. Two-wheel-drive versions are EPA-rated at 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy, while 4WD versions get a 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy rating with regular unleaded fuel.
A 5.3-liter V8 is optional on extended and crew cabs and is paired with the ZQ8 sport suspension package. A 4-speed automatic is standard. The V8 produces 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, and it has an EPA rating of 15 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with 2WD or 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with 4WD. The V8 runs on regular unleaded fuel.
Standard Features & Options
The 2012 GMC Canyon comes in WT, SLE and SLT trims.
The WT (Work Truck) is bare-bones with a 2-speaker AM/FM radio, a cloth front bench seat and 16-inch steel wheels. Other standard equipment includes air conditioning, OnStar, Bluetooth, intermittent wipers, a center armrest, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, automatic headlamps, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, StabiliTrak stability control, carpeting and folding outside mirrors.
Moving up to SLE typically adds fog lamps, 16-in alloy wheels, color-keyed trim, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, upgraded cloth seats, bright interior accents, cloth door trim inserts and SiriusXM satellite radio. SLE can also be optioned with remote keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-heated front bucket seats, leather seat trim, a 6-disc CD player, a power sunroof, a sliding rear window, and power windows, mirrors and door locks.
The top SLT trim typically includes power front bucket seats, a 6-speaker stereo, automatic transmission, and power windows, mirrors and door locks.
The off-road-oriented Z71 package, available on both 2WD and 4WD Canyons, includes 265/75-15 on-/off-road tires, increased ground clearance, wheel flares, brushed aluminum side steps and off-road suspension with monotube shocks.
The street-performance ZQ8 package adds lowered sport suspension and 235/50 rubber on 18-in alloy wheels.
A slightly used 2012 Canyon is a bargain compared to a new 2015 model. Regular-cab 2WD 4-cylinder SLE models can be inexpensive, but be prepared to pay double for V8 models or clean 4WD 5-cylinder crew cabs with the SLT trim or the Z71 package.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recalls for the 2012 Canyon:
Loose driver’s seat belt electrical connectors may not trigger a warning light and buzzer when the belt is unbuckled, increasing injury risk in a crash.
A missing secondary hood latch could allow the hood to open at speed, obstructing forward vision and increasing the risk of a crash.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
NHTSA did not rate the 2012 Canyon. However, the agency gave the 2009 Canyon regular cab and extended cab four stars for frontal impacts, driver-side impacts and rollover performance. The crew-cab model got five stars for frontal and passenger-side impacts and four stars each for driver-side impacts and rollover performance.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2012 Canyon crew cab as Acceptable for moderate-overlap front impacts, Poor for side impacts and Marginal for head-restraint and seat-crash performance. However, it gave the Canyon extended cab a Good rating for front impacts.
GMC covered the 2012 Canyon with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance and a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion-perforation warranty.
GMC certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles cannot have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer and must be no more than 5 years old. Every CPO Canyon undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus whatever remains on the transferable, original 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. Also included is a 2-year/24,000-mile maintenance plan with roadside assistance.
Other Cars to Consider
2012 Honda Ridgeline — Available only as a 4WD crew cab, the Ridgeline is a pickup for car lovers. It has a unique dual-action tailgate and lots of storage. Because it’s based on a car platform, it offers a carlike ride and handling. With a 250-hp 3.5-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic, it’s EPA-rated at 15 mpg city/21 mpg hwy. Its bed is a smallish 5-footer, and towing is limited to 5,000 lbs.
2012 Toyota Tacoma — The Tacoma is the best-selling small or midsize pickup, and it offers a 159-hp 2.7-liter 4-cylinder or a 236-hp 4.0-liter V6. Configurations include regular, Access (extended) and Double (crew) cabs, a lowered X-Runner sport truck and TX Off-Road packages. Max tow capacity is 6,500 lbs.
The midsize Canyon pickup is a sensible alternative to full-size trucks for congested urban areas and light hauling. Although regular-cab models offer the greatest parking and maneuverability advantages, extended-cab and crew-cab models provide far more people-toting or lockable space and will retain the best resale value. Look for a CPO or lower-mileage example that’s seen obvious care and maintenance. Avoid modified trucks and ask for a Carfax or equivalent vehicle-history report. Make sure that all applicable safety recalls have been performed on the Canyon you’re considering.