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2017 GMC Canyon: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

After years spent languishing on the vine to rot, the midsize pickup segment has recently been rejuvenated with fresh new models. The nice thing about this segment is that its entries are quite different, presenting shoppers with distinct trucks best suited to particular wants and needs. The 2017 GMC Canyon (and its Chevy Colorado sibling) can best be described as a junior full-sizer, mimicking the look, capability and driving experience of its bigger half-ton Sierra sibling -- albeit scaled down to a more manageable and efficient size.

For 2017, the Canyon even gains a Denali trim and All Terrain X package, just like the Sierra. Perhaps more importantly, though, the Canyon's upgraded V6 engine and new 8-speed automatic transmission also improve towing to a point that exceeds its top Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline competitors. Beyond that, though, the Canyon is a more "normal" truck than either of those rivals. The Tacoma is less spacious and comfortable, but sportier and more capable off-road. The Ridgeline is on the opposite end of the spectrum -- more spacious, versatile and comfortable, but its SUV-like unibody roots make it indisputably less of a truck. Effectively, the Canyon splits the distance between those two extremes and presents a midsize truck recipe that should make sense for a great many.

 What's New for 2017?

The Canyon gets significant updates for 2017. A new, more powerful and efficient V6 engine debuts along with an 8-speed automatic transmission. There is also a new Denali trim level, bringing with it the same sort of fancier looks and upgraded feature content as other GMC Denali models. There is also a more off-road-oriented All Terrain X package available.

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 could be improved; efficiency friendly front air dam must be removed for off-roading

 How Much?

$20,900-$43,300

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 the automatic. Effectively, the manual is the same, while 4WD lowers these figures by 1 mpg.

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 1 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 181 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 20/28/23 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 ($20,900) 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 six-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 ($24,100), 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 ($28,100), 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-and-telescoping 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.

The Canyon SLT ($32,500) 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 ($39,300), 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 2017 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 the best possible rating of Good in the moderate overlap front test. No other tests have been conducted.

Behind the Wheel

For better and 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 newly introduced Denali trim that offers a premium vibe not offered on the mechanically identical Chevrolet Colorado.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 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.

2017 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 also be less happy in daily driving.

2017 Honda Ridgeline -- The Ridgeline is effectively the Tacoma's polar opposite, and thus the Canyon rests somewhere in between them. Though it is effectively an SUV with a truck bed, the Ridgeline's truck capabilities are nevertheless impressive and boasts superior space, comfort and versatility as a result of its unique structure.

Read 2017 Honda Ridgeline vs 2017 Chevrolet Colorado: Which is Better?

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.

Find a GMC Canyon for sale

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New 2017 GMC Canyon SLE
New 2017 GMC Canyon
MSRP $35,565
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.
2017 GMC Canyon: New Car Review - Autotrader