Considering today’s midsize trucks are about the same size of full-size trucks a decade ago, the 2019 GMC Canyon may well be all the truck you need or want. The Canyon is the GMC cousin to the Chevrolet Colorado. In many regards, the two are quite similar. Think of the Canyon as a somewhat gussied-up Colorado. While the Canyon has the upscale Denali grade, the Colorado has the wildly off-road capable ZR2 and ZR2 Bison trims.
The allure of a midsize truck is it provides the pickup-truck lifestyle and a healthy portion of a full-size truck’s capability while delivering better fuel economy and more maneuverability. These are solid trade-offs if you don’t need to tow a huge trailer or boat.
What’s New for 2019?
Most 2019 changes are options or trim specific and include such features as a new HD back-up camera that’s standard for all but the base grade, as well as a 6-way power driver’s seat for the SLE, the All Terrain and the Denali trims. Rear park assist is a new option with expanded availability of wireless charging and heated steering wheel features. What is new across the board are new GMC Infotainment systems with a more intuitive interface.
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
$22,395 — $39,790
The Canyon is available with three 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 a 6-speed manual (rear-wheel-drive models only) or a 6-speed automatic (on RWD or 4-wheel-drive Canyons) transmission. RWD Canyon models return 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving with either transmission. 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 six trim levels: SL, base Canyon, SLE, All-Terrain, SLT and Denali. There are extended and crew cab styles available, while 5-foot-2-inch and 6-foot-2-in beds are available. Not every configuration is available on every trim level. Prices reflect the $995 factory delivery charge.
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 six airbags, 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 the new GMC Infotainment system with a 7-in touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity 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 ($25,895), 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 ($29,895), which includes 17-in wheels, power mirrors, an upgraded version of the Infotainment system with an 8-in 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-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.
The Canyon All Terrain ($36,895) is an off-road grade of the SLE with 4WD, a special suspension, special 17-in wheels with all-terrain tires, dark windows and exterior trim, a rear locking differential, hill-descent control, a transfer-case shield 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 ($36,695) includes the SLE Convenience package items plus the V6 engine, leather and heated power front seats plus the Driver Alert Package with forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning.
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 Denali ($39,790), 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.
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 warning and a lane-departure warning system, which are standard on the SLT and Denali.
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 GMC Sierra.
Inside, the cabin that once impressed us in comparison to other midsize trucks has now fallen to the back of the pack with the introduction of its revised competitors. The Ridgeline in particular provides a far more comfortable, spacious and versatile environment. Still, there’s a lot 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
2019 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.
2019 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.
2019 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 pricing for the Canyon and the Sierra aren’t that different when new, you should be able to get a comparable used version.
Our dream 2019 GMC Canyon is a well-equipped SLE model with the pickup’s optional 3.6-liter V6 engine. It provides 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.