GMC has the best midsized pickup out there right now.

2016 GMC Canyon Crew Cab Duramax Turbo Review

A premium-grade midsized pickup

By: Wade Thiel

Web2Carz Senior Staff Writer

Published: June 10th, 2016

The midsized pickup truck segment is hot right now and there's a growing list of contenders. Among those contenders is the GMC Canyon. The cousin to the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon puts a more upscale spin on the package that looks like it will serve General Motors well. The Canyon - and Colorado for that matter - seem to fit right in between its two main competitors - the Toyota Tacoma and the Honda Ridgeline. While Toyota is focused on its tough Tacoma, and Honda is busy with its Ridgeline - the truck that drives like a car - GM has come along a built some trucks that look and feel exactly how we think a proper modern truck should.

We got to spend a week with the Canyon and drove it all over. We slipped through tight Chicago streets, cruised on country roads, drove around suburban neighborhoods and hopped on the highway to put the engine to the test at high speeds. Everywhere we went, we tried to drive the Canyon like we expect customers will, and here's what we learned.

  • Driving Impressions

    The Canyon is a truck designed for someone who doesn't need a full-sized pickup but still needs a real truck. With that in mind, the truck drives exactly like we expected it would - like a pickup. It's a stiffer ride than any CUV or Honda's Ridgeline, but it's not at all jarring. It feels like a refined, upscale truck. In a lot of ways, the Canyon feels a bit like a shrunken Sierra 1500, which is not a bad thing.

    The 2.8-liter Duramax Turbodiesel is plenty powerful enough in almost every situation you'll find yourself in, though it does feel a little breathless when passing on the highway. The torque at low RPMs, however, makes the Canyon feel like a powerful tower and hauler and that's because it is. Being able to tow 7,600 lbs is no joke, and few people will ever have to tow more than that recreationally.

    • Ride Quality: Smooth but not sedan smooth. You'll never forget that you're driving a truck.
    • Steering: Steering is a bit lighter than we expected for a truck, but you quickly become accustomed to it.
    • Acceleration: Off the line and around town the Canyon feels strong, but at highways speeds the engine has to work pretty hard when passing. Cruising at highways speed though is no issue.
    • Braking: The Canyon's brakes are strong and progressive, much more progressive than the Sierra 1500's stiff brakes. We like that GMC chose to forego the Sierra's brake characteristics.
    • Handling: Maneuvering the Canyon is easy and it doesn't feel too long or wide to navigate tight city streets. Also, we had no issues parking it in regular street spaces and in the garage.

  • Technology & Safety

    The infotainment system in the Canyon makes sense as soon as you look at it. It's designed for easy and intuitive use. Not everything is controlled via the screen and the knobs and buttons are big enough to be controlled with gloves on, but not so big that they look silly. The Canyon comes equipped with Apple CarPlay capability, XM radio, 4 USB ports, navigation and 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, so you'll never have to worry about staying connected.

    In an age when automakers seem to be struggling to find the best way to integrate technology, GM seems to have mostly nailed this system. Everything was simple and made sense. You don't need a special walkthrough or have to look in the manual for every little thing.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: The large 8-inch screen was of high quality and seemed to be about the perfect size for this small truck.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Phone pairing was quick and easy and reconnected automatically upon reentry.
    • Voice/Sound Quality: Voice quality on calls was high and there were no issues on either end. The Bose audio system produced superb sound quality for radio and music as well.
    • Controls: The controls for the GMC Canyon are simple, easy to use and well laid out, making operating the infotainment system easy from the moment you sit in the vehicle.
    • Safety: Front, side and side head curtain airbags, stability control, traction control, ABS brakes, rearview cameras, theft deterrent security system.

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    We like the styling of the GMC Canyon better than the Colorado. It looks more like a classic truck, a classic GMC truck to be specific. Featuring a large grille with the GMC badge displayed prominently in the center and fender bulges that look almost exactly like the Sierra's we were hard pressed to find something we didn't like about the Canyon.

    If it were up to us, we'd eliminate the curvature of the trailing edge of the rear window, which seems like an afterthought. We'd like it better without the curve, so the beltline of the car isn't disrupted and instead carries on right in line with the top of the bed, making one long line down the side of the truck.

    • Front: The front of the truck is easily recognizable as a GMC pickup due to more than just the large badge on the grille. The overall shape and the headlights make it look like a shrunken Sierra.
    • Rear: The rear is also very GMC once again reminding us who the truck's bigger brother is.
    • Profile: Your eyes can easily travel down the side of the Canyon, with the one minor blip at the rear passenger doors' beltline. The rest of the truck features a rugged, classic truck profile.

  • Driver & Passenger Comfort

    For a smaller truck, the Canyon still has plenty of room up front. While rear passengers don't get quite as much legroom as they would in a full-sized crew cab pickup, they'll be pretty comfortable otherwise. The seats themselves are noticably smaller than full-sized pickup truck seats. They are leather appointed and place you high enough in the truck to see out the large windows comfortably, though. Controls and storage compartments are always within reach, which is something some people have to strain for in fullsized trucks.

    The interior of the truck feels refined and very comfortable, but we wonder how it'd be for people above average height and weight. The seats are about perfect for people of average size, but larger occupants may feel the seats aren't big enough for longer drives. They certainly aren't like the large almost louge like chairs in the uper trim levels of the Sierra 1500, Ford F-150 or Nissan Titan.

    • Front Seats: The heated, power-adjustable driver and passenger seats are comfortable and feature supportive foam and soft seating surfaces.
    • Rear Seats: The rear seats are wrapped in the same material as the front and are equally supportive as the front, but they don't have as much adjustment or legroom. Larger occupants will likely feel more comfortable up front.
    • Visibility: Seeing out the front, sides and rear is not an issue thanks to well-placed pillars and large windows. It also helps that you sit up pretty high.

  • Storage & Cargo Room

    While the GMC can't offer the kind of interior storage that the Sierra can, the truck does a good job, providing a large center console and door pockets as well as pockets for cell phone and other gadgets in the center stack. The back seats are less fortunate when it comes to storage as there is only a foldable center cup holders and small door pockets, but even so, you'll probably not have an issue taking your things with you.

    • Storage: Glovebox, center console, door pockets, and rear under-seat storage are all helpful for putting away gear, groceries and electronic devices.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: The short box measures just over five feet long and has a cargo volume of 41.3 cubic feet.

  • Final Impressions

    The Canyon doesn't try to be something it's not, which is refreshing. It's content to be a truck that can tow and haul medium-sized loads and drive around the city and suburbs comfortably. It'll fit in your garage, something that can't be said for all full-sized pickups, and it's about perfect for any family that doesn't need to tow much more than 7,000 lbs.

    While there are other engine options that we were unable to test, we would steer potential customers towards the diesel because of the gas mileage and extra low-end grunt. Getting almost 30 mpg on the highway in a truck is just awesome. While it isn't a rocket on the highway, it'll still get you there, so set the cruise and give yourself plenty of room when passing and you won't need more high-speed power. The Canyon isn't perfect, but it's the best mid-sized truck on the road right now, and if you're interested in a smaller pickup, we're pretty sure you won't regret getting it.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic

    Drivetrain/Layout: 4x4, front-engined

    Power Output: 181 hp / 369 lb-ft of torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 20 city / 29 highway

    Base Price: $$37,450 (SLT trim level)

    As Tested: $44,450 (incl. $925)

    Standard Features: Differential, locking rear fully automatic; transfer case, electric 2-spd; trailering equipment package; remote keyless entry; airbags: driver and front passenger, side impact, front and rear seat side head curtain; theft-deterrent system, immobilization; remote vehicle start; Stabilitrak-stability control with traction control; ABS disc brakes with Duralife rotors; rear vision camera; locking tailgate; rear bumper cornerstep; heated, manual folding outside mirrors; EZ lift and lower tailgate; tires, all-season, blackwall; 18-inch polished cast aluminum wheels; 16-inch steel spare wheel; projector-type with LED signature headlamps; daytime running lamps; front fog lamps; chrome rear bumper; front recovery hooks; rear wheelhouse liners; all season tire spare; heated 4 way adjustable front seats with power lumbar adjustment; folding bench rear seat; rear window defroster; automatic air conditioning; auto dimming inside rearview mirror; driver and passenger visors with illuminated vanity mirrors; cruise control; leather wrapped steering wheel; multi-color driver display; steering wheel controls; soft-touch instrument panel with aluminum trim; sliding rear window; leather appointed front seating; 8" diagonal color touchscreen with Intellilink Apple CarPlay capability provided by Apple; XM Radio; 4 USB ports; Onstar; 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot

    Options on our test vehicle: 2.8-liter Duramx Turbo, tow/haul mode, trailer brake controller, exhaust brake; audio system - premium Bose; spray on bed liner; emerald green metallic paint; driver alert package incl: forward collision alert, lane departure warning; rear axle - 3.42 ratio

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