SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months

Test Drive column: 2021 GMC Canyon

Greg Zyla
More Content Now
2021 GMC Canyon

Entry price: $26,400

Price as tested: $43,230

This week, we’re driving the 2021 GMC Canyon pickup, delivered in 4WD Crew Cab dress and featuring the AT4 off-road suspension package. There are new model designations for 2021, with Elevation, AT4 and Denali trims available in numerous wheelbase and bed length formats.

The 2021 Canyon pickup trucks come with either the two-door extended cab version with rear jump seats ala a swing open rear door setup or the popular crew cab with its full bench seat four-door design. There are two cargo box lengths available in long box (6 feet, 2 inches) or short box (5 feet, 2 inches), the latter our tester’s configuration in the AT4 high end trim.

Since Canyon’s debut in 2004 along with Chevy Colorado as replacements for the compact GMC S15 and similar Chevy S10, both have grown in size and popularity through the years, especially in the wheelbase department. Gone is the small truck designation, replaced by both midsize and near full-size dimensions.

From relying on its initial 116-horsepower power Inline-4-cylinder for power back in 2004, both GMC and Chevrolet have evolved through several engine applications the last 17 years, including the two different Inline-5 cylinders, several V6 designs and even the LS style 5.3-liter V8s available from 2009 through 2012. Through tweaking and re-tweaking, it is clear the designers at GMC/Chevrolet are very determined about their midsize trucks as both brands are almost as popular as their full size counterparts, GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado.

The modern day GMC Canyon offers three distinct power options, including the Ecotec Inline-4, GM’s new Duramax Turbo Diesel Inline-4, or the double overhead cam (DOHC), LFX High Feature series 3.6-liter V-6 that is the most popular of the three and standard on XT4 and Denali trims.

Yet it’s the above mentioned size and wheelbase where we’ve seen the biggest changes. Specifically, Canyon’s wheelbase has grown from 2004’s 111.2 inches to its current “midsize” platform of 128 to 140.5 inches depending on trim and bed size. Further, these new Canyon models are most impressive when comparing pickup trucks from the 1970s and early 1980s when a full-size pickup with a 6.5-foot box usually rode on a wheelbase of 115 inches, more than a foot shorter than today’s 128.3-inch midsize GMC Canyon. This wheelbase growth coupled with roomy four-door designs and cargo room galore are clear indicators that the current pickup evolution is in “full-steam ahead” mode, replacing even some minivans nowadays as a popular consumer preference.

Every Canyon built in 2021 offers good to great payload numbers, impressive fuel mileage, more passenger amenities than ever and those great, muscular GMC looks. Pricing starts at $26,400 for a base Elevation Extended Cab with the Inline-4, six speed automatic and rear-drive traction. Pricing escalates to our tester’s AT4 4WD Crew Cab V6 that starts at $38,200 and ends with the top line Denali at an entry of $40,900. In between these three trims there’s surely a Canyon in there for every consumer’s need and your GMC dealer will gladly explain all Canyon styles and trims that are right for you, your business and/or your family. The Extended Cab Elevation 4x4 starts at $32,995 and features the V6 engine as all Elevation inline-4’s are rear drive only. If you want a Duramax diesel 4x4, add approximately $4,700 more to the V6 versions.

Our Canyon AT4 is powered by the peppy DOHC 3.6-liter V6 that delivers a stout 308 horsepower and 275 lb. ft. of torque. The V6 Canyon models mate to a standard eight-speed automatic and are a solid choice for towing thanks to a 7,000-pound tow rating and impressive 17 city and 24 highway EPA numbers. The 181 horse, 369 torque Duramax diesel adds 700 more pounds tow capacity to 7,700 with fuel mileage increasing to 20 city and 30 highway. If you choose the entry level 2.5 liter Inline-4, towing drops to 3,500 pounds with horsepower at 200 and torque at 191, but with very good MPG numbers of 20 city and 26 highway. This little four cylinder is an excellent choice for those who live in warm climate states who won’t be towing anything really heavy.

Canyon offers room for five in the crew cab and four in the two-door extended cab arrangement. Features include GM infotainment systems that boast a six-speaker standard stereo system, SiriusXM with three months free, Apple/Android capability, 4G Wi-Fi, front and rear (charge only) USB, and easy to use stereo and accessory controls with steering wheel control access. Additionally, we’ve got to mention that the Canyon still utilizes a real key to start your truck, not a push button start. However, you can still start your Canyon from inside your home with the auto start feature.

As for the ride, GMC Canyon is a truck, and a heavy-duty one at that thanks to the AT4 off-road suspension and 4x4 underpinnings. However, as tough as this truck is, it delivers surprisingly good highway comfort and includes all the safety equipment expected in today’s vehicles.

Included with the AT4 off-road enhancements are all the underside protection shields, a towing package, transfer case shield, red recovery hooks, hitch guidance, Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac 17-inch tires on nice alloy wheels and more. On the safety side, the Canyon includes GMC’s Stabilitrak features, rear park assist, HD rear vision camera, teen driver info, theft deterrent and all the airbags.

Options include a recommended $995 GMC Infotainment package that adds navigation, eight-inch diagonal touchscreen, voice recognition, Bluetooth audio streaming and a Bose premium audio/stereo upgrade. Apple and Android also receive enhancements for personalization and more vehicle apps. Red tint coat paint adds $695 while a driver alert package for $395 features lane departure warning and forward collision alert. With $1,195 delivery, the final retail came in at $43,230, but check for purchase and lease incentives currently available along with additional promos that have just been mailed to GM Card members.

Important numbers include a 128.3-inch wheelbase, 4,758 lb. curb weight, 21-gallon fuel tank, 44.6 ft. turn circle and 8.2-inch ground clearance.

Personally, if I were buying a midsize pickup truck, the GMC Canyon would be a top priority test drive in this crowded market. It’s a great pickup.

Likes: Aggressive looks, fuel mileage, versatility, roomy.

Dislikes: Elevation trim name, diesel expensive and tows just 700 more pounds than V6, 140.5-inch wheelbase is a full-size numbers.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.

2021 GMC Canyon