KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/7/2011
With the demise of the Ford Ranger, the 2012 GMC Canyon pickup truck (and its sister vehicle, the Chevrolet Colorado) are the sole domestic occupants of the compact-pickup market. And, while at first glance competing with the two biggest names in the Japanese auto industry (Toyota and Nissan) may seem a daunting task, the 2012 GMC Canyon actually has some attractive prospects. The GMC Canyon pickup truck's 4-cylinder engine has significantly more horsepower and torque than the 4-cylinder engines of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, and unlike the Nissan Frontier, the Canyon offers a regular-cab model. You can also opt for a V8 engine, something neither the Tacoma nor Frontier provides. And, while it's true that the 2012 GMC Canyon pickup is not as wide as its competition, it can still do most jobs required of a compact pickup for a lot less money.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a simple, clean and inexpensive compact pickup to be used the way a compact pickup was intended (working, not cruising), the 2012 GMC Canyon is about as no-nonsense as you can get.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a more upscale interior big on roominess and comfort, the upper-end models from Nissan and Toyota make a better choice. Those who need to tow more than 6,000 pounds will be better served by a full-size GMC pickup.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, GMC adds improved Bluetooth connectivity to the Canyon's option list, while a sliding rear window becomes standard on the SLE-2 4WD Extended Cab model. All 4WD and Crew Cab models gain an automatic locking rear differential.
The 2012 GMC Canyon's greatest strength can be found in its unique engine offerings and rigid frame. The 2012 GMC Canyon pickup's rigid chassis contributes to the truck's excellent road manners, as well as its stability off-road. Even over washboard roads, the Canyon exhibits none of the dash-rattling or squeaks that might be expected, although the rear axle does hop around quite a bit. On the flip side, the Canyon does have an unusually wide turning radius that sometimes requires a 4- or 5-point maneuver when making a 180-degree direction change. Power for the 2012 GMC Canyon pickup is provided by a peppy 4-cylinder engine that easily out-powers the base engines from Toyota and Nissan. A 242-horsepower 5-cylinder engine is optional, as is a stump-pulling 300-horsepower V8. Fuel economy is also impressive, especially on 4-cylinder models equipped with a manual transmission.
The 2012 GMC Canyon's tailgate can be set at a 55-degree angle that aligns the top of the tailgate with the tops of the wheel housings, thus allowing easy loading and hauling of large, flat panels.
Standard side-curtain airbags are an important safety feature that can protect occupants in the event of a side-impact accident.
While we wouldn't call the 2012 GMC Canyon pickup truck's interior innovative or elegant, it is clean and functional, with simple-to-read gauges and essential switchgear placed within easy reach of the driver. We like the Canyon's seats as they offer firm foam that provides good lumbar and lower thigh support; the seats are also covered in a durable and easy-to-clean cloth fabric. In the Crew Cab models, a rear seat is offered, but we think its upright seatback will be a bit uncomfortable on long trips. Extended Cab models feature two flip-down seat bottoms intended for passengers looking only for a quick lift to the job site or, preferably, their own vehicle. Upper-level models offer a bit more contrast and upgraded seating, but the overall hard plastics and drab primer-gray color aren't very uplifting.
The 2012 GMC Canyon distinguishes itself by its slab-sided sheet metal punctuated with bulging fender flares and big, bright alloy wheels. A sort of miniaturized GMC Silverado, the Canyon has the definitive look common to all of GMC's work trucks. Rolling on a 111.3-inch wheelbase, Regular Cab Canyon models are shorter than the Extended and Crew Cab trucks, which ride on a 126-inch wheelbase. Bed lengths vary too, with Regular and Extended Cab models supporting a 6-foot bed, and Crew Cab models offering a 5-foot bed. The 2012 GMC Canyon pickup truck's tall bed walls allow more storage and give the Canyon best-in-class cargo volume. Another clever and useful feature is the Canyon's 2-stage tailgate that can be opened flat or propped at a 55-degree angle. This prop feature allows long items such as plywood or sheet rock resting on the tops of the wheel housing to remain level as they pass over the tailgate's top edge.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2012 GMC Canyon SLE-1 comes standard with a 2.9-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops a healthy 185 horsepower. You'll also find a 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), StabiliTrak stability control, head-curtain airbags, chrome front and rear bumpers, dual outside mirrors, automatic headlights, a tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and tachometer. Various additions for the SLE levels of trim include a CD/MP3 player and upgraded upholstery, as well as engine-upgrade options for the SLE-1.
Notable Optional Equipment
Options include 4-wheel drive, a 4-speed automatic transmission, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, running boards, automatic locking rear differential, the Z71 off-road package, a tow package, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, a chrome package featuring chrome fuel door and exhaust tips, power and heated leather seating, ZQ8 sport suspension and 17- and 18-inch wheels.
Under the Hood
Engine choices for the 2012 GMC Canyon compact pickup include 4- and 5-cylinder powerplants, as well as an optional V8. The standard 2.9-liter 4-cylinder and the optional 3.7-liter 5-cylinder might seem small, but they are both big on power. The 2.9-liter produces an impressive 185 horsepower and offers up most of its 190 pound-feet of torque between the ranges of 1,200 and 5,600 rpm. That's enough power to muscle any lightly equipped 4-wheel-drive vehicle through the toughest terrain. The optional 3.7-liter engine makes 242 horsepower. Both of these engines produce class-leading horsepower while returning outstanding fuel economy. While the 5.3-liter V8 offers impressive power, its fuel-economy figures fall far short of its smaller stablemates.
2.9-liter in-line 4-cylinder
185 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
190 lb-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (2WD), 18/24 (4WD, manual), 17/23 (4WD, automatic)
3.7-liter in-line 5-cylinder
242 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
242 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 (2WD), 17/23 (4WD), 16/21 (4WD, Crew Cab)
300 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
320 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (2WD), 14/19 (4WD)
The 2012 GMC Canyon Regular Cab Work Truck, which features slightly less content than the SLE-1, has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $18,000, while the Extended Cab starts closer to $20,000. A fully loaded, 4-wheel-drive SLT Crew Cab with 4WD tops out around $35,000. A look at kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price shows the Canyon selling for slightly less than MSRP. When compared to the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, the 2012 GMC Canyon holds a less-than-average projected residual value over time.