By Allyson Harwood
KBB Expert Rating: 8.7
The 2016 GMC Canyon, with great style, robust capabilities and three noteworthy engine choices, immediately jumps to the top of what had become a stale and even lackluster compact/midsize pickup- truck segment. It offers powertrains and configurations the others cannot match, a whole new level of refinement and technology and is wrapped in the best looks of any of them. Available as an Extended Cab or Crew Cab, with a 5- or 6-foot bed, it beats the longtime class stalwarts, the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, in several ways: three standout engines (including a new turbodiesel), more towing capacity (up to 7,700 pounds), superior fuel economy (up to 31 mpg highway), innovative technology, a new standard of refinement and luxury and far snazzier looks.
The 2016 Canyon has all the attributes of a compact pickup (reasonable size, easier to park, better fuel consumption) but with powertrains, capabilities, technology, refinement and style the others do not match. This is the new standard for the segment.
The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have been around a long time and have established proven, and justifiably deserved, records of reliability and customer satisfaction. And if you need a full-size truck you’re not looking here, anyway.
KBB Expert Ratings
Big news for the GMC Canyon for 2016 is indeed big news for the compact/midsize-pickup segment: the availability of a new 2.8-liter Duramax 4-cylinder turbodiesel with 369 lb-ft of torque, towing capacity up to 7,700 pounds and EPA highway fuel economy of 31 mpg.
The GMC Canyon’s already-strong engine lineup just got stronger for 2016. In addition to the noteworthy 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and the wonderfully smooth 3.6-liter V6, the new 2.8-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel...
... is a first for the class. Those engines contribute to the exceptional driving experience of the Canyon, which is now the new benchmark among compact and midsize pickups. If it doesn’t exactly ride like a luxury sedan, it also rides and handles far beyond whatever expectations most people will have for a compact truck, with a well-controlled compliance that deals with smooth and rough roads and manages the curves with stable predictability. The ride inside is quiet, the steering responsive, the seating comfortable, the brakes reassuring, the big windows provide a generous view and the standard rearview camera enhances parking ease and safety. And, it will tow up to 7,700 pounds.
The GMC Canyon includes safety features unavailable on the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier, such as forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning. The Autotrac 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system includes an electronic 2-speed transfer case that will automatically shift between 2-wheel drive (2WD) and 4WD as needed.
DURAMAX TURBODIESEL ENGINE
The Canyon’s 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel is a first for this segment and makes 181 horsepower, a remarkable 369 lb-ft of torque, has a towing capacity of up to 7,700 pounds and is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway in the 2WD model.
The 2016 Canyon’s interior is a lot nicer than market expectations might have required, and it’s a fine blend of modern style with truck practicality. Most of the functions are in a big center stack, with large knobs that should be easily operated by gloved hands. Directly ahead of the driver are those instruments concerned with getting down the road. There’s ample center console storage, and the Crew Cab should handle four adults with decent comfort and five in a pinch. Upholstery materials include vinyl, cloth and leather, and there is a variety of available infotainment and audio systems.
While admitting that style is subjective we will unapologetically submit that we think the Canyon looks great. Up front is a large, squared-off, big-rig-style grille that, even on this compact pickup, looks just right and makes an unmistakable linkage to the bigger GMC Sierra trucks. LED running lights and projector-beam headlights give a look of class. The fender openings are somewhat large, but that just means plenty of room for bigger tires or tire chains. Each end of the rear bumper includes what GMC calls the CornerStep, providing an easy way to step up and reach into the cargo bed.
Even the base 2016 GMC Canyon is surprisingly well-equipped, with standard features including a 4.2-inch screen, 6-speaker audio, power windows and door locks, power driver seat and rearview camera, plus conveniences including the CornerStep rear bumper, cargo-box lighting and a locking tailgate. The popular SLE trim level adds an 8-inch touch screen for the infotainment system, cruise control, rear defogger, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, fog lights, 17-inch tires and wheels and additional trim and convenience items. The SLT, predictably, adds even more, including automatic climate control, remote start, heated front seats, rear sliding window and 18-inch wheels and tires.
In addition to the various upgrades associated with the trim levels, the 2016 GMC Canyon is available with numerous packages, among them a Convenience Package, SLE Convenience Package, All-Terrain Package (on SLE only) and one we strongly recommend for its safety benefits, the Driver Alert Package. The Autotrac automatic 4-wheel drive simplifies 2WD or 4WD operation. Other options include a Bose premium 7-speaker audio, choices of wheels and tires and several items geared to off-roading adventures and/or extra storage racks for canoes or surfboards and the like. The Canyon’s options list is a long one.
The base GMC Canyon engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 200 horsepower and either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic; it’s ideal for work-truck applications. Next is a smooth 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower, available only with the 6-speed automatic and with all the power you could reasonably want. Both engines offer excellent combinations of power and economy. The 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel delivers 369 lb-ft of torque, a maximum towing capacity of 7,700 pounds and as much as 31 mpg on the EPA highway rating. We are tempted to recommend the turbodiesel except that, with a price premium of almost $4,000 over the V6, you’d drive a long time to make up the difference in fuel savings. Our pick has to be the V6.
200 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
191 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg (2WD, manual), 20/27 mpg (2WD, automatic), 19/25 mpg (4WD)
305 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm
269 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 mpg (2WD), 17/24 mpg (4WD)
2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4
181 horsepower @ 3,400 rpm
369 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 mpg (2WD), 20/29 mpg (4WD)
There are almost 20 models of the 2016 GMC Canyon; the least expensive, the Canyon SL Extended Cab with 2WD, the 4-cylinder engine and the 6-speed manual transmission, has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $22,000. At the other end, a fully loaded 4WD long-bed Crew Cab Canyon SLT with the V6 and 6-speed automatic can easily top $45,000. We think a good choice would be the mid-range SLE Crew Cab V6 long-bed, with 4WD depending upon needs, and we definitely recommend the Driver Alert Package for its safety features. The turbodiesel is about $4,000. Generally, the Canyon has to be considered very price-competitive with the Tacoma and Frontier. To make sure you get the best deal on a new Canyon, be sure to check out the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price. Since the Canyon is quite new, it has not yet established a reliable residual value.