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2015 GMC Canyon: GMC's tough-looking intermediate pickup punches way above its weight class

The 2015 GMC Canyon is a mid-level truck

The 2015 GMC Canyon is a mid-level truck that punches way above its weight class, writes Malcolm Gunn. Photo Credit: GMC

Pickup trucks are versatile vehicles for work and play, but not everyone requires a full-size-rig for their hauling, towing and passenger needs. It's that modest middle ground where the 2015 GMC Canyon can work its magic.

When it comes to trucks and sport-utility vehicles, General Motors tends to do things in pairs. Both the Chevrolet and GMC divisions share many similar, but somewhat distinctly styled vehicles that wear different nameplates and that includes the new Canyon and its Chevy sidekick, the Colorado. 

Both return in slightly larger and more powerful forms than before, but are still smaller and therefore less capable than their full-size GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado counterparts. Still, the Canyon is only about 5.5 inches narrower than the Sierra with a distance between the front and rear wheels that's about 14.5 inches less. That means the Canyon is also shorter and therefore a bit easier to park and it will also leave more room in the garage. It also burns less fuel, weighs about 500-700 pounds less and wears a more modest sticker price.

The Canyon lineup includes a four-door extended-cab version that comes with a 62-inch box, and a four-door crew cab (bigger doors than the extended cab) with a 50-inch, or optional 62-inch bed. Truckers who are seeking a regular-cab truck (and apparently there's not that many of you out there) are plain out of luck.

GMC and Chevrolet share a number of details when it comes to the general box and cab shapes, of course, but the square jaw and broad stance of the Canyon beats out the Colorado in terms of tough-stuff appeal.

Canyon comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. Optionally, a 3.6-liter V6 is rated at 305-horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Note that for the upcoming 2016 model year, you'll be able to order a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard with the 2.5, while a six-speed automatic is available, but standard with the V6. You can put any engine in any body style.

Interestingly, the rear-wheel-drive V6 comes very close to matching the rear-drive four-cylinder in the fuel-economy department: 18 city and 26 highway versus 20/27 for the 2.5. However the V6 is the one to get for hauling. The payload capacity is 1,600 pounds and towing is 7,000 pounds, which is double the 2.5's capacity. 

Canyons can be had in base SL, SLE and SLT trim levels. 

The optional four-wheel-drive Autotrac allows drivers to control torque to all four wheels or to put the system in charge to automatically engage when needed.

Selecting a 4x4 Canyon also allows you to add GMC's All-Terrain Package that includes an off-road suspension, locking rear differential and all-terrain rubber. Hill control prevents the truck from rolling backward when stopped on an incline and keeps a tight rein on speed when heading down a steep hill. 

In addition (and in keeping with the currently popular "Black Ops" theme in the truck world), you can spec your Canyon crew cab with a "Nightfall Edition" package that has "Onyx Black" paint, blacked-out grille and body trim plus unique alloy wheels with black-painted inserts.

Regardless of trim level, all Canyons arrive outfitted with air conditioning, rear-vision camera, power driver's seat with manual recline, rear bumper with corner steps, locking tailgate and two-tier loading that lets you set up two separate cargo areas.

There are, of course, a plethora of options and packages, such as leather seats (heated in front), eight-inch touch-screen/navigation and a factory-installed spray-on bed liner. Really, the list is endless. 

For added safety, forward collision alert and lane-departure warning can be added (a rear-vision camera is standard). 

Canyon pricing starts at $21,900, including destination charges, for the base SL extended cab. That's about $10,000 cheaper than a much larger base GMC Sierra extended double-cab. But if your pickup needs are as modest as your budget, taking the Canyon route is a fiscally gentler way to travel.


What you should know: 2015 GMC Canyon

Type: Two- /four-door, rear- /four-wheel-drive mid-size pickup.

Engines (hp): 2.5-liter DOHC I4 (200); 3.6-liter DOHC V6 (305)

Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt. in 2.5, std. with 3.6)

Market position: Mid-size pickups are rare with General Motors being the sole domestic-based maker. Depending on the Canyon's (and Chevrolet Colorado's) success, other brands could eventually introduce similar trucks.

Points: New pickup is a major hit in the styling department; Base four-cylinder engine produces impressive power; optional V6 isn't too far off the four-cylinder's fuel-economy stats; A sporty turbo model would make a nice touch; GM's success with its new mid-size trucks could spark a revival in this class, with new entries from Ford and Ram (Fiat Chrysler).

Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

MPG (city/hwy) 20/27 (2.5, 4x2, AT); Base price (incl. destination)  $21,900


By comparison

Toyota Tacoma

Base price: $22,000 (est.)

Upcoming 2016 version should be stiff competition for GM's mid-sizers.

Nissan Frontier

Base price: $18,900

This 10-year-old war horse looks good, but is overdue for replacement.

Chevrolet Colorado

Base price: $21,500

Don't like the Canyon's looks? Check out this nearly identical Chevy.


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