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2015 GMC Canyon: Reinvading to Conquer Truck Market

By Frank A. Aukofer, October 18th, 2014

For sure, King Kong looked small standing atop the Empire State Building. But he wasn't. We get the same impression when first seeing the all-new 2015 GMC Canyon pickup truck, which its purveyors describe as "small."

Well, yes, in the current scheme of pickups the new Canyon is classified as a midsize or described as a small pickup truck. But that's compared to full-size pickups, which have grown to such gargantuan dimensions that they cannot always fit into garages or shopping center parking spaces.

strong>The Canyon comes in two lengths: 17 feet 9 inches and 18 feet 9 inches, with the difference in the length of the cargo box, either 5 feet 2 inches or 6 feet 2 inches.

Moreover, these "small" pickups can haul loads of 1,450 to 1,620 pounds. That's around three-quarters of a ton, which qualifies them, in current parlance, as in the same "half ton" category as their light-duty, full-size counterparts.

It is true that small pickup trucks have been on the wane for some time. Until General Motors decided to re-invade the market with the new Canyon and its fraternal brother, the Chevy Colorado, there were only two contenders left: Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

Though largely unchanged for nearly a decade, they have not been doing poorly. The Tacoma is on a pace to achieve sales of 150,000 in 2014. The Frontier is running at an annual rate of more than 72,000.

GM researchers say there are 12.5 million midsize pickups still plying U.S. roadways, including some old Ford Rangers and Dodge Dakotas. So the thought at GM is that now is a prime opportunity to surprise and delight those jaded buyers, as well as customers who don't cotton to how big the full-size trucks have become.

The Chevy Colorado, like its full-size sibling Silverado, is expected to be the volume leader. The GMC Canyon, like the bigger GMC Sierra, will go after customers who want something more premium. Thus it is that the tested Canyon Extended Cab SLE model had a $1,425 higher starting price than its Colorado LT counterpart. The difference shows up mainly in interior materials and trim.

strong>There are three versions: Extended Cab, which has a 6-foot 2-inch cargo box, two small rear opening back doors and a couple of chimpanzee size back seats; the Crew Cab four door with the 5-foot 2-inch cargo box, and the Crew Cab with the 6-foot 2-inch cargo box.

The tested Extended Cab, available in rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, is powered by a either a 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 191 lb.-ft. of torque, or a 305-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with 269 lb.-ft. of torque. A base 2WD four-banger can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission. All others, including the V-6 Crew Cabs with 2WD or 4WD, get the six-speed automatic.

Though you can easily approach a $40,000 price tag with a highly optioned Canyon Crew Cab, the tested SLE Extended Cab had a starting price of $27,520 with the six-speed automatic. A few options, including a spray in bed liner and dealer installed running boards, brought the price up to $29,170.

The fixed running boards -- there are two types -- could pose some problems. Though welcome for ease of entry and exit, they stick out about 4 inches on each side of the truck, basically making it 8 inches wider down where you can't see or account for them when parking or doing other maneuvers.

On the road, the Canyon Extended Cab tester was surprisingly powerful given its four-cylinder engine. The tester was empty and there was no opportunity to drive it with a load. The truck is rated to haul 1,450 pounds and tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The electric power steering was direct and responsive, and the suspension system, though it delivered a typically choppy pickup ride, did not unsettle the chassis on rough roads.

The interior was commendably quiet. Combined with supportive and comfortable cloth seats, the Canyon would be a friendly companion on a long trip. Crank up the XM satellite radio, set the cruise control and relax. A short time with the new Canyon converts skepticism into optimism for its prospects.


Base price $27,520 (as tested: $29,170)
Curb weight 3,880 lbs.
Displacement 2.5-liter
Engine type 16-valve 4-cylinder w/DI
Epa mileage rating 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 21.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 200 at 6300 rpm
Overall length 212.4 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 191 at 4400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 4-passenger midsize extended cab pickup
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