2020 GMC Canyon

By June 15, 2020

Despite being an upmarket version of the Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup, the GMC Canyon is still an affordable, no-nonsense option for truck buyers who don’t need massive towing capacity or payload capability. The Canyon instead trades on practicality, with better gas mileage and maneuverability than any full-size truck.

Few changes come to the Canyon this year. An optional power-locking tailgate, a new tire-fill alert, and an updated infotainment system for higher trims is about all that’s new for 2020.

The base engine remains a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. It pairs to a 6-speed automatic. Like all available engines, rear-wheel drive is standard and four-wheel drive is available. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined mpg with rear-wheel drive, while opting for four-wheel drive drops those numbers slightly to 19/24/21 mpg.

The optional and far more popular choice is the 3.6-liter V-6. This engine generates a stout 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, which is routed through an 8-speed automatic. The added power enables a maximum towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, though gas mileage dips a bit to 18/25/20 mpg and 17/24/19 mpg with two- and four-wheel drive, respectively.

A 2.8-liter turbodiesel is also on the options sheet. It churns out 186 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque; all that twisting force allows for a 7,700-pound towing capacity. This engine also delivers the highest gas mileage of the bunch, with the EPA rating it good for 20/30/23 mpg and 19/28/22 mpg for two- and four-wheel-drive models.

Active-safety features remain largely unavailable on the Canyon. A Driver Alert Package includes forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, but no automatic braking is available on any trim.

The NHTSA gives the Canyon four stars overall, with a three-star rollover rating. The IIHS gave the Canyon “Acceptable” ratings in front and side tests along with a “Poor” headlight score.

Model Lineup

All prices reflect the most affordable combination of bed length and cab style and includes all applicable destination charges.
The base Canyon is known as the SL and starts at $23,295. That money buys a 2.5-liter inline-4, power windows and locks, vinyl seats with power adjustability on the driver’s side, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 16-inch wheels. This trim only comes in extended-cab form and rear-wheel drive is the only setup.

In a rather confusing move, the next step up is simply known as the Canyon. It starts at $26,795 and only adds cloth seats to the standard equipment list. More importantly, this model can be equipped with the optional V-6 engine and four-wheel drive. Unlike the SL, this trim is also offered as a Crew Cab.

Most buyers will start shopping with the $30,195 SLE, which adds an 8.0-inch infotainment system, alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and some other creature comforts. It’s the priciest model to come with the 2.5-liter inline-4 as standard.

The $36,995 SLT trim comes with leather upholstery, V-6 power, 18-inch wheels, a power passenger’s seat, and remote start.

The All-Terrain begins at $37,695. This trims is only available in Crew Cab configuration and gets standard V-6 power and four-wheel drive. It also gets an off-road suspension kit, skid plates, recovery hooks, and some styling tweaks such as a blacked-out grille. Creature comforts are comparable to the SLE trim.

The top-spec Denali model is also exclusively a Crew Cab and carries a $41,595 asking price. It boasts heated and cooled front seats, Bose audio, navigation, forward-collision warnings, a heated steering wheel, and big chrome 20-inch wheels. Like most trims, four-wheel drive is optional.

Exterior

It’s clear at first blush that there’s nothing avant garde about the Canyon’s design whatsoever. Yet the lack of flair has kept this design fresh well past its sell-by date: not many would guess it, but the Canyon has been wearing this same body for the last seven years.

How has it aged so well? Because the look is simple, putting function over form. Other than the heaping of chrome on the Denali models, there’s nothing showy, flashy, or extravagant about the Canyon. The inherent practicality of this design is what’s so attractive and timeless about this truck.

Interior

The Canyon’s cabin reflects the same themes as the outside: useful before pretty. The cockpit is beginning to look dated, but once situated behind the wheel everything falls into place readily. There’s very little of a learning curve before being entirely comfortable piloting a Canyon.

The nicest surprise of the Canyon’s interior is that it is decidedly carlike rather than trucklike. There’s no front bench seat, even as an option; all models sport bucket seats and a floor shifter. The look of the dash is fairly basic, but it too trends more towards cars and crossovers rather than full-size trucks.

The extended-cab models aren’t big on space, but are plenty large enough for two people. The seats can be upholstered in anything from vinyl to leather; they are comfortable and supportive regardless of material choice. A power driver’s seat is standard even on the fleet-grade SL.

The extended-cab trucks technically have two rear jump seats, but they’re best used as storage rather than chairs due to the dearth of legroom. Crew Cabs include a standard back bench seat and four traditional doors, but even these models will have passengers pining for more space. If you truly need to seat five in your truck on a regular basis, the full-size models are a better bet.

The 8.0-inch infotainment system is standard starting with the SLE models. It’s been updated this year for better response times and faster processing speeds, which further improve an already good software. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard with this setup, and a 4G hotspot is tossed in as well.

Driving Impressions

The Canyon handles, accelerates, and maneuvers like a classic, old-school pickup truck. There’s nothing carlike about how the Canyon handles corners. The ride, however, is much improved over trucks of old, which often were jittery as a coal cart. The Canyon enjoys a fairly smooth ride even when the bed is empty and the road is rutted.

Base models with the 2.5-liter inline-4 leave a lot to be desired. With just 200 horsepower, this engine feels underpowered even in an unladen extended-cab variant; a loaded-up Crew Cab would be downright stressful if this were the engine under the hood. At least the 6-speed automatic rarely botches a shift and usually makes the most of what little power there is.

A much better choice is the 3.6-liter V-6. This six manages to make 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, numbers which put it at the top of the mid-size truck class when it comes to power ratings. With this engine under the hood, the Canyon is fast, smooth, and strong enough to tow 7,000 pounds. Choosing to upgrade to this engine over the base 4-cylinder is an easy decision.

Also in the cards is a 2.8-liter turbodiesel. It’s a pricey option, but it boosts towing capacity to 7,700 pounds thanks to its 369 lb-ft of torque. When not towing, the diesel returns 30 mpg on the highway, which is better than any other truck in the segment. It won’t be nearly as quick as the 3.6-liter V-6, though.

Off-roading is an option with the Canyon thanks to the All-Terrain trim. Its bevy of specialized equipment isn’t nearly as focused as the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, but it does include all-terrain tires, skid plates, and an off-road suspension. Those goodies alone are enough to enable a so-equipped Canyon to access places that are well off the beaten path.

Final Word

The 2020 GMC Canyon is a perfect antidote for truck buyers fed up with how big and expensive full-size trucks have become. The Canyon’s practical size, potent V-6, and carlike cabin make the Canyon a truck that’s easy to drive to the office during the week and to the mountains on the weekends. We’d get an SLT.

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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