It was big news when the GMC Canyon returned to the market last year. Compared with older rivals in the midsize truck class, this handsome new Canyon was quicker, more fuel-efficient, easier to drive and roomier on the inside. For diesel fans, the 2016 GMC Canyon should be even more compelling, as it’s the first modern midsize pickup (along with its twin, the Chevrolet Colorado) to offer an optional turbocharged diesel engine.
For 2016, GMC Canyon crew cabs can be equipped with a diesel engine that surpasses the V6 in both mpg and towing capacity.
Given the hefty price tag on this diesel option, you might not be wowed by the specs. After all, this 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine makes all of 181 horsepower. But it’s the 369 pound-feet of torque that tells the story here. That’s far more torque than you get with the gasoline V6, and not only does the diesel GMC Canyon have a higher tow rating, you can also bet it’ll feel stronger and smoother pulling your trailer up highway grades. In normal driving situations, the diesel engine also gives the Canyon a more relaxed character. Because of the enhanced low-end grunt, the standard six-speed automatic transmission doesn’t have to change gears as often. For now, GMC is offering the diesel only on crew cabs.
Another notable change for the 2016 Canyon is the arrival of Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, which should make this truck that much more appealing for buyers who crave uninterrupted connectivity. It’s included in any Canyon equipped with the available 8-inch IntelliLink touchscreen interface. It’s worth noting, though, that the full-size Sierra 1500 also gets Apple CarPlay for 2016, and the larger truck’s satisfying 5.3-liter V8 isn’t that much thirstier than the Colorado’s optional V6. Moreover, the price difference may be less significant than you think.
If you’re sold on a midsize truck, you’ll definitely want to try the perennial sales champ: the redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma. With its higher ground clearance and superior approach angle, the Tacoma can tackle terrain that would be too much for the street-biased GMC, and its cabin design and technology are much improved. The aged Nissan Frontier ranks a distant third in most categories, but it’s likely to be the most affordable entry point into midsize truck ownership. If you’re interested in the diesel, it’s worth your time to look at the full-size Ram 1500, which offers a diesel V6 in a broad range of cab styles. Nevertheless, the vast majority of midsize truck buyers should be pleased with the 2016 GMC Canyon’s diverse collection of talents.
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The 2016 GMC Canyon is a midsize pickup offered in two- and four-seat extended-cab and five-seat crew cab body styles. There are two bed lengths and four trim levels available: SL, base Canyon, SLE and top-of-the-line SLT.
The entry-level SL model is offered only with the extended cab. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic projector-style headlights, daytime running lights, air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery and floor covering, a four-way power driver seat with manual recline, front bucket seats, rear-seat delete, a tilt-only adjustable steering wheel, power windows, a rearview camera and a six-speaker AM/FM audio system with a 4.2-inch color display and USB and auxiliary audio inputs.
The next step up is the base Canyon model, which is available in both extended-cab and crew cab body styles and adds fold-up rear jump seats (extended-cab models only), cloth upholstery, carpeting and floor mats.
The major difference between the SL and base Canyon trims is the latter’s exclusive list of desirable options including the Convenience package, which bundles an EZ-Lift tailgate, a driver-side convex “spotter” mirror for enhanced visibility, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a rear defroster and a theft-deterrent system. An audio system upgrade package includes a basic version of GMC’s app-based IntelliLink system (operated via the 4.2-inch screen), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice controls, Pandora Internet radio and OnStar telematics with 4G LTE WiFi hotspot capability. Stand-alone options include an automatic locking rear differential, a spray-on bedliner and a trailering package (V6 models only).
Springing for the SLE gets you everything in the Convenience package, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, power side mirrors, additional body-color trim (mirror covers and door handles), an overhead console, upgraded soft-touch interior trim materials, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a tilt-and-telescoping adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, OnStar (with 4G LTE WiFi) and an upgraded version of the IntelliLink interface with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, satellite radio, voice and steering wheel controls and four USB ports (two for the music interface and two for charging).
Full-size trucks can haul more stuff, of course, but the GMC Canyon is a workhorse in its own right.
SLE options include an All-Terrain package, which is essentially GMC’s equivalent of the Colorado Z71. It bundles 17-inch dark-tinted alloy wheels and all-terrain tires, an off-road-oriented suspension, a body-color rear bumper, the rear locking differential, hill descent control, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, power front lumbar adjustments and distinctive cloth upholstery. Also available is the SLE Convenience package that includes automatic climate control, remote ignition and a sliding rear window.
The top SLT trim has all the SLE’s standard equipment plus the contents of the SLE Convenience package. It also comes with 18-inch wheels, chrome mirror covers and door handles, leather upholstery and the All-Terrain package’s front seating upgrades (power adjustments and heating).
Both the SLE and SLT can be equipped with the optional Driver Alert package that features frontal collision warning and lane departure warning systems. Other extras include the diesel engine (crew cabs only), an upgraded seven-speaker Bose audio system and a navigation system (an enhancement of the standard 8-inch IntelliLink interface). All V6-powered Canyons can be fitted with a dual-mode sport exhaust.
You have your choice of three engines on the 2016 GMC Canyon, starting with the standard 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder that puts out 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. Matched to a six-speed manual transmission, which is standard on the two-wheel-drive SL and extended-cab base Canyon models, it returns EPA fuel economy estimates of 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway). With the available six-speed automatic, the numbers are 22 mpg combined (20/27) with two-wheel drive and 21 mpg combined (19/25) with four-wheel drive. Properly equipped, four-cylinder models can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
The available 3.6-liter V6 is rated at 305 hp and 269 lb-ft and comes mated to the six-speed automatic. EPA estimates for two-wheel-drive models are 21 mpg combined (18/26), and with four-wheel drive you’re looking at 20 mpg combined (17/24). These are good numbers, but we were unable to match the combined mpg rating in Edmunds’ 12-month long-term test of a mechanically identical V6 4WD Chevrolet Colorado. Properly equipped V6-powered models have a maximum towing capacity of 7,000 pounds.
The SLE and SLT crew cabs offer a turbocharged 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine that generates 181 hp and an impressive 369 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard, as is a more deluxe trailering package that includes a driver-selectable exhaust brake and an integrated trailer brake controller (not available with the V6). You have a choice between 2WD and 4WD. When properly equipped, the diesel GMC Canyon has a tow rating of 7,700 pounds. Expect the diesel to return significantly better fuel mileage than the V6 whether there’s a trailer hitched to the back or not.
In Edmunds performance testing, a V6-equipped 4WD Chevy Colorado crew cab short bed went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 7.5 seconds, beating a 2016 Tacoma 4WD V6 by 0.7 seconds.
Standard safety features on the 2016 GMC Canyon include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front seat side impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a rearview camera.
The available OnStar telematics system provides emergency crash notification, stolen vehicle notification and remote locking and unlocking services. Optional on the SLE and SLT, the Driver Alert package includes frontal collision and lane departure warning systems.
During Edmunds testing, a Chevrolet Colorado V6 Z71 crew cab short bed came to a stop from 60 mph in 129 feet, while a Colorado V6 LT 4WD crew cab long bed needed just 123 feet. Both results are a few feet better than comparable Tacoma models we’ve tested, likely due to the GM trucks’ slightly grippier tires.
In government crash testing, the GMC Canyon extended cab earned an overall rating of four out of five stars, with four stars for overall frontal crash protection and a full five stars for side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Canyon crew cab its highest possible rating of “Good” in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test, the only test conducted as of this writing.
Why pick the 2016 GMC Canyon over its more popular Chevy Colorado twin? Well, you’ll find the Canyon is just a little nicer inside than the Colorado. The GMC designers used higher-quality materials, evident in the Canyon’s soft-touch plastics, padded door panels and the genuine aluminum surround that frames the available 8-inch touchscreen for GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment system. As in the Colorado, careful use of sound-deadening materials has resulted in low noise levels that add to the refined feel.
The Canyon’s controls are generally well placed and intuitive, though the gauges were seemingly designed to look as generic as possible. The 8-inch IntelliLink interface is relatively simple to use, and we like the extra capabilities of the voice command system and built-in Apple CarPlay compatibility. The touchscreen can sometimes be slow to respond to inputs, however, or require a reset before it responds at all.
The 2016 Canyon has a nicely trimmed cabin for a midsize truck, and it bolsters its high-tech credentials with the debut of Apple CarPlay.
Seat comfort is excellent up front, even on long drives, and if you’re on the tall side, you’ll find headroom and legroom more plentiful than in the rival Toyota Tacoma. The crew cab’s rear seat also offers a few more inches of legroom compared to class rivals and is pretty comfortable for two normal-sized adults, though full-size crew cabs are still the way to go if backseat space is a top priority. As with most extended-cab models, the rear jump seats in the Canyon’s version are no place you’d want to put an adult for more than a short jaunt.
Both body styles offer storage space under those rear seats for valuable tools or gear you’d rather not leave unprotected in the bed. For shoppers interested in the extended cab, GMC has integrated a feature where the rear headrest doubles as an extension to the rear seat bottom, allowing for the installation of a child seat.
When you drive the 2016 GMC Canyon, you’ll be impressed by how civilized it feels compared to older compact and midsize trucks. Although the ride quality isn’t as smooth as in, say, a midsize sedan, it’s definitely on the more forgiving, less truckish side. Handling feels secure, with relatively little body lean when you’re driving around turns. On the flip side, the Canyon’s modest ground clearance combines with the low-hanging front airdam (which is meant to improve aerodynamics and therefore fuel economy at highway speeds) to hamper the truck’s off-road ability. You’ll certainly want to remove the airdam if you’re planning on doing any serious four-wheeling.
If you’re shopping for a 2016 GMC Canyon, either the V6 or the diesel is a good bet for performance and efficiency.
The Canyon’s entry-level, gasoline-fueled 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is pretty underwhelming unless you’re just looking for a cheap, basic truck (or you want a manual transmission). Fitted with the available V6 engine, however, the Canyon has plenty of oomph and can tow your typical trailer full of dirt bikes or ATVs without breaking a sweat. The engine sounds coarse during hard acceleration, though, and the six-speed automatic transmission can be slow to downshift when a burst of speed is requested. The potent yet efficient turbodiesel four-cylinder is a compelling alternative, as there’s plenty of torque available at low engine speeds, meaning the transmission doesn’t have to downshift as often. The diesel Canyon is extraordinarily quiet, too.