The 2021 GMC Canyon looks good and performs well. The Canyon is a mid-size pickup truck that shares DNA with the Chevy Colorado. It competes with the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier. It is a good-looking truck with good powertrain options and more configurations than most trucks this size. GMC reordered the trim levels for the Canyon and added a new AT4 off-road trim across the entire lineup. On the 2021 Canyon, it can be upgraded with an Off-Road Performance Edition exclusive to the AT4 with a self-leveling suspension, more skid plates, big off-road tires, an Eaton G80 locking rear differential, and hill descent control.

2021 GMC Canyon Review

The rest of the lineup rises in features and price from Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4, then Denali. GMC gets the reputation of being the upscale GM truck brand, but Chevy has blurred that line recently and the Canyon’s basic cloth seats, plastic interior, and cramped extended cab don’t reverse that trend. The Denali trim exalts the brand with fake wood, chrome, and a long standard features list that includes heated and cooled seats. The base 2.5-liter inline-4 makes only 200 hp, which might seem better on paper than the 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4 that makes 186 hp. But it generates 369 lb-ft of torque to top the towing and efficiency scales of the Canyon with 7,700 pounds of towing capacity and an EPA-rated 30 mpg highway, and it’s expensive. The best bet is a 3.6-liter V-6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The cabin is a comfy place to be unless wedged into the rear seats in the extended cab, which is better for storage than people. The crew cab is roomy, however, and can be had with a 6-foot-2 long bed or a smaller bed that’s a foot shorter. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard, but automatic emergency braking does not. It can’t even be optioned, underscoring the less than perfect ratings from the NHTSA and the IIHS. The 2021 GMC Canyon costs $27,595 to start, including $1,195 destination. That’s about $1,000 more than the Chevy Colorado WT. The top Denali trim fitted with a crew cab and long bed, and powered by a diesel engine costs $49,625. We like the new AT4 for about $40,000. Options range from heated and cooled leather seats to an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

2021 GMC Canyon Review

The 2021 GMC Canyon wears its classic truck proportions well, even if it’s slightly beginning to show its age. The Canyon is timeless like a work boot, and its square lines prove that even a work boot can look good. The bulging wheel arches cut to square, the bulging hood brooding like a brow over the broad rectangular grille, the corner bed step—all these classic GMC truck shapes look right on the Canyon. It doesn’t try too hard to be macho like the Silverado, yet it doesn’t blend into the crowd like the Ram 1500; the mid-size Canyon stamps a place for itself even among larger, more popular trucks. The AT4 trim stands out even more with red tow hooks, a larger grille, and 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in knobby 31-inch off-road tires.

The 2021 GMC Canyon offers good powertrain options including a class-exclusive diesel option. For 2021 Canyon shoppers can choose between three engines, two drivetrains, two transmissions. A V-6 with four-wheel drive is the best and most popular choice. The rear-wheel-drive truck can be had with four-wheel drive for about $3,700, depending on the configuration. It’s standard on the AT4. Built for capability more than speed, the GMC Canyon can be as efficient as it can be powerful. The 200-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 with a 6-speed automatic transmission in rear-wheel drive is as basic as it gets, and will find its way into fleets more than anywhere else. Making 191 lb-ft of torque, it only tows 3,500 pounds which many crossover SUVs top.

The 3.6-liter V-6 makes 308 hp and 275 lb-ft and uses a quick 8-speed automatic transmission to tow up to 7,000 pounds. It’s a confident, capable powertrain that sacrifices neither power nor payload, but its efficiency lacks against some competitors. For max towing, and max efficiency on the highway, GMC offers a 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4 with the 6-speed. It only makes 186 hp so it can drag during passing moves, but its stump-pulling 369 lb-ft of torque helps it tow up to 7,700 pounds. It gets 30 mpg highway, but with an upcharge of more than $4,000 on all but the top Denali trim, it will take a long time and a whole lot of highway miles to recoup the cost. The Canyon bounces around unladen like any truck with a leaf-spring suspension, but it’s quiet, especially in Denali trim, and it’s more composed and easier to maneuver than any full-size truck.

A wide range of powertrains on the 2021 Canyon gives shoppers a wide range of efficiency options. The most popular engine choice, the 3.6-liter V-6 with the 8-speed automatic, is also the least efficient. The V-6 with four-wheel drive earns an EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 24 highway, 19 combined. For comparison, the Honda Ridgeline’s V-6 gets 21 mpg combined. The 2.5-liter base engine gets 19/25/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive, while the turbodiesel inline-4 reigns supreme with a 20/30/23 mpg rating. Four-wheel drive deducts 1 mpg combined on both. Our AT4 test vehicle averaged 18.7 mpg over it’s week with us.

NHTSA gave the Canyon four stars in most crash test results with five stars for side impact and three for rollover. Meanwhile the IIHS echoed that with Good ratings across the board except for a “Marginal” rating for the passenger side small over overlap test and a “Poor” rating for the headlights. Optional safety features include forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, and parking sensors, but automatic emergency braking isn’t on the options list.

2021 GMC Canyon Review

The 2021 GMC Canyon ranges from the utilitarian to the luxurious. The interior is less inspired, but not nearly as dull as the Chevy Colorado. Easy-to-use dials and knobs stud the center stack, but the tall and wide vents squeeze the small touchscreen. With four trims ranging from the basic to the baller, two cabs, and two bed sizes, the 2021 Canyon casts a wide net. To seat five, and seat three in back with comfort and 35.8 inches of leg room, the crew cab does the job. Available upgrades include everything from leather seats to chrome door handles.

The base Elevation Standard trim comes with an extended cab and 6-foot-2 long bed, while the available crew cab with a 5-foot-2 short bed costs $1,900 more. The crew cab can be had with the long box, too, for an extra $600. The functional interior clads itself in black and silver accent pieces, while cloth seats and carpeted floor mats provide some simplicity. The extended cab’s rear seats flip up for more storage, but you can only seat two in back on stiff, vertical rear seats with only 28.6 inches of leg room.

The AT4 trim new for 2021 comes off-road ready and with more features and options. The new trim levels don’t reflect much new when it comes to features. Power door locks and windows, cloth seats, a 4-way power driver’s seat, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. We’d skip the $27,595 base Elevation Standard trim. Since the AT4 comes standard with popular upgrades such as the V-6 and four-wheel drive, we’d opt for a roomier crew cab and short box of the new AT4 Cloth for $39,395. The AT4 adds 31-inch DuraTrac off-road tires on 17-inch black aluminum wheels, red tow hooks, a larger grille, hill descent control, a power driver’s seat with lumbar control, and more available options. The $41,195 AT4 Leather tempts with leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, power passenger seat, heated steering wheel, and wireless smartphone charging. The Denali trim crew cab with the long bed and the diesel engine costs $49,625. It comes with a Bose audio system, larger touchscreen, and heated and cooled front seats. 

The 2021 GMC Canyon is the right-sized truck with every available configuration for your wants and needs. The diesel engine alone is an impressive and equally rare offering in the mid-size truck class with formidable power and leading fuel economy. GMC has learned well from its renowned Sierra lineup and luckily imparts all those years of experience on the 2021 Canyon with great capability, timeless looks, and a good value to boot.

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2021-gmc-canyon-review-just-right-sizedThe 2021 GMC Canyon is a good-looking truck with good powertrain options and more configurations than most trucks this size. GMC reordered the trim levels for the Canyon and added a new AT4 off-road trim across the entire lineup.