Modern full size trucks may be big on utility and comfort but they also carry a massive price tag and a massive curb weight. With an average sale price of around $40,000 and options up into the $60,000 range the full size truck is no longer the trusty workhorse for the blue-collar man. In the past decade the domestic market has slowly given up on affordable compact trucks and let brands like Toyota dominate the space with vehicles like the Tacoma. But GM has returned with updates to both the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon to claim the 2015 Motor Trend Truck of The Year crown and show that good things can come in smaller packages. We took the GMC Canyon out to the Antelope Valley – north of Los Angeles – to see if this was the return of the working man’s truck.
On the exterior the GM truck twins have jumped ahead of the small truck offerings from Japan to bring us a modern and strong new look. The old Canyon and Colorado siblings were near identical and suffered from bland and rather utilitarian exterior. The first Canyon may have been fit for the lumber yard or construction site but it was nothing you would want to roll up to the valet driving. Today you can have the best of both worlds and the Canyon wouldn’t look out of place at work or at play.
The GMC Canyon we tested was a rather loaded up SLT trim with 4WD and the 3.6L V-6 powertrain. The Chevrolet Colorado may have an affordable MSRP but this particular GMC was loaded to $41K. For that steep price you get optional 18″ polished aluminum wheels, chrome side steps, a vinyl tonneau cover, spray-on bed liner, forward collision alert system, lane departure warning, and an 8″ color touchscreen with the premium Bose sound system and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. So this particular “work truck” may be more for the well-off contractors who like to be comfortable and take the web on the road with them.
On some of the back dirt roads in Lancaster, CA we found the 4WD system in the truck handled the soft sand and any rough terrain easily. The Antelope Valley is a blue-collar working class area and trucks remain a way of life for many people. It is no wonder then that the Canyon received countless smiles and nods of approval from passing cars and pedestrians in town. Inside the beautiful Emerald Green exterior we found a light and comfortable leather interior. The temperatures outside the week we tested the truck ranged from around 103°F – 110°F and the GMC cabin cooled in only a few minutes. We also had a Audi S3 with black leather and it was avoided at all costs for several days due to the intense heat. The Crew Cab has plenty of head and leg room to genuinely seem as big as a much larger truck. The rear seats suffer slightly from a loss of 5 inches in legroom compared to the bigger GMC Sierra.
The 3.6L V6 does a great job of delivering smooth power to move the 4,000 lb truck. Gas mileage is a larger selling point for buyers looking for smaller trucks and the Canyon saw a respectable around 18-21 in mixed driving (rated at 17 city / 24 hwy for 4WD equipped models). With the car locked in 4WD you can expect closer to 12-16 as we had kept it on for the first few days of our drive mistakenly. We are excited to try out the new 2.8L diesel in the Colorado and Canyon that is rated at up to 27MPG highway with a tasty 369 lb-ft or torque.
For a truck that can accomplish around 80% of the work of a larger truck – the Canyon is a hell of a deal. It may still be rather large but the Canyon has the perfect proportions to take the truck out of the country and maneuver and find parking within the city. It can tow up to 7,000 pounds and hold cargo for most of us not involved in heavy construction projects. The optional tonneau cover even made for a nice cooler in the bed to transport a couple hundred pounds of ice on a smoldering hot afternoon (see photo above). GM now has the right platform to help take back some of the compact truck market that it had given up in the Colorado/Canyon absence. With the new diesel engine, longer bed, and less interior frills to keep the price down – the Canyon would be the perfect modern work horse.