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It might be the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado grabbing all the headlines and generating more sales at dealerships, but its corporate twin certainly deserves its own time in the spotlight. That became blatantly clear after spending a week with this beautiful 2015 GMC Canyon bathed in its high-class (and extra cost) Emerald Green Metallic paint offset by a massive chrome grille and matching chrome accents.

My tester came fitted with the Canyon’s top trim level, the SLT package. The option list left nothing for wanting save for the long list of available GearOn cargo box options. This meant the Canyon was dressed to kill, complete with heated leather seats, full navigation on its 8-inch infotainment screen, 4G LTE Wi-Fi service, 4WD, and the V-6 powerplant.

Though the luxo-lined SLT sits atop the Canyon’s other trims, Chevrolet slots the rough and tumble Z71 trim level at the top of the Colorado food chain. General Motors’ decision to do this perfectly exemplifies the two directions the Chevrolet and GMC trucks take. GMC’s “professional grade” attitude appeals to the boss man while the Chevy’s approach to “finding new roads” appeals to the workin’ man.

Granted, the Colorado is available with full leather seats and all the fixins’ found on the Canyon, but you’ll have to choose the mid-level LT trim and order the extra cost options.

All that to say this: the GMC is clearly aimed at a different audience than the Chevy. That’s how GM has designed the two divisions to interact and it’s very apparent. So what’s the GMC Canyon like to live with and is it worth the small price hike over a similarly equipped Colorado? Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2015 GMC Canyon - Driven
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    305 @ 6800
  • MPG(Cty):
  • MPG(Hwy):
  • Torque @ RPM:
    269 @ 4000
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection
  • Displacement:
    3.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    98 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, 4WD w/ Low Range
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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The two corporate twins share plenty of outward resemblances, but the GMC takes after its big brother, the Sierra, far more than the Colorado takes after the Silverado. That means the Canyon sports a bold, chrome grille with jeweled and LED-encrusted headlights, finished off with the sharp GMC logo embossed front and center. The look is rather classy and helps the Canyon identify with the premium side of pickup trucks.

The look is rather classy and helps the Canyon identify with the premium side of pickup trucks.

The chrome continues onto the double-spoke, 18-inch wheels, side mirror caps, door handles, rear bumper, badges, and the optional side steps and polished exhaust tip. Even the taillights copy the chrome look with their clear lens covers and bight internals.

The optional Emerald Green Metallic paint looks especially good offset with the various chrome bits. The hue garnered many complements from friends and family as well; its rather dark shade looking almost black in low light and shimmering in bight sunlight.

Beyond aesthetics, the Canyon offers the same functionality as the Colorado. Its front bumper houses two, frame-mounted tow hooks built for vehicle recovery. The lower air dam is designed for improved aerodynamics and therefore improved fuel economy, and is also removable for serious off-roading.

On a side note about the air dam, it is held in place with fasteners that are screwed into place from the top down, making it rather difficult for the average consumer to remove. I contacted GM about it and was told the design is changing and the fasteners will soon be screwed in from the bottom, making removal of the plastic air dam possible.

The truck also features the clever step rear bumper and hand-shaped bed stake pocket for easy entry into the cargo box. The available towing package includes the frame-mounted, two-inch receiver hitch and the four- and seven-pin wiring connectors. The EZ Lift and Lower tailgate makes short work of opening and closing the cargo box. The tailgate is also fitted with a backup camera that’s well aimed for both reversing and hooking up a trailer.

There are a few nit-picky issues with the exterior, however. The optional tonneau cover is easy to use and works great at keeping cargo dry, but it’s support structure covers up the hand-hold for climbing into the bed. Second, the tailgate features a lock, but it is not synced with the power door locks. You’ll have to use the key if you want to secure it.


2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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Like the outside, the Canyon’s interior shares much of its design with the Colorado. Only the logo on the steering wheel, the red-colored back lighting on the gauges and center stack controls, and the GMC-branded infotainment system differ front the Chevy. That might be a detractor for some, but the interior works well and looks good.

Much of the difference between my 2015 Chevy Colorado Z71 tester and this GMC Canyon is tied up in the seats. The GMC’s leather seats feel much more upscale than cloth and leather units found in the Z71. For me, that made a world of difference in how the interior was holistically viewed, and the GMC became instantly more luxurious because of it.

Behind the wheel, the Canyon continues to impress. Its leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good and offers redundant controls for the radio, along with buttons for the cruise control.

Behind the wheel, the Canyon continues to impress. Its leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good and offers redundant controls for the radio, along with buttons for the cruise control. The infotainment system is essentially the Chevy MyLink system but branded GMC IntelliLink. It works very well and offers plenty of controls for audio, navigation, and vehicle settings. Perhaps the most enjoyable function is the DVR-like feature it includes for the audio. Want to listen to the song that just ended once more? Simply rewind the radio. It’s simple yet effective and technophiles everywhere will love it.

Seating positions in all four corners are comfortable with the rear seats enjoying a folding center armrest with cup holders. Rear passengers enjoy decent legroom as well, though not nearly as much in the Silverado/Sierra full size trucks. Two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet keep back seat passengers charged. Another USB port resides up front, along with another 12-volt plug. A fourth USB port resides in the center console.

For those needing to haul cargo not suitable for the cargo bed, the Canyon’s 40/60-split folding rear bench offers two options: raise the bottom cushion for to stow smaller items in the built-in cubby space or lower the seatbacks for a flat load area. I actually hauled a flat screen TV with the seatback folded with great success.

Overall fit and finish are good, with most surfaces getting soft-touch padding or leather coverings. One area noticeably lacking in padding are the tops of the door panels. The hard, scratchy plastic isn’t altogether comfortable as an armrest on window-down drives. Still, it’s a small complaint.

The last area of concern for me carries over from my experience with the Colorado. The console-mounted gearshift will pinch the daylights out of your palm should you grab it a certain way while depressing the shift release button.

All told, the interior is a nice place to spend time. Its Coca/Dune color scheme also corresponds well with the dark green exterior.


2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Drivetrain Test drive
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Now to the meat and potatoes of the Canyon. The standard engine on both the Colorado and Canyon is the 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder. Making 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, the engine is best suited for those concerned about fuel economy. As with both by GM mid-size tester, the optional 3.6-liter V-6 came under the hood.

The engine sports some of GM’s latest technology in order to squeeze both power and efficiency out of the same package. The engine includes direct fuel injection to each cylinder and variable valve timing on its dual overhead cams. The result is 305 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 269 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Those numbers might not be the most impressive to ever come from a high-tech V-6, but they are in line with the competition.

The engine sports some of GM’s latest technology in order to squeeze both power and efficiency out of the same package.

Sadly, that doesn’t translate well into spirited driving. Push the V-6 hard and the engine feels weak. Hard accelerations feel burdened as NHV levels rise from the engine bay. The six-speed automatic also takes its time downshifting into a lower gear during highway passing. However, it’s not all bad news for the 3.6-liter. The engine has a noticeable detent in its throttle. Stay on the slow side of that midpoint, and the engine is butter smooth and rather quiet. Meandering around town under part throttle is no issue. The 269 pound-feet of torque might peak at a high 4,000 rpm, but there’s enough twist to be found down low the power band.

The transmission also behaves itself when not being pushed. Its shifts are smooth and predictable, though there is a slight break in power delivery to the wheels. The tranny also offers Tow/Haul mode for those times when heavy items find their way on board. The shift program alters the transmission’s behavior and shift points, holding gears longer and downshifting sooner.

Mated behind the six-speed auto is the Canyon’s electronically controlled, two-speed transfer case. The optional 4WD system gives customer the choice between 2WD, 4WD auto, 4WD high range, and 4WD low range. A neutral position is also present for those looking to flat tow their truck behind an RV. The system works quickly in shifting between two- and 4WD, with the driver’s information screen showing when the process is done.

Also present is the venerable Eaton G80 automatic locking rear differential. The special unit provides full lock-up between the two rear wheels when one wheel exceeds roughly 100-rpm difference from the other. There’s no buttons to push or levers to pull, making the G80 a great tool for inexperienced off-roaders.

Now of course, what’s a truck without its truck-like capabilities? The Canyon didn’t skip the gym during development. Properly equipped – as my tester was – the Canyon can pull 7,000 pounds on its hitch and 1,590 pounds of cargo in the bed. Those are very respectable numbers for a mid-size truck with only 269 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel economy is also decently impressive for a truck – at least how the EPA rates it. On the highway, the 4WD, crew cab Canyon is rated to get 24 mpg. As expected, the numbers fall when driving in town or in mixed conditions. The EPA rated the Canyon at 17 mpg city and 20 mpg combined. I averaged 19.6 mpg in mixed driving on flat roads at sea level. I’d suspect that number could increase as the truck gets some miles on its odometer though. My had less than 2,000 miles on the clock.


2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
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Prices for the 2015 Canyon start at $21,880 for the Extended Cab, Long Bed truck in the base trim. Opt for the Crew Cab, Short Box, and the price jumps to $26,130. Checking the 4WD box pushes the price to $34,935 as the option isn’t available with the base trim level with the Crew Cab. Again choosing the higher option, my test’s SLT package bumps the price to $37,875 without options.

My Canyon then included the optional green paint ($495), the Driver Alert Package ($395), the polished exhaust tip ($135), the chrome side steps ($725), the soft tonneau cover ($615), the sliding rear window ($75), the spray-on bed liner ($475), and the Navigation upgrade which includes the Bose audio system ($995).

Add on the $925 destination charge and the total comes to $41,785.


2016 Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma High Resolution Exterior
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The Toyota Tacoma represents the Canyon’s biggest competitor, a fact that will be reinforced when the updated 2016 models hit dealer showrooms. The new truck features a redesigned body, a new interior, and an all-new powertrain. The Tacoma does offer a sportier and more youthful feel over the GMC, so customers accustomed to an active lifestyle will likely go for the Toyota.

The Tacoma’s new powertrain consists of a 3.5-liter V-6 that includes variable valve timing and run on the fuel-sipping Atkinson combustion cycle. It’s mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with available 4WD. The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder carries over from the previous generation relatively unchanged.

Prices for the 2016 Tacoma have not been released, but expect them stay roughly the same as the 2015 model. The Tacoma’s current base price starts at $20,765.

Read our full review here.

Nissan Frontier

2009 Nissan Frontier
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Unlike GM and Toyota, the Frontier has soldiered on relatively unchanged for a decade. That may change within the next year or so as Nissan moves its focus from the Titan and Titan XD towards updating the Frontier. Rumors are already beginning to swirl about a diesel powertrain, though nothing solid has been confirmed.

Expect the new Frontier to debut by 2018, or perhaps as early as 2017, with a base price that is slightly higher than its current starting price of $17,990.

Read our full review here.


2015 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior Test drive
- image 634187

So yes, compared to a Chevrolet Colorado LT with the exact same equipment and options checked, the GMC does cost roughly $1,830 more. But that’s what you’d expect by jumping into a more premium brand, right? The difference in price is perhaps the most real indicator of how General Motors is positioning these two trucks in relation to each other. The GMC simply carries more clout.

That’s what you’d expect by jumping into a more premium brand, right?

But regardless of all that, the Canyon still performs just as well as the Colorado in truck-like duties. It offers the same horsepower and torque, the same tow ratings, and the same general equipment inside the roomy cab. It all comes down to personal taste and what you’re willing to spend.

Choose either truck and you’re sure to have a solid mid-size competitor that’s ready to take on the upcoming 2016 Tacoma and the future Frontier. What’s more, the 2016 model year will bring the 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel to the U.S. market. Though specifics haven’t been released, expect the diesel to match or even exceed the V-6’s towing, hauling, and fuel economy ratings. Speculation suggests the Duramax will even surpass the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel’s highway fuel economy of 29 mpg. Personally, I’d be surprised if the Diesel didn’t get more than 31 mpg on the open road.

All told, the Canyon is a capable truck with plenty to offer. Just get ready to pay mid-grade Sierra money for this more compact truck.

  • Leave it
    • V-6 doesn’t like to be pushed
    • A few minor issues with the interior
    • Expensive
Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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