The automaker has revamped and rejigged the Canyon lineup, and it looks more balanced than before

GMC Canyon has been around for quite some time now, and together with the Chevy Colorado, it is raking up respectable numbers for General Motors. The Canyon is positioned as a more premium and stylish version of the Colorado. Thanks to the growing competition, GMC has had to put its best foot forward to not let the newcomers like the Jeep Gladiator take a share of its pie.

To make sure of this, GMC has rejigged the 2021 Canyon’s lineup by making some big changes. For starters, the top-spec Denali trim has gotten all the more premium, while the All-Terrain trim is dropped in favor of the exciting new AT4 trim that is present on the big brother Sierra as well. Will these changes and additions be able to induce more sales for GMC?

GMC Canyon Trims, Body Styles, and Drive Layouts

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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The GMC Canyon is offered in three different body styles – Extended Cab, Crew Cab with Short Box, and Crew Cab with Long Box.

There are two drive layouts available – two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive configurations. GMC offers the Canyon is four trims – Elevation Standard, Elevation, Denali, and AT4.

The Elevation Standard is available in all three body styles. If you opt for the two-wheel-drive model, you can have it in the Crew Cab with Short Box and Extended Cab versions. The four-wheel-drive layout can be had only in the Extended Cab layout. There’s no Long Box option here.

The Elevation can be had with an Extended Cab and Crew Cab with Short Box in the two-wheel-drive avatar, and in the Short Box and Long Box Crew Cab models in the four-wheel-drive avatar.

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
- image 962984

The Denali trim is also offered in both the drive layouts. With a two-wheel-drive configuration, you can buy it only in the Crew Cab Short Box style, but in the four-wheel-drive flavor, you can have it in the Short Box and Long Box Crew Cab models. There’s no Extended Cab option on the Denali.

As for the AT4 trim, which made its debut on the 2021 Canyon, it is available only in four-wheel-drive avatars. There’s no Extended Cab here, too, which means it is offered only in the Crew Cab body style with Short and Long Boxes. GMC has further branched it out and offered it in Cloth and Leather models. Quite a big spread there for a mid-size pickup truck.

GMC Canyon Powertrain, Towing and Payload, and Fuel Economy

  • 3.6-liter, V-6 engine
  • 308 Horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque
  • Eight-speed automatic gearbox
  • 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine
  • 200 Horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque
  • 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel mill
  • 181 Horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque
  • Six-speed automatic gearbox
2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Drivetrain
- image 963008

The 2021 GMC Canyon is offered with three different engine options in total. First up, there’s the 3.6-liter, V-6 engine that dishes out 308 horses and 6,800 rpm and 275 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Power is sent either to the rear wheels or all the wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Next is the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horses at 6,300 rpm and 191 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. It is mated to either a two-wheel-drive or a four-wheel-drive layout, and power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox.

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Drivetrain
- image 963009

Finally, there’s the 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel mill that churns out 181 ponies at 3,400 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. You can have this engine with either of the drive configurations. It comes mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

2020 GMC Canyon specifications
Type: 2.5L DOHC I-4 with Direct Injection 3.6L DOHC V-6 with Direct Injection 2.8L I-4 Turbo-Diesel
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 200 / 149 @ 6300 (SAE certified) 308 / 230 @ 6800 (SAE certified) 181 / 135 @ 3400 (SAE certified)
Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm): 191 / 259 @ 4400 (SAE certified) 275 / 373 @ 4000 (SAE certified) 369 / 500 @ 2000 (SAE certified)

How Much Can the GMC Canyon Tow and Haul?

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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The GMC Canyon, in its best iteration, can tow up to 7,700 pounds and haul up to 1,578 pounds. This is more than both its rivals. The Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds and haul up to 1,505 pounds, whereas the ratings for Frontier stand at 6,620- and,1460 pounds, respectively.

What is the GMC Canyon’s Fuel Economy?

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
- image 962986
When you compare the four-wheel-drive V-6 models to its rivals, the Canyon offers the lowest fuel economy.

The 3.6-liter mill returns 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined. In comparison, the Frontier with its 3.8-liter, V-6 delivers 18 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined despite being the biggest and the most powerful engine of the lot. The Tacoma with its 3.5-liter, V-6 engine is the best amongst the three, returning 19 miles in the city, 24 miles on the highway, and 21 miles combined for every one gallon of gas consumed.

Is the GMC Canyon Good for Off-Roading?

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
- image 962987

Until now, the company offered an ‘All-Terrain’ trim on the Canyon that was its go-to off-road trim in the Canyon lineup. However, it wasn’t very successful and the sales volume gradually decreased over the years, which prompted GMC to introduce the better-accomplished ‘AT4’ trim here. The AT4 trim is trickled down from the GMC Sierra truck and it is more than just a name-sake off-roader.

The AT4 model is benefitted from aesthetic advantages like a bigger grille and dark chrome finish on the face instead of the bling. On the inside, it is pretty much the same as the other trims, except for the Kalahari accents on the seats and the ‘AT4’ logo embroidered in the headrests. This pattern is exclusive only to the AT4 trim. Apart from this, Bose audio system is also offered.

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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The features that make it worthy enough to confidently take it off the roads include 17-inch wheels wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, skid plate to protect the transfer case, red tow hooks, a four-wheel-drive system, Advanced Hill Descent Control, off-road-tuned suspension, Eaton G80 rear automatic locking differential, and a two-speed AutoTrac transfer case.

GMC Canyon Exterior Design

  • Three different body styles
  • Different grille on every trim
  • AT4 trim rides on 17-inch wheels
  • 31-inch Goodyear off-road tires
  • Other trims come with 18- and 20-inch wheels
2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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The model that arrived at TopSpeed’s headquarters was a 2021 AT4 finished in a red exterior shade. Up front, it comes with a mammoth grille with the GMC branding. The headlights aren’t sharp or sleek, but are surrounded in chrome. Every trim wears a different grille, which is now the norm across all the pickup truck segments. The round fog lights are replaced with the horizontal units for the 2021 model. You can see the two red two hooks, too, which are exclusive to the AT4 model.

There’s nothing special to write home about for the side profile. The indents on the square wheel arches are heavy and make it look like they were welded later into the body. The Canyon comes with a variety of wheels and tire options. The AT4 comes with a 17-inch set that is wrapped in 31-inch off-road tires.

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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The derriere as simple as the rest of the vehicle, with the simple tailgate that comes with the GMC, Canyon, and AT4 branding, along with a V-6 badge if you opt for the 3.6-liter engine. Overall, the truck doesn’t look very smart, but none of the trucks in the segment do; barring the Chevy Colorado which looks a lot more aggressive and sharper when compared to these three trucks.

How Big Is The Canyon?

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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The GMC Canyon and the Toyota Tacoma have eerily similar dimensions, whereas the Nissan Frontier is smaller than the two. The Canyon measures 212.4 inches in length, making it 0.1-inch longer than the Tacoma and almost seven inches longer than the Frontier which measures 205.5 inches. It is 74.3 inches wide, compared to Tacoma’s 74.4-inch and Frontier’s 72.8-inch width. The Canyon measures 70.6 inches in height, which is exactly the same as the Tacoma and 0.5 inches taller than the Frontier.

The Canyon has the longest wheelbase of the lot, measuring 128.3 inches. This is 0.9 inches longer than the Tacoma’s and 2.4 inches longer than the Frontier’s. However, it sits the closest to the ground. While the Frontier and Canyon’s ground clearance is rated at 9.8- and 9.4 inches, the Canyon’s is just 8.2 inches.

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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GMC Canyon vs competition exterior dimensions
GMC Canyon Nissan Frontier Toyota Tacoma
Length 212.4 205.5 212.3
Width 74.3 72.8 74.4
Height 70.4 70.1 70.6
Wheelbase 128.3 125.9 127.4
Front Track - 61.8 63
Rear Track - 61.8 63.2

The effect of this can be seen in its angles. The approach angle of the Canyon is rated at 17.3 degrees as opposed to the Tacoma’s 29- and Frontier’s 30.5 degrees. The departure angles for the Canyon and Frontier are rated at 22.1 degrees, and for the Tacoma at 23 degrees.

GMC Canyon Interior Design

  • AT4 Leather features exclusive Kalahari accents
  • Four-spoke steering wheel
  • Analog-digital instrument cluster
  • Automatic Climate Control
  • Eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Apple CarPlay compatible
2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Interior
- image 963013
On the inside, the GMC Canyon is straight-forward and functional.

The four-spoke steering wheel is multifunctional and comes with buttons for various controls. If you opt for the AT4 Cloth trim, you get fabric upholstery, and if you choose the AT4 Leather option, you get leather upholstery with Kalahari accents on the seats. There are a couple of cup holders beside the seats and another storage space in front of the gear lever, but that’s about it.

There isn’t a lot of tech wizardry in here either. Behind the steering wheel is a two-dial, analog-digital instrument cluster. In the AT4 Cloth model, the screen here is a 3.5-inch monochromatic display, whereas the AT4 comes with a 4.2-inch color display. The Leather model also comes with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. Wireless charging is also available as standard on the AT4 Leather, but is optional on the AT4 Cloth trim. Other features include:

  • Automatic Climate Control
  • Front USB Ports
  • Heated Front Seats
  • Heated Leather Steering Wheel
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System

How Spacious Is The Canyon?

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Interior
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In the first row, the GMC Canyon offers headroom of 41.4 inches, legroom of 45 inches, shoulder room of 57.5 inches, and hip room of 55 inches. The Frontier and Tacoma offer a headroom of 39.7 inches each, legroom of 42.4 and 42.9 inches, shoulder room of 58.3 inches each, and hip room of 55.8- and 57.2 inches, respectively.

In the second row, the Canyon offers a headroom of 38.3 inches and massive legroom of and 35.8 inches. In comparison, the Frontier and the Tacoma offer 36.6- and 25.4 inches, and 34.9- and 24.6 inches, of headroom and legroom respectively. As for the shoulder room and hip room, the Canyon offers 56.2- and 53.3 inches, the Frontier offers 54.9- and 55 inches, and the Tacoma offers 56.5- and 51.7 inches. Quite a mixed bag this, since every truck holds the fort in some or the other aspect. However, it must be noted that despite being the smallest truck off the lot, the Frontier is able to give stiff competition to its rivals in terms of interior space.

GMC Canyon vs competition interior dimensions
GMC Canyon Nissan Frontier Toyota Tacoma
1st Row Headroom 41.4 39.7 39.7
1st Row Leg Room 45 42.4 42.9
1st Row Shoulder Room 57.5 58.3 58.3
1st Row Hip Room 55 55.8 57.2
2nd Row Headroom 36.7 36.6 34.9
2nd Row Leg Room 28.6 25.4 24.6
2nd Row Shoulder Room 57.3 54.9 56.5
2nd Row Hip Room 52.2 55 51.7

GMC Canyon Pricing

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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At the time of writing, these are the starting prices of the 2021 GMC Canyon:

Extended Cab:

  • Elevation Standard (RWD): $27,595
  • Elevation Standard (4WD): $32,995
  • Elevation (RWD): $31,195

Crew Cab Short Box:

  • Elevation Standard (RWD): $29,495
  • Elevation (RWD): $33,095
  • Elevation (4WD): $38,195
  • AT4 Cloth (4WD): $39,395
  • AT4 Leather (4WD): $41,195
  • Denali (RWD): $42,095
  • Denali (4WD): $45,595

Crew Cab Long Box:

  • Elevation (4WD): $38,795
  • AT4 Cloth (4WD): $39,995
  • AT4 Leather (4WD): $41,795
  • Denali (4WD): $45,895

Is the GMC Canyon Better Than the Nissan Frontier?

While all eyes are set on the upcoming 2022 Frontier, Nissan is currently selling the model that’s been pretty much the same for the last 15 years. Yes, the Japanese automaker hasn’t brought in a new generation so far. It looks dated, but on the flip side, it offers the best bang for the buck. Nissan replaced the aging 4.0-liter, V-6 engine finally with a new 3.8-liter, V-6 mill that dishes out 310 horses and 281 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful truck of the lot. Power is sent to the wheels via a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The towing and payload capacities are rated at 6,620- and 1,460 pounds, which are less than both, the GMC Canyon and the Toyota Tacoma. The 2020 Frontier starts at $26,790.

GMC Canyon vs Nissan Frontier
GMC Canyon Nissan Frontier
Engine 3.6L DOHC V-6 with Direct Injection 3.8L V-6
Fuel Gas Gas
Horsepower 308 @ 6800 310 @ 6400 RPM
Torque 275 @ 4000 281 @ 4400 RPM
Transmission Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic 9-speed AT
Drive AWD AWD
Max Towing Capacity 7000 6620
Fuel Economy 18/25/20 18/24/20
Curb Weight 3937 4320
Fuel Capacity 21 gal. 21.1 gal.
Max Payload Capacity 1562 1460

Is the GMC Canyon Better Than the Toyota Tacoma?

The Tacoma has been around for a while and it is one of the most accomplished trucks in the segment. Browse the used markets and you’ll find that the truck demands a high resale value, thanks to its sturdy, rugged build and reliable ownership. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that makes 278 horses and 265 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The truck can tow up to 6,800 pounds and haul up to 1,505 pounds. It is offered in a variety of trims, with the range starting from $26,150 and goes all the way up to $45,350.

GMC Canyon vs Toyota Tacoma
GMC Canyon Toyota Tacoma
Engine 3.6L DOHC V-6 with Direct Injection 3.5L-V6
Fuel Gas Gas
Horsepower 308 @ 6800 278 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 275 @ 4000 265 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic 6-speed manual
Drive AWD AWD
Max Towing Capacity 7000 6800
Fuel Economy 18/25/20 19/24/21
Curb Weight 3937 4220
Fuel Capacity 21 gal. 21.1 gal.
Max Payload Capacity 1562 1505

GMC Canyon Denali Trim

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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This deserves a special mention because it elevates the whole persona of the Canyon. The Denali trim resonates with premium and luxury across the GMC models and it’s no different on the Canyon. With the 2021 model, GMC has upped the ante. On the outside, the Canyon Denali features a new ‘Heroic’ grille that is essentially three thick horizontal slats with honeycomb detailing inside. There is ample chrome detailing, too. The automaker has revised the bumper and it now comes with LED fog lamps stacked vertically in redesigned housing.

On the inside, the changes and additions are more prominent. The Denali trims is way more exquisite than the other trims. GMC has made use of open-pore ash wood inserts all around that gives the cabin an upmarket feel. A new ‘Cocoa/Dark Atmosphere’ is also offered, along with stuff like heated and ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel.

GMC Canyon Packages

2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
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GMC offers two sweet packages on the Canyon – the AT4 Off-road Performance package and the High Elevation package. The former includes:

  • One-inch Suspension Leveling Kit
  • Performance Front and Mid Skid Plates
  • Off-Road Rocker Panel Protector
  • Unique 17-inch Gloss Black Wheels
  • Gloss Black Performance Exhaust Tip
  • Carbon Black AT4 Logos
  • GMC Spray-In Bedliner
  • Accessory Floor Liners
  • Removes Front Air Dam

The High Elevation package can be had only on the Elevation model and it includes:

  • Jet Black front leather-appointed front seating with comfort features
  • Heated driver and front passenger seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Power driver lumbar control seat adjuster
2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
- image 962986

The other basic packages offered on the lower trims include:

Power Package ($1,850):

  • Performance Air Intake System
  • Cat-Back Performance Exhaust

Sport Bar and Lighting Package ($2,295):

  • Off-road Lights
  • Off-road Sport Bar

Exterior Convenience Package ($815):

  • Five-inch Rectangular Assist Steps
  • Front and Rear Splash Guards

Convenience Package ($630):

  • Remote Locking Tailgate
  • Remote Keyless Entry
  • Rear Window Defogger
  • Cruise Control
2020 GMC Canyon - Driven Exterior
- image 962991

Performance Skid Plate Package ($375):

  • Performance Front Skid Plate
  • Performance Mid Skid Plate

Interior Protection Package ($260):

  • All-weather Floor Mats
  • Rubber Bed Mat
  • Leave it
    • There is still some scope for improvement in the Denali trim
    • Looks are subjective, but the truck looks a tad bit boring
Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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