Urban Pickup: GMC Canyon Diesel

Urban Pickup: GMC Canyon Diesel

GMC Canyon DieselStory and photos by Gerry Frechette

This will be a different sort of review of a pickup truck, in the sense that it is written by someone who is not a “pickup guy,” who doesn’t quite understand some aspects of their appeal to people. Things that full-size trucks have like huge size, profligate gasoline consumption, and lack of secure accommodation for anything other than human occupants. Of course, they are useful as work vehicles, but when that pickup box is empty, and the truck is being used as a personal or family vehicle in an urban environment, is there a traditional body-on-frame truck out there that addresses the above concerns?

We spent a week in the GMC Canyon, and it goes a long way towards being a pickup that a resident in the city or inner suburbs might consider. For one thing, it is a mid-size truck, one of several out there, and just that slightly smaller size is enough to make a big difference in parking and manoeuvring in urban situations. It’s still pretty darned big next to a sedan or crossover, though.

Those used to the interior room of a full-size pickup will notice the reduced space in the Canyon, but really, it is perfectly adequate for two large adults up front, and two or three not-as-large people in the back seat. As someone over 6-feet tall, I never felt cramped in the driver’s seat. The seat itself was firm and comfortable, with the electric adjust yielding good support where I wanted it. Oddly, the seat trim included vinyl that looked like carbon fibre.

GMC Canyon DieselThe Canyon we drove had the new 2.8-litre four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine under the hood, the first such engine in a mid-size pickup, at least in North America. It has all the attributes one would expect of a diesel, most notably way more torque, at way lower rpm, than the 3.6-litre gas V6, and with that, it is a different driving experience. The Canyon so-equipped is not as quick off the line, but once it gets rolling, the pulling power is impressive, and makes for responsive performance in all conditions. Yes, you can hear the usual diesel sounds, but GM has included sound deadening technology to minimize that from intruding into the cabin.

The diesel is set up for towing, too, including a trailer brake system and an exhaust brake which allows the cruise control to maintain a set speed downhill while towing (up to 3,447 kg) without having to apply the brakes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to see how well the Canyon towed, but it did deliver a best fuel consumption of 8.3L/100 km on a highway cruise with two adults in it, and still in the 10L-range in easy urban driving. Pretty impressive for a pickup.

Nor did we have the chance to venture too far off-pavement to see how the All Terrain 4WD system (mandatory with the diesel) fared, but with off-road tires and suspension tuning, plus hill descent control, it was likely fairly competent. We would be concerned, though, with the spoiler under the front bumper compromising the approach angles it might otherwise be capable of – or just getting knocked off entirely.

GMC Canyon DieselThat brings me to discuss the lack of covered and secure storage for personal effects, as the truck comes from the factory. There are solutions in the aftermarket, but the Canyon is like all but two pickups I can think of, in that it has no secure storage for anything bigger than a handbag, beyond locking the doors. The rear seat back folds down, or the seat cushion folds up (not at the same time) to offer lots of cargo carrying flexibility, all of which can be seen through the windows. So, to cover up some personal property I travelled with, I had to throw black blankets over everything. Meanwhile, of course, the pickup bed sat empty. To me, this, plus the choice one must make between people and cargo in the back seat, is the biggest shortcoming on most pickups, and enough to make me look elsewhere for a personal-use family-type vehicle.

Like I said, I’m not a pickup guy, but other than that security aspect, the Canyon Diesel is quite impressive. Its size will be about right for many people, it delivers the thrifty fuel consumption of a mid-size gas car, it can haul and tow as much as a bigger full-size pickup with a base engine, and it is fairly comfortable and easy to drive, given the off-road tires and traditional pickup chassis architecture. Of course, the added cost of the diesel engine and required packages put it up in the price range of those lower-end full-size trucks.

If you are a truck lover who lives in an urban setting, who likes to maybe tow a small trailer to your favourite campsite up-country, who values fuel efficiency, and to whom the storage situation is no bother and/or you are willing to spend even more for aftermarket solutions to it, then the GMC Canyon Diesel would be a very good choice. It could even turn non-believers into pickup people.



Base Price: $38,295

Price as Tested: $48,135

Engine: 2.8L DOHC 4-cyl. diesel

Power: 181 hp @ 3,400 rpm

Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Cargo Space: 5-ft 2-in. box

Max. trailer rating: 3,447 kg (4×4)

Fuel Efficiency Rating: 12.1 / 8.4 L/100 km, city/hwy