2019 GMC Canyon sacrifices space even among midsize pickups

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 25, 2019

             

The 2019 GMC Canyon Denali.

2019 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Denali SWB: Old kid on the block.

Price: $45,935 as tested, $43,300 for the trim level. Red paint cost $495; other options mentioned below. A base rear-wheel-drive model could be had for as little as $22,095.

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds likes the “big towing capacity,” “maneuverable size, along with well-mannered steering and handling” but not that “front seats can feel small to larger people, rivals offer more in-cab storage with rear seats folded.”

Marketer’s pitch: General Motors must have axed the marketers; no more cute taglines.

Reality: Will it measure up to the new Ranger and Jeep Gladiator?

In the middle: The midsize truck segment is getting a rebirth. Now that the Colorado-Canyon twins have been back in town since 2015, and Toyota’s Tacoma has been around half of forever, the latest incarnation of the Ford Ranger and the new Jeep Gladiator are hot on their trail.

Fuel economy: The smaller trucks do sip fuel, comparatively. The Canyon averaged almost 20 mpg. That’s no great shakes, but consider that full-size trucks have grown so huge that they’re pretty much stuck getting under 15 mpg these days.

On the road: Better handling should be standard, because the trucks are smaller and lighter. But no one would call the Canyon “small” by any stretch. It’s also very tall in the 4WD version, so curves should be approached with some caution.

Hauling? The Canyon can pull up to 7,600 pounds, and carry up to 1,605.

But the version I received had a laughably short bed, and I never even considered using it to haul anything around. A set of 3-by-5 shelves really ate up almost the entire bed.

Decorative Canyon labels behind the cab that were attached to a roll bar added a bit of silliness. They also made access to the front of the bed more difficult, so save yourself the $1,145 for this dealer-installed option.

A 6-foot 2-inch bed would add another foot of hauling capacity, but actually cut the payload max by 50 pounds.

Keep up with the big boys: The 3.6-liter V-6 engine creates 308 horsepower. I never had a problem getting on highways or keeping up with traffic, as the Canyon equipped like the test model went 0-60 in 6.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Base engine is a 2.5-liter four, blah, but a 2.8-liter turbodiesel intrigues me.

Consumers may find the interior of the 2019 GMC Canyon to be a compromise in space and in luxury touches, even in Denali trim.

Friends and stuff: The rear seat has some decent legroom and headroom, but foot room under the front seat is nonexistent. Both rows sit low to the floor.

The rear seat back is excessively straight, as the seats must contort themselves to the short cab.

Furthermore, the rear seats fold down instead of up, unlike most crew cabs, eliminating the convenience of carrying a large box behind the seat (something I’ve made use of often in other trucks).

Driver’s seat: Up front, the seats are comfortable enough and supportive, but I’m starting to think the name Denali just doesn’t have that exclusive feel it once did.

Shifty: The eight-speed transmission is controlled with a T-bar level on the console, with buttons to raise or lower gears.

I had some abrupt shifts on occasion, not a good feeling.

Play some tunes: The Canyon receives the typical General Motors stereo treatment, with knobs for tuning and volume, and a blob of buttons directing the rest of the show. It’s an unsophisticated look that’s growing dated. The sound is delightful, though, as is also typical for GM stereos.

Keeping warm and cool: The HVAC controls are equally uninspired but functional enough — buttons control source and a dial for blower speed and temperature.

Spot of trouble: On the last day I drove the Canyon, I had just gotten up to highway speed after setting the cruise control about half a mile before. While climbing a short grade, the truck suddenly downshifted — but way down, to second or third — while still in drive. The door locks opened and closed.

I shifted to Neutral and then back to Drive and it cleared up, but the truck seemed a little nervous after that. So did I. No more problems came up, but perhaps others have had a similar experience.

Where it’s built: Wentzville, Mo.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts its reliability will be a 2 out of 5, and it’s gotten a 1 for the last two years, with a 3 the year before.

In the end: Not a bad vehicle — nice to drive, and certainly more economical than a modern full-size truck. I’d give the Ranger and Gladiator a look.