Expert Reviews

Day-by-Day Review: 2016 GMC Canyon Diesel

Day 1

Now here is an interesting product -- GM delivers a knockout feature in a mid-sized truck for the North American market. A mid-sized truck with a diesel engine, something enthusiasts at the very least have been requesting for years, hoping the Toyota Tacoma would come with their diesel option.

The GMC Canyon is equipped with a 2.8-litre four cylinder turbo diesel engine. Output is only 181-horsepower but the torque is impressive at 369ft/lbs. That's as much torque as most V8 full-sized truck offerings, in a smaller package.

In order to accommodate the torque provided by the diesel engine GM designed the frame of the Canyon has a fully boxed perimeter frame which provides the strength to support its capabilities, similar to that used in their full sized Sierra.

2016 also brings some new features to the Canyon like Apple car play, which apparently is really cool, but I have an Android phone so I guess I'll never know. Why not also offer the Android Auto when Android is by far the more popular phone platform.

My tester comes in at just under $50,000 after upgrading to the Duramax Diesel which is an additional $4,390 over the V6 option on the Canyon, certainly not a light pill to swallow but it does increase towing capacity to a very respectable 3500kg (7,700lbs_ for 2WD models and 3450kg (7,600lbs) for 4WD models (like my tester).

Model: 2016 GMC Canyon SLT
Pricing: $39,895
Options: Duramax Turbo Diesel;$4,390, 8-inch touch screen with navigation;$795, Driver Alert;$415, Block heater;$100, assist steps;$710, bedliner;$525,Bose Premium audio;$685, all-weather floor mats; $175
Freight: $1,695
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $49,485

Chevrolet Colorado
Nissan Frontier
Toyota Tacoma


Day 2

I'm surprised about the number of comments on the Canyon I'm driving this week. Perhaps it's the good looking red colour, but I had a brown coloured Canyon in May and I do not recall anyone commenting or even noticing that I was driving an all-new model vehicle.

But this week I have had a lot of positive comments and a lot of questions about the vehicle. A few have noticed that the cabin looks narrow for a truck and it is. The seats that usually are very wide in a truck for a person on the small side like myself will find the seats in the Canyon actually somewhat small.

When I drove the Canyon back in May I noticed that seats had a short base and were very flat, this hasn't changed but the comfort seems less dire than it did when my back was in pain after 30 minutes back in May -- perhaps that is a change on my part because nothing on the vehicle has changed.

Although headroom is good, legroom is tight in the back, it really is a small truck on the inside. I noticed one missing item for those looking for a loaded everyday driver and that is the sunroof at this price it's an odd omission, I don't see it listed on the option sheets either.

I was out late tonight so a good chance to test the headlights and they work well despite only being halogen bulbs, another missing upgrade on a $50k vehicle, HID or LED headlights are becoming the norm in this snack bracket, but the halogens works well.


Day 3

It is funny how a diesel engine makes a truck feel more "truck-like" The V6 Canyon I drove in May didn't excite me, the small form factor combined with an engine that isn't all that fuel efficient were let downs. But swap that engine out to something with a metric ton of torque and the clankity-clank of a diesel and perception changes -- at least somewhat.

What about that clankity-clank diesel? Well it is noisy when you first start the truck in the morning, especially the colder it is, but as it warms up the noise dies down and it becomes smoother, but you are always reminded of the diesel under the hood, unless cruising on the highway where the revs are low and the torque is so abundant the engine barely breaks a sweat.

At first the acceleration seems timid as the engine makes it's noises heard, but if you put your foot in it the truck pulls through and as the revs climb so does the torque and before you know it, you are travelling faster than you had anticipated. Up hills and as previously mentioned on the highway the torque pulls you along effortlessly and without having to change gears.

Somehow the diesel engine makes the Canyon feels more truck like, despite it's smaller stature, makes it feel like a big truck that's just easier to park.


Day 4

Here is the rub. Typically mid-size trucks offer the same fuel economy as full-size trucks, but offer less capabilities. But for once here in North America with a diesel offered in our market something has changed. If you want a small truck because you do not have the space for a full-size pickup, or you just like driving a truck you can have a smaller truck and actually get improved fuel economy.

When I drove the Ram EcoDiesel back in 2014 I was impressed. A full-size truck in which I was able to average 12.5 L/100 km over the course of the week including towing. I mention in the article that I was seeing around 10.0 L/100 km in normal driving with the EcoDiesel in ideal conditions in August 2014.

Fast forward to today, late fall, though unseasonably warm it is still nippy outside – heck one, day I left the Canyon warm up for 10 minutes before leaving for work so I wouldn't have to scrape the ice off the windshield. Despite my efforts to sabotage the fuel economy this week, what the Canyon delivered was incredible.

Over the week of mixed driving I averaged an incredible 8.7 L/100 km with the Canyon Diesel! Let's put that into perspective. That's better than last week with Mazda CX-5, better than the week before with a Toyota Venza. That's pretty much better than any crossover I've ever driven, better than most mid-sized cars and encroaching on compact car territory type of fuel economy.

So with this new offering from GM, it seems like you could actually have your cake and eat it to. As in, have a pickup truck capable of hauling gear and towing substantial loads while sipping fuel at a miserly pace. If only they could get the price down just a little!