2023 GMC Canyon: A Workman’s Truck No More

Strong points
  • More rugged looks
  • Impressive off-road capability (AT4X)
Weak points
  • Disappointing fuel economy
  • No more V6 or diesel engine
  • Steep prices
Full report

Following the redesigned Chevrolet Colorado, it’s now the next-generation 2023 GMC Canyon’s time to shine. The midsize pickup twins from GM continue to share a number of components, but you must know that GMC is using a slightly different strategy than Chevy.

Whereas the Colorado can be had from just $37,197 in base trim, which will happily suit a bunch of workers and entrepreneurs, not to mention fleet operators, the Canyon is a more premium alternative that starts at $48,497 in Elevation trim. The price tag rises to $62,497 for a Denali model or $67,797 for the rugged new AT4X. That’s quite a substantial amount of money considering the truck’s size.

Turbo-Four Only

Mechanically speaking, GMC’s approach is different from Chevrolet’s, too. Both brands have dropped their gasoline V6 and Duramax turbo-diesel options, retaining only a turbocharged 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine (shared with the entry-level Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500). While the Colorado offers three different output levels, the Canyon sticks with the most powerful one.

Photo: Germain Goyer

Is GM making a mistake here? We believe so. Ford, which used to have only a turbocharged four-cylinder in the Ranger, has decided to add a V6 with the new generation arriving for 2024. Customers demanded it, and the company listened.

Whichever GMC Canyon model you select, you’ll have 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft. of torque at your disposal. That’s a lot of torque, for sure, but it comes at higher revs than that of the old diesel mill. Performance is still impressive, although the sound coming from under the hood and out the back fails to excite. An eight-speed automatic transmission handles shifting and does a good job overall.

The media event GM had planned for us didn’t include any towing tests, unfortunately. In case you’re wondering, the Canyon can tow up to 7,700 lbs in non-AT4X trim. As for payload, the best you can get is 1,590 lbs with the Elevation model.

Photo: Germain Goyer

No Fuel Savings

You’d think the loss of the proven and dependable V6 was motivated by a desire to improve fuel economy. Fewer cylinders should mean smaller bills at the pump. As it turns out, however, the turbo-four is less efficient. Natural Resources Canada rates it at a combined 12.4 L/100 km. The old V6-powered Canyon achieved 12.1 L/100 km.

At the end of our short 68-km drive, the trip computer in our tester read 15.9 L/100 km—way worse than we could have imagined. For the record, the Duramax was rated at 10.5 L/100 km.

Speaking of which, we’re really curious to see what the next-gen Toyota Tacoma can do with its available hybrid powertrain. It could certainly become the new segment leader for fuel economy.

Photo: Germain Goyer

One Body Style

Similar to the Colorado, the 2023 GMC Canyon comes in a single body style, namely a Crew Cab with a five-foot cargo bed. As far as we’re concerned, pickup manufacturers should offer more than one configuration to customers.

In the name of cost efficiency and profitability, GM has opted for a one-size-fits-all approach. Ditto for Ford with the new Ranger, actually. The Nissan Frontier has multiple options. So does the outgoing Tacoma, but no word yet about its replacement.

Incidentally, the Canyon is not the most spacious midsize truck on the market. Headroom and rear-seat legroom is limited. Yet, the cabin doesn’t feel as tight as the Frontier’s.

Photo: Germain Goyer

Spectacular AT4X

In addition to the paved roads of Asheville, North Carolina, we had the opportunity to take the new 2023 GMC Canyon out on a special off-road course. And not just any Canyon—the first-ever AT4X model. For two hours, we tackled dirt, sand, gravel and mud like kids in a candy store.

The top-line Canyon is the most rugged and most adventurous you can find. It stands out with aggressive styling, a one-inch lift kit, Multimatic DSSV dampers, a Baja mode, 33-inch mud-terrain tires, skid plates, electronic locking differentials and multiple available cameras including one under the vehicle.  

It became clear right away that the Canyon AT4X could overcome most obstacles with ease, even on the kind of trails where ATVs and dirt bikes are more popular. Those Multimatic dampers really do a masterful job on sketchy and challenging terrain.

Photo: Germain Goyer

Even better, unlike dedicated off-road trucks that typically punish their occupants, the Canyon AT4X proved surprisingly smooth and comfortable once back on the road. It didn’t feel harsh or unpleasant in normal driving conditions.

Our Verdict

The aging GM twins have been thoroughly improved for 2023, making them more competitive than ever. But at the same time, rivals are upping their game, as well. We quite like the latest Frontier, while the Ranger is adding a desirable V6 option and the next Tacoma sounds super-promising.

The redesigned Canyon is a great performer and we love the all-terrain capability of the AT4X variant. On the other hand, the inefficient turbo-four and single configuration are a big letdown.

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