Maybe they knew something.
The first time we took a spin in the new GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado pickup trucks – redesigned after a two-year hiatus – our first thought was that they were a little too big, expensive and thirsty to succeed. They also seemed destined to draw sales away from their bigger stablemates, the popular GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado.
Fast forward to June, and it turns out the big trucks are doing just fine – and the smaller trucks are holding their own. The Silverado and Sierra, combined, are leading the pickup-truck sweepstakes, while combined sales of the Canyon and Colorado place General Motors’ midsize pickup trucks second to the Toyota Tacoma. Nationally, pickup trucks and SUVs are selling well as consumers grow accustomed to moderate fuel prices.
We got the full flavor of the new Canyon SLT crew cab during an 800-mile round trip, with four adults and a child in the passenger compartment. The Emerald Green Canyon, equipped with a short bed, was surprisingly quiet and comfortable, and it delivered 22 to 23 mpg on regular unleaded gasoline. Power from the 305-horsepower V-6 engine was ample, and interior appointments were of high quality. It would be an understatement to suggest it was a more satisfactory ride in every respect – including fuel economy – than the pre-redesign Colorado we test-drove a few years ago.
Our truck was top-of-the-line, so many buyers will be able to find a perfectly acceptable truck for considerably less money. A rear-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder extended-cab truck with a 6-speed manual transmission can be had for as little as $21,880, a little more than half the asking price for our dressed-up SLT crew cab. The base model is rated at 27 mpg on the highway. Available engines are the 200-horsepower inline Four and the V-6; the latter is advisable for towing and serious hauling. Buyers can choose between a two-door extended cab and four-door crew cab; and between a short bed and long bed.
GMC calls the Canyon a “small truck,” but functionally, it’s anything but. And even with the short bed, we found its dimensions – especially its 17-foot, 8.7-inch length – presented a challenge in parking lots designed to accommodate sedans and compact station wagons.
Full crash-test data are not yet available on this new model. The 2015 Canyon and Colorado did receive the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top “Good” score in the moderate-overlap crash test, placing them ahead of the 2012 models, which scored “Acceptable.”
For 2016, GM intends to make a diesel engine available in the Canyon and Colorado, improving fuel economy to above 30 mpg. But watch out – Toyota is bringing out a redesigned version of the top-selling Tacoma. There’s no word yet on when, or whether, the Nissan Frontier – currently running eighth in the pickup-truck sales race – will benefit from a redesign.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 305 horsepower, 269 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: rear, all-wheel, hi-lo 4X4
Ground clearance: 8.4 in.
Weight: 4,420 lb.
Suspension: independent front, solid axle rear
Wheels: 18×8.5-in. polished cast aluminum
Tires: P265/60R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Maximum payload: 1,550 lb.
Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 21 gal.
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline