2015 GMC Canyon Long-Term Review: Testing the Base Model

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Welcome back to our 2015 GMC Canyon long-term test. To read previous updates in the series, click here.

After telling people the price of our long-term Canyon tester, I’ve heard the same response like it’s stuck on repeat. They all says its seems expensive.

At just over $40,000, I can’t disagree that it feels steep for a midsize pickup, but you have to take into account that our long-term Canyon is loaded up with content. To get a better perspective on GM’s new midsize truck, we borrowed a base-model Canyon extended cab equipped with the 2.5-liter four cylinder and a manual transmission, which sends its power exclusively to the rear wheels.

This truck only costs $24,515. If it did have the automatic, the price would climb to $25,165. To get the manual, you must order either a Canyon Work Truck or the base model – referred to simply as the Canyon – in extended cab rear-wheel drive form.

2015-GMC-Canyon-Four-Cylinder-Access-Cab-3On the inside, this is an honest work truck, sporting cloth seats and plastic covered everything. The excellent ergonomics and attractive design of the center stack aren’t lost when you go for the cheaper model, while the storage in the doors and on the dash offer plenty of space for a contractor or electrician to stash their odds and ends.

What I truly miss from the more expensive truck are the radio controls on the back of the steering wheel and the LCD information screen located between the gauges, which is replaced by a simple black and white display. But for over $10,000 less, you can chalk that up to me being a little spoiled, as everything in this truck works just like it should.

Being an extended cab, rear seat space is expectedly cramped, offering only 28.6 inches of legroom. These seats are really only good for tools or children and if you never plan on using them for the latter, you might be better off in a Colorado with the rear seats deleted, which is an option the GMC Canyon doesn’t offer. The back seats fold up to expose small plastic storage bins, but they only get in the way if you need to store larger items.

2015-GMC-Canyon-The small four-banger makes 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed manual has long throws, but it’s nicely weighted and clicks into gear easily. That notchy feeling makes rowing through all six ratios a breeze and I would even call it fun. The clutch is nicely weighted allowing for easy first-gear starts and the added hill start assist setup works brilliantly for keeping the Canyon’s rear bumper out of the nose of the car behind.

But there is an issue with the manual. For me, the foot operated parking brake is a little too close to the clutch and more than once I got my left foot caught up on the underside of the parking brake when moving from the dead pedal to the clutch.

Getting this little truck up to speed is a chore with the four-cylinder and manual transmission. Acceleration in first and second gear feels decent in the low rev range, but beyond that, you need to stay in high RPMs to have any kind of meaningful power, made particularly tricky by the powerplant’s tendency to resist revving up.  For example, passing on the highway usually calls for a double downshift from sixth to fourth.

The maximum tow rating on this truck is 3,500 lbs. While I didn’t get to test that number first hand (our tester didn’t have a hitch), I wouldn’t want to pull any more than that after feeling what this powertrain has to offer. That said, ride and handling aren’t tarnished by going for the cheaper option, which offers a comfortable ride when unloaded and direct, predictable steering.

2015-GMC-Canyon-LoadedWhile I couldn’t do my usual towing test, what I did do with this truck is haul brush and lots of it. It’s jobs like this where this basic truck shines, showing off that the cheap package is more than capable of handling plenty of light work.

The trade-off for the lack of power is improved fuel economy. I managed an average of 21.9 MPG over after 437 miles, the majority of which were spent in city traffic. Cruising on the highway it wasn’t hard to achieve 26 MPG. Those figures put a two-MPG gap between the four-cylinder truck and the official ratings for the V6-powered truck and also match the EPA’s official ratings.

Compared to the real-world fuel economy of our long-term Canyon V6, there is a five MPG gap between averages.

2015-GMC-Canyon-Four-Cylinder-Access-Cab-1The other obvious advantage in going for this Canyon is the price. Compared to its closest competitor, the Tacoma 4×2 Access Cab, the four-cylinder Canyon makes 41 extra HP and 11 more lb-ft of torque, despite the two trucks costing nearly the exact same when similarly equipped. For the same money, you get a little bit more out of the GMC, which offers a six-speed transmission compared to Toyota’s five speed and OnStar with a built-in Wifi hotspot.

Overall, I walked away from the basic Canyon happy knowing that even on the cheap end of things, the truck still delivers a great interior and a powertrain capable of handling light work. For the buyer who doesn’t have a big trailer but wants the convenience of a pickup bed, this is the truck to get.

  • Mike

    Horribly low clearance with all that plastic on the bottom. And just wait till the new Toyota Tacoma debuts. It will be goodnight Chevy and GM.

  • craigcole

    I love honest-to-goodness trucks like this. They’re meant for WORK, not weekend trips to the nursery for potting soil, not for entertaining your kids with a back-seat DVD player, not even to commute to the office in. They’re meant for *real* work.

  • brl

    I have had this truck for 3 months now and this review is bang on. Yes, 6th gear is fairly (completely) gutless. However, the interior is awesome, the lower gears are great, the power is decent for a 4 cyl, the manual is fun, and you can put whatever you want in the back. With a yard of soil in the back, it didn’t break a sweat. At 25k (canadian) you can’t beat it. Getting around 10.8 litres per 100 km in mostly city driving. Backup camera, great sounding stereo, and Constar/4G are nice bonuses. I haven’t had a single regret.

  • Jschaafs

    Are you sure the manual transmission can haul 3,500lbs?