Should I Buy a Midsize Pickup Truck?

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

There have been three times in my life that I almost bought a compact pickup truck.

With great utility, right-sized dimensions and livable fuel consumption, a small workhorse would be a perfect fit for my life. Without any toys to haul, a job in the trades industry or a large piece of rustic land to maintain, anything larger than a small pickup truck would be overkill. Especially considering I live in the suburbs of one of the largest cities in North America.

I do own a home, and with home ownership comes a multitude of tasks a small pickup truck is well suited for like moving furniture, hauling soil and of course obligatory trips to the dump. But I’m not a truck guy. And every time my thoughts turn towards truck ownership the same two questions arise. Can I live with the compromises pickup truck ownership comes with? Or have those compromises disappeared?

SEE ALSO: 2015 Chevy Colorado Review

To find the answers, I arranged to spend some time behind the wheel of the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and 2015 GMC Canyon. There are two reasons why I chose these trucks. First, they are the newest entries into the smaller pickup truck market and by far the most contemporary. Second, General Motors designed them for a broad range of customers including people like me who have never owned a pickup. In fact, GM expects roughly 30 percent of all Canyon and Colorado buyers to come from other segments like crossovers and SUVs.

Not All That Small

To call the Canyon and Colorado twins small is misleading. They are really mid-size pickup trucks as nothing in the North American market is a true compact pickup truck anymore. Available with the choice of two truck cabs paired to one of two bed lengths, the shortest versions of the pickups come in at 212-inches in length; nearly ten inches longer than a Chevrolet Traverse crossover. Want the larger crew cab body style with the longer 6.2-foot box? Add another foot in overall length. Safe to say, none of these trucks are squeezing into those “Compact Car Only” parking spots.

When it comes to height, the trucks are more livable at just over 70-inches tall – roughly the same as a Honda Pilot. Weight too matches that of a mid-size crossover with the lightest extended-cab RWD automatic transmission trucks starting at 3,880 lbs., while the heaviest 4WD automatic transmission crew cab trucks, equipped with the 6.2-foot box, top out at a still manageable 4,500 lbs.

Drives like a Truck, But Better

I sampled the GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab Long Bed with four-wheel drive first. Being the largest, heaviest model available, I wanted to see how manageable it would be behind the wheel. My initial impressions? Not much of a surprise here, it drives like a truck. With a high riding position, stiff steering and a large turning radius, the Canyon makes no excuses that it’s ready for work. What did surprise me is how compliant the ride quality is as the Canyon did not bounce down the road like pickups of old, but was still able to laugh its way through a pothole-strewn, ill maintained road.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Truck of the Year: Part 1

This truck came equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 making 305 HP and 269 lb-ft paired to a six-speed automatic that is good for 17 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway. There’s a lack of low-end grunt with this combination as the V6 feels more at home in the medium rpm range. Once up to speed, the Canyon had no trouble maintaining velocity, even on the freeway. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to sample the 200 HP 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Unsure how the lower output would handle the truck’s weight, fuel consumption does improve to 20 MPG city and 27 MPG highway on RWD models.

Next, I drove a Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab Short Bed RWD. Powered be the same V6 engine and automatic transmission, the lighter truck immediately felt more responsive. With less weight, specifically on the front end of the truck, the ease of driving this truck matches any mid-size crossover I’ve recently tested. The shorter wheelbase can be felt in most driving situations, like making right hand turns in residential areas. Parking it at a local big box store wasn’t much of a problem either, due to the standard backup camera and width that’s on par with a Hyundai Santa Fe.

A Truck and an SUV

The biggest surprise of the Canyon/Colorado for me has to be the interior. I remember the last generation model and even when new, I felt the interior felt cheap and utilitarian to a fault. That’s not the case anymore. Mimicking the interior of the larger Sierra and Silverado trucks, these new pickups have the look and feel of a SUV or crossover. Options abound as well including GM’s new Onstar 4GLTE wireless internet service.

Less impressive though are the front seats. Comfort is merely acceptable and the hard plastic outer edge kept digging into my thigh every time I entered and exited the vehicle. Things improve in the rear of crew cab models as 35.8-inches of legroom greets passengers. Two full size adults will have no problem fitting back there and even three could make it work in a pinch. Be aware this is not the case with the much smaller extended cab models though. That backseat is the domain of children only.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Truck of the Year: Part 2

With the smaller 5.2-foot bed, the truck box can carry 41.3 cubic feet of stuff, plus all the extra space above the roofless bed. The larger 6.2-foot bed increase capacity to 49.9 cubic feet. All Canyons and Colorados have a standard step built into the corners of the rear bumper which helps getting into and out the trucks bed, especially for shorter people. Depending on configurations, the trucks carry a payload between 1,410 lbs. to 1,590 lbs. and can tow upwards of 7,000 lbs. with the V6 engine.

The Verdict

Pricing is where things get a bit tricky with the mid-size Canyon/Colorado. The cheapest way into these trucks is with a Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab Long Bed 2WD Base that starts at $20,995 after destination charges. But, get a little carried away with the options and it’s possible to spec a GMC Canyon Crew Cab Long Bed SLT 4WD over $45,000. That’s quite costly considering a Chevrolet Silverado starts in the mid-$20,000s and can be well equipped around the $40,000 mark.

Still, if sensible with the options list the Colorado can be had at a reasonable price. For me, optioned the way I’d want it, a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab Short Bed LT RWD would come in under $30,000. That’s still a good chunk of change, but it does net me a flexible utility vehicle. Despite the truck’s excessive length, it would be a wholly livable vehicle I could commute to work in, carry my family in and put to work on the weekends. Maybe one day I will become a pickup truck convert.

Fast Facts

Engine: 3.6 L V6, 305 HP, 269 lb-ft., 2.5 L four-cylinder, 200 HP, 191 lb-ft.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, six-speed manual

Fuel economy (US): 17 MPG city, 24 MPG hwy (4WD, Auto, V6)

Fuel economy (CDN): 12.7 L/100 km city, 9.5 L/100 km highway (4WD, Auto, V6)

Price (US): Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab Long Bed 2WD Base that starts at $20,995 after destination charges, GMC Canyon Crew Cab Long Bed SLT 4WD starts at $38,175

Price (CDN): Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab Long Bed Base 2WD starts at $21,695 after destination charges, GMC Canyon Crew Cab Long Bed SLT 4WD starts at $40,995.

GALLERY: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, 2015 GMC Canyon

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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 1 comment
  • Modified driver Modified driver on Jan 22, 2015

    Too bad GM didn't consider previous owners, when they re-designed the Canyon/Collie twins. There are many of us who want a small pick-up, but neither want, or need, and extended cab truck. I currently have a 2005 Canyon 4x4, that I'd like to replace, "just because". I have no issues with it, but after 10 years, I'd just like something new. However, I do NOT like the look of extended cab trucks, do NOT need or want a crew cab, and do NOT have the room in my garage for a full sized pick-up. My "regular" cab Canyon was ideal for my needs....utility work during the summer, and as a 4x4, for daily use in the winter. I would have bought another Canyon, if a regular cab was available, but since GM opted to ignore that segment of potential buyers, I'm looking at an SUV......and NOT a GM product. Sorry, guys..........