Welcome back to our 2015 GMC Canyon long-term test. To read the whole series, click here.
Recently, a close friend of mind decided he would like to buy a new GMC Canyon. He proceeded into a dealership, where the salesman immediately directed him to a larger Sierra, saying that he was authorized to give big discounts on the half-ton pickup that couldn’t be done on the Canyon.
He didn’t buy anything at that point, instead coming to me for advice about which one would be a better fit. To try and get to the bottom of his problem, I drove a Sierra Crew Cab with the 5’ 8” standard box back-to-back with our long-term Canyon.
Quiet cabins and comfortable riding suspension are traits shared by the trucks, along with interior layout and ergonomics. You do sit slightly lower in the Canyon than the Sierra, but its tough to notice the difference from behind the wheel. Similarly, the added length of the Sierra is hardly noticeable.
Width, weight and steering feel are the three most apparent differences between the drive of the two trucks. The Sierra is 5.7-inches wider than the Canyon, a number that feels much more substantial in the real world and gives the Canyon a feeling of agility and maneuverability that the Sierra lacks. Some of that feeling can be attributed to the Sierra’s curb weight, which is more than 500 lbs greater than the midsize Canyon. Finally, the steering feels more direct and connected in the Canyon that its larger sibling.
When comparing crew cab to crew cab, it’s hard to ignore the back seat difference. The Sierra’s rear accommodations are comfortable for an adult, even on long drives. The Canyon’s rear seats are livable, but begin to feel cramped after a short amount of time, although they are easily the best back seats currently in the midsize pickup segment.
When it comes time to put these two to work, another marked difference appears. The Canyon carries a max tow rating of 7,000 lbs while GMC says you can tow up to 12,000 lbs with a Sierra. I find the Canyon to be more confident at or near its limit, while the Sierra starts to feel a little overwhelmed at or near its max tow rating.
More than any of that, price and cost of ownership are likely to be the deciding factors in what you buy. If you’re looking for big savings in the fuel economy department going for the Canyon, don’t get your hopes up, as the difference isn’t substantial. On an unloaded highway run with the cruise control set at just above 65 MPH, our Canyon returned 20 MPG, just 2 MPG better than we experienced with the 5.3-liter equipped Sierra during our 2014 Truck of the Year testing, which consisted of both highway and city driving. Cylinder deactivation probably played a hand in this result, as it is available on the Sierra’s V8 but can’t be had with the Canyon’s V6.
So without a large fuel economy benefit, does the Canyon pay off? At the base, the trucks are separated by $3,205, with the Canyon carrying an MSRP of $21,880 and the Sierra selling for at least $25,085. Our Canyon SLT costs $40,715 including a few optional extras. A comparable Sierra, with the 5.3-liter V8 and standard 5’ 8” box in SLT trim carries an MSRP of $49,830. As my friend discovered first hand, GM has been offering plenty of discounts on its large trucks to move them from dealer lots and even the GMC online configurator offered us a $3,315 “value discount” on the Sierra, bringing the price down to $46,515.
So, what’s the answer to the question? To me, it comes down to how each truck gets work done. If you’re regularly towing a trailer heavier than 5,000 lbs, the Sierra is a better choice. You won’t have to drag out an equalizing hitch ever time you want to pull and the truck won’t be working tirelessly to get the load moving. Anything under that weight and the half-ton seems like overkill.
Discuss this story at our Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon Forum