2015 GMC Canyon review: GMC's small pickup is a do-it-all multitool on wheels
A multitool combines the functions and features of a variety of hand tools into one compact package. No, that package may not contain the sharpest knife that you'll ever own, the strongest pair of pliers in your toolbox or the most user-friendly screwdriver that money can buy, but the best tool is always the one you have with you. A multitool makes up for a few small compromises with huge, pocket-friendly convenience. Short of carrying a full toolbox in your backpack, there's nothing better.
When I think of the 2015 GMC Canyon, I think that our crew-cab, short-box model is a multitool on wheels; a vehicle that serves as a commuter, a hauler, a family car, a puller and more. There are a few compromises here and there -- particularly for city drivers who may not have the space for such a large "small truck" -- but this is a solid choice for those who need one vehicle to do it all.
The pickup truck is one of the most customizable vehicle classes on the road, so it's no surprise that the Canyon is available in a variety of configurations. There's the extended cab with a long 6-foot bed, a crew cab with a long 6-foot bed and our example's configuration: a crew cab with a short 5-foot bed. Your needs in a truck will no doubt be different from mine, but I think the short crew is the best balance of flexibility and compactness.
Each of those configurations features three more trim levels -- base, SLE and SLT -- along with two engines, two transmissions and two drivetrain configurations. Our example was a V-6 SLE 4WD model with an optional All-terrain package that includes a few off-road optimizations and cabin creature comforts.
Engine and power train
In at least one of its many configurations, the Canyon can be had with a 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. We weren't able to test that setup, but I think that our example's V-6 may be a better fit for a vehicle of this size.
The 3.6-liter V-6 engine makes 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque with direct injection and bumps the maximum GVWR payload to 6,000 pounds and the maximum towing capacity to 6,700 pounds when equipped with the towing package. That engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission in either a rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) configurations. Our example featured the latter.
The 4WD model features an Autotrac transfer case that can, with the twist of a dial, quickly be set to lock into four-wheel-drive mode when off-road, rear-wheel-drive mode for efficient street cruising or be left to its own devices to control the torque split, automatically sending torque to the front wheels when slip is detected. There's also a 4WD Low setting for use in low-speed, high-torque multiplication situations, such as when climbing rocks. The All-terrain package also includes an optional locking rear differential, hill descent control, an underbody skid plate for the transfer case and unique styling.
On the road, I found the Canyon's performance to be good -- its automatic transmission shifting smoothly and V-6 supplying good torque -- but there's an odd hesitation to its acceleration. The pickup accelerates well when tasked, but more delicate throttle adjustments seem to be dulled. I'm reminded of the "Eco" mode throttle mapping that many sedans use to smooth out a lead-footed driver's acceleration in the interest of fuel economy. Perhaps I'm just used to a bit more throttle response, but it did mean that I had to be a lot more deliberate when asking the Canyon to pass.
GMC and the EPA estimate that the 2015 Canyon is good for 20 combined mpg (17 city and 24 highway) in this short crew 4WD configuration. I finished my traffic heavy week at about 17 mpg.
Daily driving comfort
On the road, the Canyon's handling was predictable and and solid feeling, but still a truckish ride. The multileaf spring rear suspension transmits many of the bumps and jolts directly into the cabin, jostling driver and passengers alike. As is often the case with trucks, there's no escaping the reality that you're riding with most of the center of gravity above the suspension. However, the small pickup never seemed to be rattled by the bumps; its stiff chassis never rattled or groaned. The ride may have occasionally gotten rough, but it always felt solidly planted, which inspired a good deal of confidence in me, the driver.
The ride may have been predictably truckish, but the turning radius was surprisingly small. At lower speeds, the Canyon proved to be quite nimble and, along with its standard rear cameras, well-adapted to the tight turns and tighter parking spots of city parking decks. The adoption of electric power steering for the 2015 Canyon helps to give the steering an easy, carlike feel and likely boosts fuel efficiency.
The elevated off-road suspension of the All-terrain package possibly contributed to a bit of the Canyon's trucky ride, but also provides a more commanding view of the road ahead. From its elevated perch, the Canyon's ingress and egress is a bit tricky. The All-terrain package's side steps didn't really help much, as I felt that they were just a bit too short to be useful, but just long enough to rub the backs of my legs as I climbed and slid over them. Your mileage may vary.
Once my passengers and I had clambered into the Canyon, I was pleased to find that the crew-cab, short-box configuration seats four adults as well or better than any sedan in this price range. There's plenty of legroom on the second row, with a center seating position that's not too punishingly cramped. Up front, the combination leather-and-fabric bucket seats are extremely comfortably molded and feature a combination of power and manual adjustments. Optional heated seat bases and backs can be controlled individually and there are more USB ports for charging mobile devices than you'll probably ever need -- I count four in all.
GMC IntelliLink tech
The Canyon's ride is fairly quiet thanks to the smooth V-6 engine and generous sound deadening. Our All-terrain package's off-road tires and an upright boxy aerodynamic profile adds a bit of noise back to the mix, but it's not so much that our Bose audio system couldn't compensate for it.
At the center of the Canyon's dashboard is the GMC IntelliLink infotainment system. Built around an 8-inch touchscreen, this system provides access to the well-rounded set of digital audio sources, Bluetooth for hands-free calling, audio streaming, and text messaging and more. However, the interface's coolest trick is a spin on a feature that's almost as old as the car radio.
Along the bottom edge of the screen is a bank of five customizable shortcut softkeys that can be used to store radio presets, as you'd expect. However, these shortcuts can also be used to save satellite radio stations, Pandora Internet Radio stations, frequently accessed points of interest and addresses for navigation, contacts for hands-free calling and other functions. Pretty much any part of the interface that is accessed frequently can be saved and recalled with one of these shortcuts. Swiping left or right reveals about 40 available shortcuts presented in sets of five.
The IntelliLink system's voice command is also very good, but does things a bit differently than I'm accustomed. When the voice command button is pressed, the visual prompts for available commands and results for destination search appear in the small, color driver information display in the instrument cluster. Addresses can be input whole-hog -- number, street and city -- rather than being broken into tedious, individual prompts, and the recognition seemed fairly accurate. Once a destination has been chosen for navigation, only then does the action transfer over to the 8-inch main display in the center of the dashboard. At first, this two-screen setup seemed a bit complicated, but I quickly learned to love how the system helped me to keep my eyes forward when voice inputting.
Overall, I found the IntelliLink system to be crisply rendered, easy to understand, and smooth in operation, with one glaring sore spot. I found that the system would occasionally freeze momentarily when I went to manually input an address using the touchscreen. The interface for manual destination input isn't very intuitively laid out -- for example, no one who used the system during my testing could find the the search button (it's smashed up into a corner next to the back button, the last place I'd think to look for it). Meanwhile, the animations and performance gets very stuttery during destination search and then smooth out again as soon as route guidance was underway. Stick to voice inputs and presets for happier navigation.
Driver Alert package
A rear camera is standard equipment, which makes parking and maneuvering the Canyon a much less stressful affair.
Our model was not so equipped, but the Canyon SLE also gains the option to add a $395 Driver Alert package. Checking this box adds a forward collision alert system and lane-departure warning. Both are useful additions to the Canyon's safety feature set, but I'd rather see blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert added to the list of available options; these are much more useful features on a truck with a long bed out back.
Pricing and conclusion
Though not without a few compromises, the 2015 GMC Canyon is a do-everything, multitool of a vehicle, especially in this crew cab, short bed configuration. It blends much of the comfort and driveability of a midsize sedan, with the utility of a truck. With its All-terrain package, it makes claims of off-road capability and, with its IntelliLink tech, it's easy to live with. The Canyon manages to balance feeling like a big, fun truck without feeling like too much truck for daily driving, unlike many of the larger full-size pickups that I've reviewed.
Our example, a 2015 GMC Canyon SLE 4WD SLE Crew Short Box, to be specific, starts at $34,010 before adding $1,190 for the all-terrain package, $745 for side steps and $500 for an SLE Convenience package that brings remote start and automatic climate controls to the party. The standard tech gets upgraded with a $500 Bose audio system and the top-tier IntelliLink navigation system at a very reasonable $495. Finally, we've got $475 for a spray-on bed liner, $250 for a trailering equipment package, and $925 for destination charges. As tested, we're pretty close to fully loaded at $39,090.