The 2021 GMC Canyon is offered in extended-cab and crew-cab body styles. The crew cab comes with either a short cargo bed or a long bed. There are four trim levels: the Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4, and Denali. You also have your choice of one of three engines.
Mechanically similar to the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon has struggled to establish its own identity in the midsize pickup truck segment. For 2021, GMC looks to change that, and it gives the top-of-the-line Denali enhanced cabin materials and a new grille reminiscent of the one on the full-size Sierra 1500 pickup.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Of the Canyon’s trio of engines, we’d steer you away from base 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Higher models feature a standard 308-hp 3.6-liter V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Not only does the V-6 have cylinder deactivation in an attempt to preserve fuel, but it’s also one of the quickest mid-size pickups we’ve tested. The diesel four-cylinder sacrifices speed in favor of fuel efficiency and towing proficiency.
Indeed, the 2021 GMC Canyon’s diesel engine is surprisingly polished; however, it’ll cost buyers a chunk of change. The Canyon’s ride quality doesn’t transcend its class, but it manages to successfully strike a balance between soft and firm damping.
On bumpy and unpaved roads, it’s very capable and will soak up most imperfections while muting harshness. The AT4 model should elevate the pickup’s off-road capability even more with its upgraded suspension.
At highway speeds, the 2021 GMC Canyon is stable and relaxed. Around town, its smaller dimensions and agility require less driver attention in traffic and in tight confines. A firm brake pedal provided responsive feedback in the Canyon we tested.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2021 GMC Canyon with the gas-powered four-cylinder will earn up to 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Opting for the all-wheel-drive version will only lower its highway rating by 1 mpg.
The V-6 engine paired with rear-wheel drive is expected to get 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway; AWD drops both those figures by 1 mpg each.
The government hasn’t released fuel-economy ratings for the diesel version of the 2021 GMC Canyon, but last year’s model had estimates of 20/30 mpg city/highway with RWD and 19/28 mpg city/highway with AWD.
On our 200-mile fuel-economy route that tests real-world results on the highway, the diesel AWD earned 28 mpg and the V-6 AWD version earned 22 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The 2021 GMC Canyon‘s interior design is high on function and low on flash. It features an upright instrument panel layout and controls that are easy to reach and read. Unfortunately, the center console is burdened by a jumbo shifter.
Plastic toggle switches for accessory equipment on the center stack are handy and accessible, but they look cheap in pricier trim levels as with the Denali we tested.
Therein lies our biggest complaint about the Canyon’s interior: even in Denali trim, it never feels like a premium environment. Its front seat is wonderfully spacious.
However, the back seat has limited legroom. The elevated rear-seating position improves comfort, but three adults will be squished on long trips.
The 2021 GMC Canyon may not have as much room for carrying suitcases inside the cab, but it has the most cargo-bed volume and significantly more space for smaller items than its rivals.
Its deep center console bin, multiple door pockets, and other miscellaneous storage spots throughout the cabin provide refuge for an assortment of loose items. For items that take up a lot of space, there’s a giant plastic bin under the rear seat (only on the crew cab).
Infotainment and Connectivity
The 2021 GMC Canyon‘s touchscreen infotainment system is attractive and intuitive, with standard features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen is easy to use, with rubberized knobs for volume and tuning and redundant hard buttons for quick operation.
The SLE model and up have an 8.0-inch touchscreen with a 4G LTE mobile hotspot. The Denali has an exclusive wireless charging pad, and the Bose premium audio system is also standard.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 GMC Canyon earned a four-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it was not named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, the previous model year earned a four-star NHTSA rating and it wasn’t named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.
It also offers little in the way of driver-assistance technology, leaving it far behind the Honda Ridgeline and the Toyota Tacoma. If you’re a customer who wants every piece of safety tech there is, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
2021 GMC Canyon AT4
front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup
PRICE AS TESTED
$43,430 (base price: $41,395)
DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
218 in3, 3564 cm3
308 hp @ 6800 rpm
275 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Suspension (F/R): control arms/live axle
Brakes (F/R): 12.2-in vented disc /12.8-in vented disc
Tires: Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac, 265/65R-17 112S M+S
Wheelbase: 128.3 in
Length: 212.4 in
Width: 74.3 in
Height: 70.6 in
Passenger volume: 107 ft3
Curb weight: 4543 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.7 sec
1/4 mile: 15.2 sec @ 91 mph
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.9 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.8 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 98 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 190 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.74 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 17 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 21 mpg
Highway range: 440 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 19/17/24 mpg