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2021 GMC Canyon Review

The 2021 GMC Canyon ranks in the bottom half of the compact pickup truck class. While it's capable and has user-friendly features, the Canyon's rock-bottom predicted reliability rating drags down its overall ranking.

Pros & Cons

  • Great towing capacity for the class
  • Responsive handling
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Fewer bed features than rivals
  • Underwhelming interior quality
  • Poor predicted reliability rating

Rankings & Research

The 2021 GMC Canyon's #4 ranking is based on its score within the Compact Pickup Trucks category. Currently the GMC Canyon has a score of 7.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 38 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 8.1
Performance: 8.1
Interior: 6.6
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 8.1 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a GMC Canyon?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the GMC Canyon a Good Truck?

Yes, the GMC Canyon is a good compact pickup truck. It has three capable powertrain choices, earns solid fuel economy ratings, and has better towing and hauling capacities than most of its classmates. It also has a comfortable ride and easy-to-use tech features.

There are a few blemishes on the Canyon's resume, however. The Canyon's interior, though attractive, includes some low-rent materials that feel a bit cheap, and the seats could be more supportive. This GMC also offers fewer in-bed features and active safety technologies than many rivals, and it received the lowest-possible predicted reliability rating.

2021 GMC Canyon Dimensions and Weight

  • Length: 17 feet, 8.4 inches to 18 feet, 8.6 inches
  • Height: 5 feet, 10.4 inches to 5 feet, 10.7 inches
  • Curb weight: 3,767 to 4,576 pounds
Why You Can Trust Us: 38 Reviews Analyzed

We don’t base our car reviews on our personal opinions. Instead, we combine the findings of professional test drivers with data such as reliability ratings and safety scores to give you a complete overview of every vehicle we rank.

This 2021 Canyon review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2015.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

Should I Buy the GMC Canyon?

The Canyon should appeal to a wide range of truck buyers, particularly those who want an easy-to-drive truck that they can rely on when it's time to go to work. On the other hand, for buyers who want the plushest interior accommodations or the best off-roading capability, there are better options in the class. If that sounds like you, then you may want to check out the Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tacoma, or Jeep Gladiator.

Compare the Canyon, Ridgeline, and Gladiator »

2020 vs. 2021 GMC Canyon: What's the Difference?

The big change for the 2021 Canyon is the introduction of the all-new AT4 trim. It steps into the lineup as the most off-road-oriented Canyon trim.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Canyon »

Here are the key changes for the GMC Canyon over the last few years:

  • 2017: eight-speed automatic transmission became available; Teen Driver became standard
  • 2018: gained larger standard touch-screen display; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added to standard features list
  • 2019: GMC Infotainment system introduced; rear parking sensors made available
  • 2020: available remote locking tailgate added
  • 2021: AT4 model debuts

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Canyon, 2019 Canyon, and 2020 Canyon reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the GMC Canyon Cost?

The Canyon sports a base price of $26,400. That's high for a compact pickup, though it's not the highest starting price in the class. Things get much pricier as you climb the trim ladder. The brand-new Canyon AT4 starts at $38,200, while the range-topping Canyon Denali starts at $40,900. That's a little bit below the top-trim prices of some class rivals.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local GMC dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our GMC deals page.

GMC Canyon Versus the Competition

GMC Canyon vs. Chevrolet Colorado

The Chevrolet Colorado is another compact pickup truck that belongs to the General Motors family. As you might guess, it and the Canyon are incredibly similar. They have the same lineup of engines, the same excellent towing and hauling capacities, and nearly identical lists of standard and optional features. Both trucks also have terrible predicted reliability ratings.

They also have a few differences. The Canyon has a slightly nicer interior, but the Colorado is a bit less expensive. Each of these models has a specialized trim that the other doesn’t offer. The Canyon Denali is more elegant than any Colorado model, while the Colorado ZR2 Bison is more formidable off road than any configuration of the Canyon.

Compare the Canyon and Colorado »

GMC Canyon vs. Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma sits next to the Canyon in our compact truck rankings, but there are some notable differences between the two. The Tacoma is a more capable off-roader than the Canyon and comes with many more driver assistance features. The Canyon can tow and haul more though, and it gets better fuel economy than the Tacoma.

Compare the Canyon and Tacoma »

Compare the Canyon, Colorado, and Tacoma »

Canyon Performance: Well-Rounded Capability

Canyon Engine

There are three engine options in the Canyon: a 200-horsepower four-cylinder (base), a 308-horsepower V6, and a 181-horsepower four-cylinder turbodiesel. The two four-cylinder engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 is mated to an eight-speed automatic.

The base four-cylinder engine gets the job done, but it's not as impressive or capable as the other engines. The diesel feels refined and unlocks the Canyon's highest towing capacity. Diesel-equipped models also get the best fuel economy ratings.

The V6 is the best option of the three, however. It offers nearly the same towing capacity as the diesel, and it provides better acceleration and more high-end power than the other engines.

Canyon Gas Mileage

The Canyon's mpg ratings fall right in line with those of many competitors. It earns 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with its base four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. With the V6, ratings are nearly identical: 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. For the best gas mileage, you want the diesel powertrain, which helps the Canyon get 19/28 mpg city/highway.

Canyon Ride and Handling

This GMC pickup is comfortable and composed on the road. Its secure handling and accurate steering make it feel more like an SUV than a traditional truck. The ride is smooth, even over rough pavement, but like most trucks, it feels more cushioned if the bed isn't empty.

Canyon Off-Road Performance

You needn't be afraid of taking this GMC off road. Four-wheel drive is available with every model, making the Canyon reasonably capable of traversing muddy terrain. The new AT4 trim adds several off-road features (such as skid plates and a more rugged suspension) that make it the best off-roader in the lineup. Still, it can't keep up with the beastliest trucks in the class like the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison.

Canyon Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Canyon can tow up to 7,700 pounds, which is one of the highest capacities in the class. This truck's maximum payload is 1,605 pounds. That's not class-leading, but it's solid for a small pickup.

Read more about performance »

Canyon Interior: No-Frills Functionality

Canyon Cargo Space

The Canyon offers 5-foot-2-inch and 6-foot-2-inch bed lengths. The bed is only 44 inches wide between the wheel wells, however, so you can't lay sheets of plywood flat between them, like you can in some rivals. The bed sides and load floor are high, which can make retrieving cargo difficult. Additionally, some competitors offer more in-bed features than the Canyon, which only offers an EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate and steps built into the corners of the rear bumper.

How Many People Does the Canyon Seat?

Extended Cab Canyon models seat four people, and Crew Cab models seat five. You may wish the front seats provided a tad more support, but they're spacious and generally comfortable. The second row of Crew Cab models has sufficient space for adults and decent comfort as well. Rear seats in the Extended Cab are very small and are best suited to kids or for very short trips.

Canyon and Child Car Seats

In Crew Cab models, there are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for installing child safety seats. There’s also a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.

Canyon Interior Quality

There isn't much to complain about regarding the Canyon's interior. It's handsome and functional, with some quality materials. However, there are also some low-rent components, even in the Denali trim. That makes this GMC feel less upscale than some competitors.

Canyon Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Canyon's infotainment features are generally straightforward, with clear icons on the touch screen and simple controls. There are also large physical knobs for other functions. Connectivity features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, making it easy to sync your smartphone to the truck.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, six speakers, two USB ports, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, wireless device charging, a seven-speaker Bose stereo, satellite radio, HD Radio, additional USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and navigation
  • Other available features: automatic climate control, keyless entry, and remote start

Read more about interior »

Canyon Reliability

Is the GMC Canyon Reliable?

The 2021 GMC Canyon has the lowest-possible predicted reliability rating of two out of five.

GMC Canyon Warranty

GMC covers the Canyon with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Canyon Safety

Canyon Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 GMC Canyon an overall safety rating of four out of five stars. The Canyon received five stars in the side crash test, four stars in the frontal crash test, and three stars in the rollover test.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Canyon.

Canyon Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Teen Driver (lets you do things like set speed and audio volume limits for secondary drivers)

Available advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Rear parking sensors

Read more about safety »

Where Is the GMC Canyon Built?

GMC builds the 2021 Canyon in Missouri.

Which GMC Canyon Model Is Right for Me?

As with other trucks, you have to decide which cab and bed you want before picking a Canyon trim. Once you've made those choices, you're free to choose between the four trim levels: Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4, and Denali.

The Elevation is a great choice for most buyers. It comes with more standard features than the base trim, and it offers things like leather upholstery and an upgraded infotainment system that you can't get in the base Elevation Standard trim. The AT4 is worth checking out if off-roading is high on your list of priorities.

GMC Canyon Powertrain Options:

  • Base engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque; starts at $26,400 (available in Elevation Standard and Elevation)
  • Available engines:
    • 3.6-liter V6 with 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque; starts at $27,885 (available in Elevation Standard and Elevation; standard in AT4 and Denali)
    • 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard rear-wheel drive; available four-wheel drive
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic (four-cylinder and diesel); eight-speed automatic (V6)

GMC Canyon Appearance Packages:

  • Exterior Convenience package (prices start at $815; available in Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4 Cloth, and AT4 Leather): 5-inch black rectangular assist steps and front and rear splash guards

GMC Canyon Performance Packages/Options:

  • Power package (prices start at $1,850): performance air intake and cat-back performance exhaust system
  • Performance Skid Plate package (prices start at $375): front and mid skid plates
  • Sport Bar and Lighting package (see local dealer for pricing; available in Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4 Cloth, and AT4 Leather): off-road sport bar and lights

GMC Canyon Trims:

GMC Canyon Elevation Standard

The Canyon Elevation Standard carries a base price of $26,400. It comes with a 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. Standard features include a rearview camera, Teen Driver, cloth upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat, a 7-inch touch screen, six speakers, two USB ports, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The Elevation Standard's default setup is the Extended Cab with the long bed, but it's also available in a Crew Cab/short bed configuration for $28,300. If you want 4WD – which, in this trim, is only offered in Extended Cab models and also requires you to upgrade to a 308-horsepower V6 engine – the starting price jumps to $31,800.

You can add the V6 to a RWD model for $1,485. The Convenience package ($630) adds a remote-locking EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate and keyless entry. A few other features, including a locking rear differential and a Wi-Fi hot spot, can be added individually.

GMC Canyon Elevation

The Canyon Elevation starts at $30,000 for the Extended Cab/long bed configuration. In addition to the base trim's features, the Elevation comes with automatic climate control, the EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate, keyless entry, remote start, additional USB ports, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

The Crew Cab/short bed configuration starts at $31,900 ($37,000 if you also want 4WD, which requires upgrading to the V6 engine as well). The Crew Cab/long bed setup, which only comes with 4WD and the V6, starts at $37,600.

In RWD models, opting for the V6 costs $1,485. The High Elevation package ($1,400) adds leather front seats, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The Driver Alert package ($690) adds rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning.

For $1,095, you can add an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, HD Radio, and navigation. A few other features, including a locking rear differential and a Bose audio system, can be added individually.

GMC Canyon AT4

The all-new Canyon AT4 is broken down into two trims: the AT4 Cloth (starting MSRP of $38,200) and the AT4 Leather ($40,000). Those prices are for the Crew Cab/short box setup. In the Crew Cab/long bed configuration, starting prices jump by $600.

All AT4 models come with a 308-horsepower V6 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive; this is the only trim that doesn't offer a rear-wheel-drive configuration. The AT4 also adds several off-road-oriented features, including a locking rear differential, a two-speed transfer case, and hill descent control.

The AT4 Cloth has cloth upholstery (duh) and has a similar features list to the Elevation trim. The Driver Alert package and the upgraded infotainment system remain available, along with the heated steering wheel and Bose audio system.

The AT4 Leather comes with leather seats and several additional features, including rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, wireless device charging, an 8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, and HD Radio. The Driver Alert package only costs $395 in this trim, and the upgraded infotainment system is just $995. As with lower trims, some features can be added individually.

GMC Canyon Denali

The GMC Canyon Denali starts at $40,900 for the Crew Cab/short box setup, and it’s $44,400 if you also want 4WD. The Crew Cab/long box configuration, which only comes with 4WD, starts at $44,700. Standard features include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, ventilated front seats, a seven-speaker Bose audio system, and navigation. Almost every feature you can get in a Canyon comes standard in the Denali, so there isn't much in the way of add-ons.

Which Canyon Cab Style Is Right for Me?

The GMC Canyon is available as an Extended Cab or a Crew Cab. Extended Cab models have two small fold-up rear seats which aren't that spacious or comfortable. Still, you can get away with this smaller cab if you won't use the rear seats regularly. Rear legroom is very tight and not really suitable for adult occupants. Plus, the Extended Cab has rear-hinged half-size back doors that can only be opened by first opening the front doors, complicating access to the second row.

Crew Cab models have full-size rear doors and a rear bench seat that ups the total seating capacity to five. You'll get around 7 extra inches of legroom over the Extended Cab, making this a better choice if you regularly have back-seat passengers. But make no mistake: This still doesn't leave you with the plush rear-seat accommodations you can find in other vehicle types. For example, this body style has about 4 inches less rear legroom than the GMC Terrain, a compact SUV.

Which Canyon Bed Length Is Right for Me?

There's not a lot of work that goes into picking a bed for your Canyon. Extended Cab models only come with a 6-foot-2-inch bed, which is one of the longest boxes in the class. You can get a Crew Cab model with a 5-foot-2-inch or the 6-foot-2-inch bed, though it's worth noting that the Crew Cab/long bed setup is only offered in four-wheel-drive models.

The other thing to remember if you want the Crew Cab and the long bed is that this configuration is nearly 19 feet long. That's only about 6 inches shorter than certain configurations of the GMC Sierra 1500, a full-size pickup truck.

Which Canyon Model Is Best for Towing and Hauling?

The GMC Canyon with the base four-cylinder engine can tow up to 3,500 pounds. That number isn't impressive, especially for a work-focused pickup truck. Some smaller crossovers have similar towing capacities, such as the GMC Terrain at 3,500 pounds and the GMC Acadia at up to 4,000 pounds. You should only go with this powertrain if your towing needs are light.

When properly equipped, the Canyon can tow up to 7,700 pounds, one of the highest capacities in the compact pickup truck class. You get that with the turbodiesel engine and rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel-drive diesel models can tow up to 7,600 pounds. The Canyon with the V6 engine can tow up to 7,000 pounds, so there isn't a lot of incentive to go with the diesel for what is ultimately a marginal gain in towing capacity.

The Canyon has a maximum payload capacity of 1,605 pounds, achieved with the Crew Cab, short box, and rear-wheel drive. A RWD Extended Cab model with the long box has a limit of 1,599 pounds in the bed, and you'll have an extra foot of space to spread it all out.

Which Canyon Model Is Best for Off-Roading?

Let's start with this: No GMC Canyon can match the off-road prowess of a dedicated model like the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Colorado ZR2 Bison, or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.

That said, you're not confined to the pavement when driving the Canyon. All trims offer four-wheel drive, though you definitely want the AT4 trim if off-roading is a priority. It comes with features like an off-road-tuned suspension, hill descent control, and a locking rear differential that help it traverse troubling terrain more easily than other Canyon models.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local GMC dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our GMC deals page.

See 2021 GMC Canyon specs and trims »

The Final Call

It's easy to drive and gets decent gas mileage. It's capable and has three powertrain options. The technology is user-friendly. Yes, the 2021 GMC Canyon does a lot of things well, which should make it a consideration for many compact pickup truck shoppers.

However, there are some areas where the Canyon trails rivals, including interior quality, off-road ability, and predicted reliability. That's why the Canyon finishes in the lower half of our class rankings, and that's why – though this GMC is undeniably appealing – you should shop around before driving one off the dealership lot.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Though newer pickups, such as the Ford Ranger, offer better safety suites and older trucks, such as the Nissan Frontier, have a price advantage, the 2021 GMC Canyon has found a sweet spot somewhere in between. The Canyon offers a broad engine selection, including a diesel that can tow 7,700 pounds. From the base Elevation Standard to the rugged new AT4 and the updated Denali, the 2021 GMC Canyon meets multiple needs with GMC's usual high level of refinement." -- Autotrader
  • "The Canyon offers some of the best towing capability in the class, along with a cushy, quiet cabin and road manners that feel more car-like than truckish. Seat comfort is impressive, and there's enough room — and enough tech — to make long road trips a pleasure. But don't think the Canyon can't do the business. Properly equipped, it can tow between 7,000 and 7,700 pounds depending on the engine. The standard four-cylinder is capable, if unremarkable, but the V6 upgrade or torque-rich turbodiesel engine are really where you'll see the Canyon shine." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "[The] GMC Canyon midsize pickup boasts a big dose of style and comfort unique to the GMC brand. … Offered in Extended Cab or Crew Cab configurations with 5- or 6-foot beds, the Canyon can be anything from simple work truck (SL) to luxurious workhorse (Denali)." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)


Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 16, 2020

Class-Low Sales: GMC Canyon sales have cratered this year, down by 38.5 percent compared to the same timeframe in 2019. In addition, the Canyon is last in sales in the compact pickup truck class and is being outsold by the class sales-leading Toyota Tacoma by almost 11 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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2021 GMC Canyon

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