$8,444 - $17,115

2012 GMC Canyon Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 GMC Canyon was new.


Performance: 6.9

Reviewers say that although the 2012 Canyon has adequate engine power, it’s outdone by competitors at nearly every turn. Its smaller engines aren’t powerful enough to be practical choices in a pickup that many owners will use for towing and hauling, and its V8 engine’s capable performance comes with poor fuel economy.

  • "Most of these trucks' rivals offer V6 engines that are smoother and more refined than the 5-cylinder engine." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The GMC Canyon comes with one of three engines: a 2.9-liter in-line four-cylinder that makes 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, a 3.7-liter in-line five-cylinder that makes 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque or a  5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. The V8 is optional on the extended cab and crew cab models, and standard with the optional off-road suspension.  The four-cylinder is available with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. The five-cylinder and V8 engines both come with the automatic. 

While the four- and five-cylinder engines get acceptable gas mileage for a truck, they don’t provide enough power for most reviewers. The V8 adds horsepower and towing capacity, but it gets the same gas mileage as the full-size Chevrolet Silverado, eliminating one of the common reasons consumers choose compact pickups in the first place. 

The EPA estimates that the four-cylinder engine with two-wheel drive and either transmission gets 18/25 mpg city/highway, which is above average for a compact pickup. With four-wheel drive and the five-speed manual transmission, the four-cylinder gets 18/24 mpg, and with the four-speed automatic, it gets 17/23 mpg. 

The five-cylinder engine gets 17/23 mpg with both two- and four-wheel drive. V8 models get 14/20 mpg with two-wheel drive and 14/19 mpg with four-wheel drive. By contrast, V8 models of the full-size GMC Sierra with four-wheel drive get better fuel economy and can tow one and a half tons more than the Canyon.

  • "Lackluster performance from its base engines, including a five-cylinder that pales against competitive V6s, reinforces our suspicions. Still, the base four-cylinder is competent enough for light around-town duty, and there's also a stout, very capable -- and very thirsty -- V8." -- Edmunds
  • "With either transmission, the 4-cylinder engine has adequate power for around-town driving, but lacks reserve for passing or hauling heavy loads. Five-cylinder versions are sprightly with 2WD, adequate with 4WD." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Standard four-cylinder engine kills the 0-to-60 time and the fun." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that the GMC Canyon rides well enough, as long as you don’t check the box for the optional off-road suspension. The optional off-road suspension package isn’t as smooth, and reviewers say it isn’t worth the extra money if you’ll drive the Canyon mostly on pavement.

  • "The body-on-frame chassis is extremely rigid and you can feel it in the way the Canyon handles, both off-road and while cornering. Even over washboard roads, the Canyon exhibited none of the dash-rattling or squeaks that might be expected, although the rear axle does hop around quite a bit." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Better than most compact pickups, provided you stick with the base suspension. Still evident, however, are abrupt vertical motions over bumps and dips, with some jittery feel on badly broken surfaces. The base suspension furnishes the best ride. Canyon's available off-road suspension grows tiresome on long trips." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Chassis flex and numb steering limit handling responses." -- Car and Driver

Towing and Hauling

When properly equipped, the Canyon can tow up to 6,000 pounds, an average amount for compact pickup trucks. The Ram Dakota V8’s 7,250 pound towing capacity is the best in its class, although the 2011 model is the last one that will be produced.

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