The 2021 GMC Canyon is ostensibly a more luxurious Chevrolet Colorado. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a luxury truck. In fact, the consensus among reviewers is that there are better options for luxury mid-size trucks. Despite not being a true luxury truck, reviewers have commended the GMC for its ride quality and quiet cabin. The 2021 model also offers a new off-road trim, the AT4. While it’s not as capable as say a Jeep Gladiator, it does add a skid plate and off-road suspension. Combine all that with the Canyon’s standout towing figures and you have a solid mid-size pickup. In fact, it’s one of the best all-around options in its class.
New for 2021
The biggest difference between the 2020 and 2021 Canyon is the AT4 trim. The Canyon AT4 comes trail-ready with 31-inch Goodyear off-road tires, an automatic locking rear differential, GMC’s advanced hill descent control, a skip plate, and an off-road suspension. The top-tier Denali trim also receives new standard features in the form of chrome side steps and a revised grille. Nice touches there on the Denali, but nothing too groundbreaking.
Exterior Styling: From Construction Site to Valet Stand
The base model Canyon can best be described as a smart-looking work truck. That isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that there’s not nearly enough chrome on it to qualify as a luxury pickup. That’s really the realm of the Canyon Denali, which features a chrome grille, side mirrors, and 20-inch wheels. The Denali also comes standard with a side step and LED headlights and fog lamps. Regardless of the trim, the 2021 Canyon’s blocky and boxy design stands in contrast to some of its more svelte and almost crossover-like competitors, such as the Honda Ridgeline or the Ford Ranger.
What’s Under the Hood: Yes, There’s a Diesel Available
The 2021 Canyon is available with three different engines and two different transmissions. Powering the entry-level model is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That six-speed is also the lone transmission option for the available turbodiesel. The diesel checks in at 2.8-liters and four cylinders. It’s rated at 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.
A 3.6-liter V6 good for a muscular 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque is also on offer. The V6 is the only Canyon to come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission. With the exception of the base engine, all Canyons can be had with four-wheel drive.
According to Edmunds, the 2021 Canyon is surprisingly quick. It can sprint from 0-to-60 mph in just 6.9 seconds when equipped with the V6 engine and the eight-speed. That’s pretty fast for a large pickup. The outlet also praised the truck’s car-like handling, steering, and braking. When it comes to off-roading, the verdict from Car and Driver was mixed. While the new AT4 trim is certainly capable, they said, you may be better off considering the Colorado ZR2 if you’re wanting to tackle the hills in a GM vehicle.
The Canyon’s base four-cylinder engine can tow a max of 3,500 pounds. Meanwhile the V6 is rated at 7,000 pounds and the diesel is capable of towing up to 7,700 pounds. How much you can haul depends on other factor too. The extended cab is rated between 1,400 and 1,567 pounds and the crew cab 1,398 to 1,578 pounds. Depending on the cab, the Canyon is available with either a five-foot-two-inch or a six-foot-two-inch bed.
The 2021 Canyon is tied for first with its corporate cousin, the Chevy Colorado, for the most-towing capacity among mid-size pickup trucks. Its payload capacity is above average. However, it’s not even close to the class-leading Ranger with its max payload capacity of 1,860 pounds.
In addition to offering the most torque, the Canyon’s turbodiesel engine is also its most fuel efficient. The EPA rated it at 20/30/23 (city, highway, combined) mpg. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder barely edges out the V6 at the pump, getting an estimated 19/25/22 mpg. Lastly, the V6 averages a slightly worse 18/25/21 mpg. Adding four-wheel drive to the mix knocks those numbers down a mile or two across the board.
What’s Inside: Luxurious Enough for Most
The 2021 Canyon is more work truck than luxury truck when it comes to standard interior features, which is highlighted by a four-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. Of course, there are plenty of luxury items on offer, including wood trim, leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a heated steering wheel, automatic climate control, and heated and ventilated front seats. While the 2021 Canyon doesn’t offer class-leading luxury features as standard, its available amenities are luxurious enough for most. They are more than enough to keep it competitive, at least.
The 2021 Canyon comes standard with a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, a six-speaker sound system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Available upgrades includes a seven-speaker Bose sound system, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, a wireless charging pad, WiFi hotspot, and GPS navigation. While those features might be attractive options, that standard touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay should be enough tech for most truck buyers.
When it comes to safety tech and driver’s aids, the Canyon is a mixed bag. The good bit of that bag is the Canyon’s standard tire fill alert. It’s a system that issues audible and visual alerts when tires have reached the perfect level of pressure. Another notable standard safety feature is Teen Driver, a safety system that enables parents to permanently enable safety features, limit the Canyon’s top speed, and stereo volume. It can also issue a report card after each trip.
Unfortunately, the Canyon doesn’t offer anything else in the way of standard safety tech. Yes, a forward collision alert system, lane-departure warning, and rear parking sensors are available. However, the GMC is still at the back of the pack when it comes to safety — even with this tech optioned.
Pricing and Trim Levels: You Pay for Luxury, and Going Off-Road
The 2021 Canyon is available in three body styles and in four trims. The three body styles are: extended cab (with seating for four and a 74-inch bed), crew cab, short box (with seating for five and a 61.7-inch bed), and the best of both worlds option, the five-seat, 74-inch bed crew cab, long box. The Canyon’s four available trim levels are the Elevation, Elevation Standard, AT4 and Denali.
Elevation and Elevation Standard are the only two trims available for the extended cab body style and start at $27,595 and $31,195, respectively. Both trims can be optioned with the available V6 engine, which pushes their price tags to $29,080 and $32,680.
The crew cab body style can be had in Elevation Standard, Elevation, AT4 Cloth, AT4 Leather and Denali. This body style isn’t a bad option, especially for those who want to save some money on the higher-tier AT4 and Denali trims. The crew cab AT4 Cloth and AT4 Leather trims start at $39,395 and $41,195, while the Denali runs $42,095. All three come equipped with the 3.6-liter V6 and are available with the turbodiesel engine. The AT4 models come equipped with four-wheel drive.
Every trim except the Elevation Standard is available on the crew cab, long box body style. All trims come standard with four-wheel drive and the available V6 engine. The Elevation starts at $38,795, which is slightly less than the much more capable AT4 Cloth and AT4 Leather trims with their $39,995 and $41,795 price tags. At $45,895, the range-topping Denali trim is the most expensive Canyon on offer.
The Last Word
The 2021 GMC Canyon is a jack of all trades. Spending on how it’s optioned, the Canyon can be a capable off-roader, a luxury truck fit for commuters, or a work truck brawny enough for any construction site. At its core, though, the Canyon is comfortable and more than capable. It offers a smooth ride and more towing and hauling capabilities than you probably need. It’s not the most luxurious truck on the market, but the 2021 Canyon is a solid all-arounder. It deserves a test drive if you’re in the market for a new mid-size pickup truck.