There are a lot of options if you’re in the market for a midsize pickup truck, whether you need a crew cab with space for 4-5 adults or something just a bit more modest, utilizing the vehicle length for a longer truckbed instead. I’ve certainly driven quite a few over the last few years, ranging from 3/4-ton beasts to the smallest and most modest of pickup trucks with beds barely large enough for a children’s bicycle. And now there’s the Tesla Cybertruck, which ostensibly is in the same category, though it has such a radically different design it might be in a category all its own.
The three important dimensions for trucks of this size seem to be towing capacity, truckbed size, and passenger capacity. Comfort? Sound system? Safety features? Fuel efficiency? Important, but secondary by comparison. After spending a week driving the 2023 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4 Crew Cab, I can say with confidence that it shines in all of these areas. It handled some tough weather with aplomb and perfectly fit the towering cat stands I piled in the back and drove up to my daughter’s new place in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The vehicle I drove had a nice curb appeal with its Volcanic Red Tintcoat exterior and Jet Black / Timber interior:
Some vehicles I try to keep shiny and clean for their photo shoot, but the Canyon was plowing through rough weather for most of the week and you can see that it’s quite dirty on the sides. A sign of being used, rather than just taking its owner to the grocery store for more tofu, right? 😁
I found it to be a great height too, high enough off the ground for excellent clearance while still easy to enter and exit. Notice that as a Crew Cab configuration, it’s also a four-door. Rather surprisingly, the back window is a classic pickup truck design: sliding glass, no wiper, and only somewhat useful for visibility while driving. Those big side mirrors are a definite win and, of course, if you have a bed cover or cargo, you won’t be able to see directly behind you either. What I didn’t like, however, was that there weren’t cameras to compensate. Trucks are tricky to park in lots where the average vehicle is narrower and the GMC Canyon only has a modest backup camera. Nothing on the sides, no overhead view. I might have parked poorly more than once because of this, sorry to report.
Moving into the vehicle itself, it’s a solid, square, and dare I say it, very masculine design:
How is that masculine? A design that’s built on lots of squares and rectangles, with almost no curves or more flowing, organic design touches. It works and the vehicle’s quick to understand and comfortable. Well, maybe except for the clumsy windshield wiper controls on the left stick.
The main gauge display offers up a very utilitarian view of the vehicle, with a pitch and roll indicator if you’re driving in rough, uneven terrain or need to understand how that trailer affects your controls. Speaking of which, the Canyon with its hefty 2.7L turbo high-output engine and 8-speed automatic transmission has a hefty rated towing capacity of 7,700 pounds. By comparison, the vehicle itself only weighs 4,600 pounds.
No speedometer, no tachometer, but useful and important information to help you focus on what matters. Notice that I am driving exactly the speed limit in this photo too. Also, notice the mediocre fuel efficiency. EPA ratings are 17/21 so my 19.1 mpg is exactly in the middle and typical for the vehicle. If it gets this sort of fuel efficiency without a load in the bed or something hitched up, one has to wonder how inefficient it would be if you were towing a few tons for a distance. Fortunately, the general rule of thumb with vehicles is true with this GMC vehicle too: The worse the mpg, the bigger the gas tank, and the GMC Canyon has a 21.4 gallon tank.
The infotainment is a good size 11.3″ color display and it sports a feature I really like too:
In addition to 90% of the screen being dedicated to whatever’s being shown (including wireless Apple CarPlay or wireless Android Auto) it reserves a small strip on the left side to allow navigation to GMC-specific features too. The four circles on the top left? That gets you to Google Assistant. The infotainment system has built-in Google including a variation on Google Maps accessible without any smartphone paired. Notice also that there are specific trailering options for those of you wanting to ensure the best possible experience while taking your boat to the lake or tent trailer to the local campsite.
While we’re on this photo, the climate controls were exemplary too, with the temperature adjustment knobs also displaying the desired target temperature, with adjacent buttons and touch buttons for specific controls. Individual control buttons over multi-purpose buttons make for an easier user experience, making it really easy to manage seat heaters and the climate control system.
The steering wheel was a bit more cryptic but once I figured out which controlled which feature, I liked the up/down toggles on the left and right side of the steering wheel control bar. Can you find the music volume control? Trick question! It, and the next/prev track controls, are behind the steering wheel, one of my least favorite design features because there’s no way other than experimentation to ascertain which controls which feature.
Having said that I have to admit that I like the tiny trumpet icon below “AIRBAG” to remind you that’s also the horn control. There’s something about that trumpet icon that makes me feel I could find exactly the same symbol in a truck from the 1950s too, if not earlier!
The shifter offers a solid and classic gearshift with no fancy patterns to learn:
It also offers a wireless charging spot (that didn’t work for my iPhone 15 Pro as I drove, which is typical in my experience) along with both USB-C and USB-A ports if you want to use a charging cable. Old school, but at least it works 100% of the time. The drive mode control was a bit confusing in practice: when I tried to switch to 4x for some snow crawling, it bounced back to AUTO and kept me in 2x instead. I’m sure if I had cracked open the manual I would have been able to figure this out, but with all the interactive features, it was a surprise to find myself fighting the automated drive mode system.
Stepping out of the truck, let’s check out the rear legroom:
There ain’t much. Even with the front seats pulled forward, which is uncomfortable for bigger and taller drivers. This is a common failing with Crew Cab designs and you can just imagine the designers arguing about how adding 6″ to the rear passengers means you’re losing 6″ from the truck bed.
In the above, there are two other things worthy of note: The Timber trim on the Jet Black seats gives it a very smart appearance, but the Timber handle design on the doors just looked really dorky and susceptible to breakage in person. That was probably my least favorite feature of the entire interior design of the 2023 GMC Canyon AT4, though others might find it a fun touch.
The truckbed proved a very good size and really well designed with lots of tie-loops on the front and back. The bed liner is standard with the GMC Canyon, a smart move on their part, and the rear tailgate has a dampened open that’s much appreciated if you’ve experienced the startling THUNK! of standard tailgate hinges. Note also the Cornerstep on both sides of the bumper, helpful for people who need a bit of a step up to get into the back.
On the right side of the truck bed is a weatherproof 120V power outlet that seems bound to be helpful if you’re tailgating or have some tools or gear you need to power while on a job site or campsite. This is also standard with the Canyon and has nothing to do with the AT4 premium package.
Speaking of which, the AT4 premium package runs $1,840 and adds lots of safety features and amenities that take the truck just a little bit closer to a luxury vehicle, including a heated steering wheel, passenger seat adjuster, rear center armrest, wireless device charging, and more.
The drive experience was very good and the engine offers plenty of power without a trailer attached, though at the cost of fuel efficiency. There were two odd quirks I noticed during my test period, however. The truck I drove had an annoying squeak when the weather got below freezing, something that seemed to be related to the truck bed-to-truck cab connection behind the passenger side of the cab. Once it warmed up, the interior was acceptably quiet.
The other issue was stranger; it includes a blind-side monitor, but that would trigger for no reason. More than once I was the only vehicle on a back road at night just to have the blind-side monitor light up for a few seconds. Without a single car within 500′ of me in either direction. This was mostly on the driver’s side, but once or twice I noticed the passenger side rear view mirror also reacting in the same mysterious manner. Phantoms? Ghost trucks? Inexplicable.
Even with these few quirks, there’s a lot to recommend this tough, solid, and comfortable mid-size pickup truck. It has excellent curb appeal, is easy to enter and exit, has space for five (well, as long as the people in the front aren’t too tall), and has a very nice driving experience. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market for a pickup truck.
2023 GMC Canyon 4WD AT4 Crew Cab with 2.7L Turbo High-Output Engine and 8-Speed Automatic Transmission. BASE PRICE: $43,900. Options: AT4 Premium Package, Sunroof, Volcanic Red Tintcoat. AS DRIVEN: $49,395.00
Disclosure: GMC loaned me this truck for a week in return for this candid writeup. Thanks, GMC!