Midsize trucks are hot. Actually, all trucks are hot right now, have been for some time, and will likely continue to be so for the foreseeable future, at least here in North America. But midsizers have seen quite a lot of growth over the last few years with some new (or renewed) competition and without leaving much, if any, evidence of doing so at the expense of larger ones.
GMC’s Canyon, sister to the Chevrolet Colorado, has remained as a relatively minor player in the game, however there’s not really any reason why that should be so. After all, GMC is General Motors’ truck division and sells nothing but. Nowadays there is more visual differentiation from the sister model at Chevy and instead of just opting for the same thing with a different badge, the trucks have more of their own identity, as with this new AT4 version of the Canyon.
The GMC in this case actually looks larger than the Chevy, most of which comes down to the front end. Obviously drawing inspiration from the larger models, the grille is a scaled down version of the ones on those trucks, but in the end does impart a more square-jawed front than does the more sculpted front of its sister. In the AT4 variant it’s not shiny chrome, but rather sports a dark chrome look that tones it down quite a bit, of course it stands out on this Summit White example, however the large squared off headlights and pronounced LED foglights serve to act as highlights that pull attention elsewhere as well.
With a lower front bumper in black, but also the removal of the airdam in this one that has the supplemental and grandly named AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition Package on top of already being the AT4 trim level, it attempts to show it’s serious and not just a gussied up street truck. Of course the required red front tow hooks (two of them) are included here as well to convey its off-road credentials. I guess if you don’t need easy to see tow hooks then you really weren’t trying hard enough to get stuck to begin with.
While the hooks are standard, the Package continues with the black wheels that supplant the perfectly attractive non-black standard items and are still wrapped in 31″ diameter All-Terrain tires, a 1″ leveling kit, a set of rocker protection rails, an approximately 1/4″ thick skid plate under the front end and a smaller one under the middle of the truck.
However it doesn’t go whole hog in that there is no upgraded famous maker suspension package or bespoke bodywork or anything like that. Which is fine, the AT4 is actually GMC’s mid-priced offering with the Elevation and Denali trims bracketing it. Around here at least, the AT4 trim level across GMC’s range appears to be very popular and the new naming conventions seem to help set it further apart from the Chevys with their trim levels that have carried the same alphanumeric names forever and are similar to what GMC used to use.
Available in two bed lengths measuring in at a couple of inches longer than five and six feet respectively, the Canyon AT4 can be had in four door Crew Cab format with either bed length, the extra foot results in an upcharge of only a few hundred dollars. Included with every Canyon is a rear bumper with handy cutouts for ‘yer boots, although the truck is low enough to make the climb into the bed less of a scramble than with a larger one. Still, it helps, the climb doesn’t get any easier as one gets older. The Canyon in general can also be had as an extended cab with the longer bed only, but not as an AT4.
Around the back end the taillights are attractive with a clear exterior lens and colored lamps inside and the tailgate, while not powered, is nicely damped and locks with the central locking, This one doesn’t have a tow package installed but a Canyon like this one can tow up to 7,000 pounds which seems perfectly adequate for a smaller truck. Payload caacity is right around 1,500 pounds for one like this.
Opening the doors reveals a pretty much all black interior (appropriately named Jet Black) but with stitching in a color named Kalahari. The front seats are leather covered with a trim band around the edges that sort of curiously looks like it has a visual carbon fiber pattern but of course is soft and not at all rigid, and are comfortable to slide into without a huge step up. The rock slider rails protecting the rocker panels jut out just enough to protect the cab without becoming a huge hindrance to have to step over or worry about soiling the backs of your jeans.
Space is plentiful, while not as large as a full-sizer it’s no shoebox either, there’s no feeling of encroachment relative to a passenger and headroom was excellent, I and my 6’1″ frame with 32″ inseam exulted in several luxurious inches of it, a very stark contrast to the segment leader Tacoma specifically.
Interestingly the seats in front both have power controls for the bases but not the backrests. However they also have power lumbar controls on both sides (more or less only, fixed for location)
As far as the rest of the interior goes, there’s a large expanse of material fronting the cabin that’s delineated by a band of the same contrasting stitching as seen on the seats, it’s soft and squishy with similar on the doors and then the rest is mainly harder and durable plastic.
The steering wheel is leather-appointed and while I’m not really a fan of the sort of membrane covered buttons on this steering wheel, I can concede that they are likely a better solution for an interior that may get touched by wet or muddy hands than a plethora of small hard buttons with lots of crevices. These buttons include one to heat the steering wheel, as well as audio controls and cruise control(s). More audio controls for volume and preset selections are on the back of the wheel.
To the left of the wheel and slightly below are the automatic headlight knob and the 4WD selector knob – the downside is both are hidden by the wheel for which there really is no excuse, but on the upside the drive modes include an Automatic 4WD mode, making things so much easier for much of the year with constantly changing conditions on the road. Of course the standard 2Hi, 4Hi, and 4Lo are also available on the dial.
To the right of the wheel is the center stack, with a large 8″ touch screen, in this case equipped with Navigation as well as the standard Audio, HVAC, and Communication programs along with a menu of settings to adjust. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also included here and the Voice Recognition worked very well – it knew my phone was connected via Bluetooth but since I was asking to dial someone but had not uploaded my contacts, it actually apologized and then explained that I should use Siri to make my call through CarPlay instead of through it. Mom, is that you in there? It was a little odd, but appreciated and worked perfectly. Progress!
Another nicety is when talking on the phone via Bluetooth, the system turns down the fan speed (if it’s high) so that you can hear the other side of the conversation without it being drowned out by rushing air. Once the call is disconnected the HVAC system goes back to its quest to achieve the desired temperature.
I like GM’s Navigation imagery, I find the color palette soothing and the system display easy to read and understand. The same screen shows the camera view when packing up with very good resolution, again better than the class standard. The Bose audio system was decent here, it came as part of the larger infotainment package but didn’t necessarily wow anyone, however the upgrade is not overly expensive, we’ll get to that later as usual.
Below the screen is a single zone automatic HVAC system, and all knobs (including the audio ones above) were rubber covered with minimal play, feeling like quality pieces that would perform over the long haul. Buttons and knobs were large enough to be worked with normal gloves, but maybe not mittens or something really over the top.
Lower still is a lineup of toggles for stability control, lane departure assistance, parking assistance, hazard lights, trailering, descent control, and the cargo light. Between these was a tiny little cubby that somehow seemed as if made for my garage door opener, so that’s where I placed it. It’s too shallow for anything else really besides maybe a parking ticket stub. Right underneath were the buttons for the heated seats, in typical (and appreciated!) GM fashion with separate options to heat one’s back only or the whole seat.
At the bottom a fairly deep catch-all bin which is where the wireless charger should have been, however the charger mat was inexplicably placed at the rear of the console just below the console bin – the problem is that space isn’t large enough for a modern smartphone, in my case an iPhone 11 (not at all the latest or largest model), even without any case on it it can not lay flat to make contact with the charging surface, so it’s useless to most people in that regard. The front bin would have worked perfectly though for this.
Between these spaces lies the basically utterly conventional shifter but with gear selector/limiter buttons on the left side of the grip, and two cupholders to the right of it with a glossy plastic patterned surround. The passenger gets a decently sized glovebox ahead of them and an expanse of the soft material.
On the whole it falls pretty much right in the middle of the midsize market’s interiors, maybe with a bit more softness than most actually, in the end a design that is hard to find serious fault with and is fairly practical and easy to become familiar with.
The rear seat area is, as expected, not as good as in a fullsize truck, this Crew Cab is sort of like an extended cab fullsizer in that my knees were touching the front seatback and my head was at the headliner. My 12-year-old was perfectly comfortable, my 14-year-old said he would tolerate it for an hour or so but not all day. Fair enough.
The rear window has a manually opening slider portion and the rear seats can fold in various combinations. First the rear bench and back are split 2/3rds, 1/3rd and either portion of the back can fold down OR the seat bottom can fold up to give access to a set of storage compartments underneath.
I neglected to actually test if one side could have the seatback down while the other had the seat bottom up, but see no reason why that could not be so.
But there are a lot of options back here and the headrests fold down as well at the touch of the button on them. The seat bottom folds up by pulling a lever and the seatback folds down by pulling up on a strap at the top. It’s all quite intuitive.
While the truck has remote keyless entry and even remote start, both on a separate fob, you do need an actual bladed key to turn the engine on and drive away. Keys seem to be a feature of some of the midsize set, which some here will find very welcome I think. Twisting it causes the engine to instantly fire and settle into a quiet idle.
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