By on August 31, 2016

2016 GMC Canyon 2WD SL, Image: General Motors

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that is — all things considered — the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

For years, there’s been a chorus cry from the internet: “Buyers can’t get a simple pickup truck anymore!” Well into the ‘90s, customers could waltz into many a dealer and drive off in a Spartan, four-cylinder, stick shift, rear-wheel-drive pickup with the footprint of a Twinkie.

Toyota doesn’t sell ‘em anymore. Buyers looking there for a four-cylinder stick have to pop for a 4×4. Nissan’s powertrain combo fits the bill, but its sub-$20,000 base price forgoes A/C and a radio, just like a 1987 Toyota Tercel EZ. What to do then? Surprisingly, we look to the General, which offers its Colorado and Canyon twins in poverty spec, yet still sees fit to include a few unexpected features.

The SL trim on GMC’s Canyon is an extended cab layout with the rear seat binned. Just as well, since the things are as upright and uncomfortable as a church pew. Use the space to store your testosterone-laden power tools, which you totally have because you’re buying a truck, right?

2016 GMC Canyon 2WD SL Interior, Image: General Motors

The four-pot 2.5-liter cranks out 200 horsepower funnelled through a six-speed manual and a 4.10 rear axle. With a light and unladen box, smoky burnouts should happen with ease. Vinyl covers the floor, allowing for a hosing out before a night on the town. The $0 Onyx Black paint looks sharp while the $0 Summit White will grant you access to all the construction sites in town because everyone will think you’re a contractor.

A backup camera, a feature sadly absent from my own six-year-old Ram 1500, appears at this price point and will surely help with trailer-hookup duties. Hitching the family camper solely with voice commands and hand gestures is a test of marital strength (at least in the Guy household). When not providing an aft view, the color 4.2-inch infotainment unit pumps out tunes through six speakers. Buyers of the original Nissan Hardbody never had it so good.

Paradoxically, the spare tire has a diameter two inches greater than its actual wheels, proving the scales of economy in a big company, as do standard power windows, tilt steering wheel, and power driver’s seat. GM’s beancounters — famous for cutting content to the bone — appear to have helped the situation at this end of the spectrum.

If the GMC’s standard equipment LED headlight mascara on this $21,880 is too feminine for your macho tastes, try on an equivalent Bowtie and save $885. That’ll buy you a few power tools.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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73 Comments on “Ace of Base: GMC Canyon 2WD SL...”


  • avatar

    good marketing of a great truck.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    and as is typical of a base model… none in stock anywhere.

    if you want one you will need to order one.

    at which point the dealer will try to give you a deal on an in-stock near-base model. so a good price and the have it right now motivation means you probably end up with a slightly higher price and better-optioned vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      st1100boy

      I found a base Colorado, 6-speed manual even, at a Chevy dealer 15 miles from my house. Took the thing for a test drive and found it surprisingly well equipped, comfortable, and quiet on the freeway.

      But my oh my, was it ever slow. Wow. Glacial. I don’t know if I’ve ever driven any vehicle at wide open throttle more than I drove that truck. It might be OK lightly loaded and in town, but on the highway? Overtaking on two lane roads would be exciting in all the wrong ways. Towing anything more than a single dirtbike a one rail trailer would be an exercise in patience and/or futility.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        4 cylinder pickup.

        Is not for “passing fast on narrow road while loaded”.

        Is not for “towing”.

        If doing those, don’t be buying 4 cylinder pickup.

        (Says the guy who had a 4 cylinder Toyota pre-Tacoma for 18 years.

        Plenty fast enough empty; slow overloaded and up hills.

        Is truck, not is racecar.)

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      This. Even on the commercial lots here the “base” trucks all have toolboxes,lumber racks and whatever else they can bolt on to jack the price.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        And here’s the rub… it takes a while to find it but this thing weighs 3,880lb so with a 200hp 191lb/ft motor this is not going to be a fun experience.

        • 0 avatar
          st1100boy

          The 2.5 is indeed a dog. A slow dog with a bad hip.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Note, maybe 7 or 8 hundred pounds more than my old Toyota; maybe 25% more mass, tops.

          But with 80 more horsepower (200 vs 117) and 51 lb-ft more torques (191 vs 140); maybe 60% more horsepower and 30% more torque.

          That tells me “better power-to-weight ratio”, thus probably faster, given sane transmission choices and what looks to be a similar rear ratio.

          The 22RE moved it well enough, empty, and I’m sure the GM 2.5 will move this thing well enough.

    • 0 avatar
      wolfinator

      I did an autotrader search – there are zero base Canyons within 500 miles of me. I would have to drive ~1,000 miles to get one.

      Oh well, it seems like a nice deal in theory.

    • 0 avatar
      jamesbrownontheroad

      For our Canadian friends, I’ve found one in rural Saskatchewan, CAD$$24,608. Makes me want to emigrate to the prairie.

      http://www.rosetownmainline.net/inventory/New-2016-GMC-Canyon/303299

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Gee, here’s an idea: how about a base REGULAR CAB!

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      None offered, in any trim – every Canyon/Colorado is a four-door. I also found that strange.

      After a test drive, I’d opt for the four full-size doors, if you’ll do any sort of driving with adults in the back seat. It was comical watching our 6′-4″ sales rep unfold himself from the aft compartment.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        Playing with the configurator shows a few things… obviously there’s no regular cab, I dont blame them. Not a fan of the bolt upright seating of a regular cab and really, that foot of space is perfect for day to day use for keeping expensive items you dont want in the bed. We call them king cabs, extended cabs whatever.

        Also the 4 cyl. has no auto option which is a bummer for the real world… for the TTAC world where the real men drive manuals… sure.

        You need the 3.6 v6 (‘high feature?’) for auto.

        That alone kills for it pretty much everyone. Fleets dont want manual.

        Otherwise this is a nice truck. I’d be happy with a manual with a set of jump seats in the back.

        2wd is probably fine for most people, I dont expect 2.5 four is enough for serious 4wd work anyway.

        Also is the 4.10 rear axle an LSD? You kind of need that and not the fake “electronic LSD” common out there.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The Frontier offers 4-cyl, 4×2 in either manual or automatic.

        • 0 avatar
          Trucky McTruckface

          If you step up to the next trim level, simply called “Canyon” for reasons that make sense to no one, the automatic is optional (with the four cylinder. This model also comes with the jump seats and other luxuries like carpet.

          The V6/automatic ads $1885 to the bottom line, for an MSRP of $26,120 before (inevitably generous) incentives and haggling. I think that’s the really “ace” configuration here.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        I saw two white, 2 door, base model Colorados used to deliver parts at the local Advance Auto store last week. They looked brand new.
        This was the first honest work truck I’ve seen in the wild in a long time.
        Well done General!

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          “2 door” meaning an extended cab, or regular cab? If the former: all extended cabs have four doors. If the latter: then they may have “looked brand new,” but they couldn’t be any any newer than 2012.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Why? It would have no space beyond two bucket seats, and CAFE regs would mean it would have to get a lot higher MPG unless they made it with a bed about 7.5′ long or so, which would defeat the purpose of offering it if it was the same OAL as an extended or crew cab. And still no one would buy it save a handful of Internet commentors.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Regular cab trucks are the brown diesel wagons of the pickup world. Worse in every practical way than their replacements, but huge for the nostalgic contrarian. “Cars were so much better when they were worse!”

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Something had to ‘give’. Fleet and other cheapskates loved regular cabs a little too much. I can’t believe they weren’t taken away sooner. They were a better bargain than some compact cars on the same lot, with loads better resale value, for those than didn’t necessarily need a car. The regular cab midsize was a lose/lose for automakers.

      The Frontier forced a King cab for the last decade, and sales dropped considerably. Now that all force an extended cab, Frontier sales are rising steeply.

  • avatar
    baconator

    Good power for a 4-cylinder. What’s the tow rating on this configuration? Would it tow a race car on an aluminum trailer?

    • 0 avatar
      st1100boy

      No way you’d want to tow a car with the 2.5. The spec sheet might look impressive, but that 200 hp is really not enough for the unladen truck, let alone a trailer.

      I occasionally tow a motorcycle on a one rail trailer with a V6 Mustang or an Explorer, and I’d far rather use either of those vehicles than a 2.5 Colorado/Canyon.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I’d say it’s enough for the truck by itself.

        But I’d never want to tow even a light race car, on a light trailer, with that thing.

        I’m not sure I’d *want* to with the base V6, either, but it at least wouldn’t be suicidal for the drivetrain and performance.

        If you’re towing a car, even a light one, more than “across town”, you want a boosted 6 or a V8.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    Um, it IS a base regular cab.

    Just because four door pickups have replaced minivans as family haulers doesn’t make them “regular”.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    This would be a perfect 2nd first car/truck for my kids. First one not so much as the H.S parking lot tears them up, but for a college ride, this is it.

    Now all I need is the B&B to buy the heck out of them in MT trim so I can have my pick of the litter in six years!

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Seems like a honest truck to me, I am not a Pickup driver but as others have said I can see this as a first good set of wheels for a collage grad or someone who just wants a 2 car in the family that is shared by several members of the family. Hell I would buy this over a F150 in a heartbeat at least it would fit in my driveway.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Rounden the wheel wells, lose the flares!

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Also, why does a 4×2 truck have 10 inches of space in the wheel wells? Lower the body 6 inches and you can take that stupid lip spoiler off and improve the fuel economy as a bonus. And then middle agers will be able to get in without throwing a hip.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    That’s a great deal on a nice truck.

    Too many people think you must turn in your man card if you buy 2WD. To me, it means you only purchased what you need.

    FYI: backup cameras are government-mandated for 2018, so mfrs are phasing them into every product. Their presence will shortly lose its novelty, just like anti-lock brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      The man card thing is easily turned around:

      What? You need 4WD to handle this little bit of snow? It’s barely 10″. You must be 4″.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      I know this comment will bring the “I made it through the winter of ’96, through 18 inches of snow, with only 100lbs of sand in the back of my 2wd F-150, people who need need 4wd need to learn how to drive.”

      But for me? I couldn’t imagine living in a place that gets real snow A LOT and not having 4wd on my truck. You can load down the bed with sand bags, but nothing was quite as magic as my Silverado’s auto 4wd kicking in.

      That’s just in winter, thats without the times 4wd helped me in the slippery, wet, summer months in my incredibly hilly town. We’re not talking life or death situations, but it’s nice to be able to get where your going with as little drama as possible.

      If I lived somewhere south I’d definitely consider a 2wd over a 4wd, I just wish they didn’t look so dorky.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        4WD has its place.

        It’s ironic that the light rear end on trucks often demands 4WD just to move the vehicle in light snow, whereas more weight-balanced vehicles often do fine with FWD or 2WD.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          How much weight is generally necessary on something like this or a 2WD Ranger to get it moving in the snow?

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            My Dad has had 2wd pickups always and we live in Pittsburgh. Last one was a Nissan Titan. The Rangers always got about 120 lbs of sand. And snow tires. And not the good snow tires, the chunky ones that rode like crap and sounded terrible above 40mph. That Titan went fairly well with Blizzaks at all 4 corners and 200lbs of sand in the back.

            My wife and I had an 03 Legacy sedan. The AWD was truly useful about four times in three years. Not enough for me to consider it imperative for use. Not for the weight or performance penalty. I started buying dedicated snow tires and haven’t looked back.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks.

            I’ve realized as well here in Ohio that my snow driving needs are better served by a truck type vehicle, and my regular passenger car does not need AWD. Too much drag all the time on the fuel economy, as well as weight penalties.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            What kind of “performance penalty” does an AWD Legacy sedan have?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I read that as “fuel economy performance” versus a FWD or RWD implementation.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            Corey is correct. I meant the added weight, complexity and mileage penalty of AWD aren’t worth it to me.

            That year of Legacy was a performance penalty. That car was a dog, I’m sure something was wrong with it but could never figure out what and neither could the dealer. I didn’t expect a 165hp flat 4 and a 4 spd automatic with AWD to be exciting, but a friends 02 Forester with the same drivetrain was rather sprightly compared to the Legacy.

            The Legacy had trouble breaking 16 mpg in town (lots of hills in Pittsburgh) and a too long overdrive meant constant gear hunting on the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        I drove my Trans Am in the winter for years in western Massachusetts. Snow tires and positraction, you’ll survive. Ground clearance will get you before traction does, and 4WD will not help you with stopping.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Which is why my next compact CUV may well be FWD (*ducks tomatoes*). My sister does just as well with hers; all I do with my AWD button in the winter is make rooster tails in freshly-covered parking lots. I cannot and will not give up any ground clearance, though. That’s gotten me out of trouble as much as or more often than AWD.

          I think my only hangup is that on a basic level, I might be uncomfortable with the concept of one axle being completely “dead,” neither steering nor driving the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Empty 2WD pickups on rainy, very steep downtown Seattle streets are entertaining to watch. Not so entertaining, though, when you’re the guy behind the wheel who can’t get the truck to move because even a bit of power just spins the wheels.

      There’s a reason you won’t find any 2WD trucks on the lot at western Washington dealers, save the occasional fleet special.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    This could’ve been a cool article, but the snark kills anything it had going for it.

    I know this place will always be more Truth About Why You Should Drive a Wagon or Van then Truth About Why CUV’s and Trucks Arent as Bad as You Think, but still.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The premise of dismissing the Frontier 4×2 because it lacks AC and radio doesn’t really work. There’s one option package for the base Frontier, which is the radio/bluetooth, AC, cruise control package. It adds $1,200.

    The MSRP is then $20,390 – cheaper than the Chevrolet and GMC.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The WT version of the Colorado offers an automatic as an option with the 4 cylinder.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Memories! My first vehicle was a 1997 Dodge Dakota, 2.5L 5-speed stick. Can’t believe it’s been 19 years! :O

    For those who think 200HP is slow, that baby had 120.

    • 0 avatar
      Sloomis

      120? My first new car was a stripper ’93 Ranger. 2.3L with stick. Cranked out something like 98 hp, from what I remember. Loved that car but it was by far and away the slowest vehicle I’ve ever owned. Had to laugh at the folks above complaining the 200 hp Colorado is too slow…

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        I learned to drive stick on a Ranger from that vintage. I was stockperson / yardkeeper for an HVAC contractor and that was good ol’ Truck #3. I remember the first time I was brave enough to take it on the road for a delivery… I never shifted higher than 3rd gear!

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        That makes my old ’94 Toyota look fast, with its 117 HP 2.4L…

        (Not the slowest thing I’ve ever owned, though.

        My Mercedes 300D had the same weight, or a bit more, and a 76HP I-5 diesel.

        On the other hand, it was nice to have a car you could floor from *every stop*.)

    • 0 avatar
      mattwc1

      My current beater truck is an almost 20 year Ranger 4wd with the 3.slow engine and auto. Now that is slow, albeit reliable engine.

      My first truck was a 1988 B2200 that was slow by any standards but fun and always willing.

      My 1997 Ranger (2.3 Lima/5pseed) also was slow with a capital S.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Available in 2 colors with no available packages or options. Pass.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So do can you keep the SL trim and order a posi/locking rear diff? That would be a requirement for a 2wd around here if you expect it to be capable.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    If the 4.10 rear is standard, what’s optional? Or does it need that short of a rear end just to get going?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Of course it does.

      It weighs 3,800 pounds and has a straight 4.

      To move with any payload at all you need a 4.10 or 4.30, in that class.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        I would’ve thought a 4.10 would be the absolute top-of-the-line off-road-only ratio on a midsize, with the “lesser” ones being something like a 3.73, 3.55, 3.31, etc. You can’t even get a half-ton with anything shorter than 4.10.

        As late as the late ’90s, you could get a full-size 4×2 pickup with a 3.08 rear (maybe you still can). In the early ’80s, the Big 3 offered economy packages (Dodge called theirs “Miser”) on the basic half-ton 4×2 RCSB or LB with the basic six-cylinder engine, 3OTT or 4OTF with overdrive, and a 2.something rear (2.47 is the tallest I’ve found, from Ford).

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Remember this is a truck with a 6sp and that 6th may be a really long legged OD that makes those 4.10 gears like 3.73 or 3.55s with the lesser OD ratio of a 5sp like in the old days.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Drzhivago138,
      With a couple hundred horsepower how and why would it have trouble to “get going”?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        I don’t know; that’s why I asked. But why else would it be necessary to put a 4.10 axle in a base model midsize pickup?

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Drzhivago138,
          I would think the lower diff ratio makes up for the 191ftlb of torque.

          The 200hp and 0-60 times in 9 seconds indicates the engine needs to be on the boil to make it jump.

          I did read some one above claimed to have test drove a manual version and stated it was slow. I ask does he know how to read and drive a manual? Especially like I stated 9 seconds to 60. That is acceptable.

          I’d say this will tow 4 000lbs without a worry. This would suit many who just want nice pickup to do errands and even tow a fishing boat to the dam or river.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “With a couple hundred hp…”

        It’s really a vague figure without more info. It means something different for every type, size, and cylinder count. Is it a peaky 200? And what are the trans ratios?

  • avatar
    Sloomis

    Love everything about this truck. A base model midsize 4-cylinder pickup with a stick shift is one of my dream vehicles, and Canyon/Colorado I find nice looking enough to maybe even forswear my GM boycott. Hope this kind of thing still exists when I’m a retired empty nester and don’t need room for a bunch of kids…

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Sloomis,
      I do as well …… except for that ridiculous grille overly animated grille. This types of grilles are what I’d expect as a Chinese interpretation of what a US pickup looks like.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I’m amused by the stubby car shifter in the console. A truck stick should be at least two feet long. :p

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      I am unamused by the fact it even has a console. Out out out !

      The most excited I have gotten about a car was the 07 Ford Ranger I saw on a lot one Sunday morning: vinyl bench seat, rubber flooring, stick, 4cyl, crank windows, no console and AC. It did have a bed cover and fancy wheels, but it seemed so purpose built as to be the perfect small truck.

      And I am not even into trucks at all, but that one hit every nerve.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Just how squirrelly would this be in the snow? I would put winter tires on it but none of my offspring have ever driven a RWD vehicle before and I had my share of ‘bad’ experiences driving around a full size van in Ontario winters.

    This article and vehicle have really piqued my curiosity. If OK In the winter it could make the ideal 3rd vehicle in our driveway.

    Came to $24,010Cdn on GM Canada’s website, including Freight but not tax. Only option was/is the ‘floor liner’.

    Some other minor issues i) the standard ‘sound system’ seems truly lacking, ii) does it include bluetooth, iii) this package will not allow you to choose the engine block heater as an option.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I like the Canyon …………… except for that little d!ck front end (grille).

    I did read something regarding the performance of the Canyon’s performance with the 2.5 in line four. The funny thing is many on this site comment on how great the in line six fitted to the XJ Cherokee’s were. The Canyon 2.5 has more horsepower than the XJ’s in line six.

    This engine in the Canyon returns roughly the same 0-60 times (in the 9 sec bracket) and far superior FE in a heavier vehicle. Not to bad is it?

    So, how many of you people here at TTAC do 0-60 in 9 seconds at the lights?

    It’s a nice pickup ……….. except for that front end.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      A straight 6 with 200 hp has much less peaky power than a 4 cylinder. While 200 hp looks good on paper, actual driving may prove otherwise. What’s the power curve? How much torque? I’m sure it’s fine for what you pay for, but it’s clearly not for heavy loads. Pizza delivery? It might be to slow for that.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Damn it, I was gonna say probably pretty good but my old man when he was around in the pre EB F-150 days purchased a base F150 with a V6. I was pretty impressed but I think that came with nearly 300 horsepower.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Why no exterior shots of this stripper model? Steel wheels on skinny tires or no? Black bumpers on white trucks?

    All the pics I found on-line are SLE glamour shots.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The front bumpers are the same color as the body and the rear bumpers are chrome. The strip version of these trucks do not look that bad and are far from the definition of yesterday’s stripper truck. Also the Base model of the Colorado/Canyon comes in white, black, and silver which I have no trouble with and have a preference for silver which I had on another truck and liked The only option I would add would be the block heater for the Winter. Big Al I prefer the looks of the Colorado but I don’t mind the looks of the Canyon which looks more like a smaller Sierra. The Colorado/Canyon would be my first choice in the Base trim with the 6 speed manual in silver.

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