Ace of Base: GMC Canyon 2WD SL

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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?

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.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • DenverMike DenverMike on Aug 31, 2016

    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.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 31, 2016

    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.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
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