For most of us auto writers living in urban or suburban settings, a pickup truck assignment is a mixed blessing. On the up side, it means an opportunity to clean out basements and garages and get a load of junk off to the dump. On the down side, it means being burdened with an oversized vehicle that is fuel thirsty, less comfortable than a car and challenging to fit in many urban settings.
Enter the GMC Canyon (and its Chevy Colorado twin). Here GM has reintroduced a pickup truck that is smaller than the full-size Sierra/Silverado siblings, but larger and more rugged than the compact trucks of days gone by. When stepping up and into the Canyon, the first thing one notices is just how right-sized this rig is.
The next thing that catches a driver’s attention is how well GMC has sorted the Canyon’s interior.
With the All-Terrain package, the unique and stylish bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, and present the driver to a dashboard layout that is sensible and looks really good. Large, round analogue gauges with white numerals and red accents are easy to read and flank a crisp digital output that cycles through loads of information including everything from the health of the vehicle to navigation directions.
The dashboard’s centre stack is highlighted by an 8-inch touchscreen with bright, clean graphics and sensible operation (though it should be said that the touchscreen was resistant to cooperating with my gloved fingers). Volume, tuning and climate controls are operated via large, accessible knobs and buttons, and the whole thing feels like it is made of quality materials. It’s all very un-truck-like in fact.
Very un-truck-like describes much of the driving experience too. The on-road ride is surprisingly compliant; especially considering the All-Terrain package includes an off-road suspension set up. There’s a solidity to the structure of the Canyon that omits any of the shuddering or shimmying normally associated with stiffly sprung pickups as they crash over big bumps and potholes.
The steering, too, is sharper than I can ever recall experiencing in a pickup truck before. With just enough heft and precision – even on centre – through the thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel the Canyon could almost fool a driver into believing he is at the helm of a pricey sedan and not a rugged utility vehicle.
Around town and even at highway speeds, both road and wind noise is surprisingly well suppressed, again mimicking a car more than a truck. And even when the engine does make itself heard, the DOHC, direct-injected 3.6L V6 emits a refined snarl that sounds like it belongs in a new Cadillac, which is essentially where this engine came from (tuned here for better low-end grunt of course). Some may miss the rumbly gruffness of a big, lumpy truck engine – I did not.