Canadians love to buy small vehicles – hatchbacks, sedans, and crossovers – but it seems that we draw the line at pickups, which have languished near the bottom of sales charts for close to a decade. Of course, this national reluctance can’t be completely blamed on the whims on new vehicle shoppers, as the only two mid-size truck options on the market (the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier) are nearly museum pieces in terms of their features, technology and drivetrains.
Enter the 2015 GMC Canyon and 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, a pair of all-new entry-level pickups designed to disrupt this corner of the market. The idea seems so simple, really: design a truck platform that leverages modern fuel efficiency and horsepower alongside a manageable footprint and up-to-date equipment list. And yet, it’s taken until now for a manufacturer to step up and put some skin in the game alongside the aging dinosaurs that have sat there treading water and absorbing limited mid-size demand.
The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon certainly shine when compared to their Toyota and Nissan rivals, but more to the point, these two trucks seem destined to fulfill a greater promise and pry more than a few drivers away from the small crossovers and SUVs that have proven so popular. It’s a careful confluence of engineering know-how and marketing savvy, presented in truck form, and it’s one that seems likely to succeed.
2015 GMC Canyon. Click image to enlarge
Not Mid-Size – Right-Size
Shrink a truck too much and you end up with a model that’s too small to be useful. Conversely, if you pump up its dimensions until they’re just below that of a full-size pickup then you wind up in self-parody. The Colorado and the Canyon manage to walk the line between utility and daily practicality by adopting an overall length that ranges between 5,395 and 5,705 mm, with the former figure 400 mm shorter than the shortest Silverado or Sierra. Combined with their 1,886 mm width, the end result is a vehicle that’s hassle-free in urban traffic and much easier to park.
Despite their more modest footprint, this downsizing has little impact on either truck’s usefulness. Bed lengths come in six-foot, two-inch and five-foot, two-inch flavours, and the crew cab body style available with both the Chevrolet and GMC twins provides ample room for four passengers across two rows, with room for five in a pinch. The extended cab model forgoes the former’s full-size four-door setup in favour of a pair of rear-hinged half-doors that open up on an interior ‘trunk’ that also comes with a pair jumpseats/torture devices that are suitable only for the very young or extremely flexible.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado. Click image to enlarge
Power Plus Stability
If you’re looking to haul something that doesn’t quite fit inside the cabin of the Colorado or the Canyon then you’re still in luck, as the pair provide up to 3,175 kilos (7,000 lb) of towing capacity along with 708 kg (1,560 lb) of bed payload. This is made possible in large part by the inclusion of a direct-injected 3.6L V6 engine on the options sheet that delivers 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. I had the chance to sample this motor in a number of different scenarios, including empty, hauling a pair of bikes, and towing a 2,000-kg load, and it acquitted itself well in each instance. Acceleration was marred somewhat by the six-speed’s unwillingness to kick down immediately to the lowest possible gear, but there was no question that the 305-horse unit felt up to each task.
The competence of the V6 had me questioning the place of the base 2.5L four-cylinder engine in the Chevrolet and GMC lineups. Its 200 ponies and 191 lb-ft of twist were certainly adequate, but given that there’s only a minor fuel efficiency gain to be had by sticking with this mill (11.7 L/100 km versus 13.0 for the V6 around town), and that its selection effectively halves towing capacity, I’d say that unless you are pinching pennies you’ll want the six-cylinder under the hood. Four-wheel drive is available with either motor, and the 2.5L adds the wrinkle of a six-speed manual gearbox for those willing to stick with the entry-level trim.