2019 GMC Canyon Elevation First Drive Review: Is this Enough to Matter?

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2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey

New GMC Canyon Elevation shines a new light on GMC’s mid-sized truck.

EASTERN-TOWNSHIPS (Québec) – You have to give credit to General Motors. When it imported its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks from other markets, it secured a comfortable seat within the small-to-medium truck segment.

We’re now witnessing resurgence from these types of trucks, with new entries such as the Jeep Gladiator and Ford Ranger. Plus, Nissan has been hinting at upcoming new Frontier, while Honda is still hanging in there with its odd, but capable Ridgeline.

Even with these new kids on the block, GM’s midsize two-truck punch remains strong, especially on the Chevrolet side. With over 180,000 units sold in the US and Canada combined last year, it’s fair to assume that these things are doing well, even if they’re getting old.

But that doesn’t stop The General from reshuffling new packages and trim levels for its lovable mid-sizers. For the 2019 model-year, the Canyon gets an all-new Elevation Package. We took it for a drive to see if there’s enough substance here to make a difference.


We’ll Need To Wait A Bit Longer

2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey

The GMC Canyon / Chevrolet Colorado success story is so good, that GM has canceled their midcycle refresh that was scheduled for the 2020 model-year. We’ll need to wait until the end of 2021 for an all-new GM small truck architecture.

Until then, we’re stuck with all the good, and, unfortunately, all the bad from the current truck. This means that in 2019, you still don’t get push button start in your Canyon, a sunroof, nor the build quality that’s expected from a modern pickup.

What you do get is a solid base that can tow up to 7,700 lb (3,493 kg), which remains among the highest in the segment. There’s also of three available engines. Base Canyons are powered by a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder good for 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. The Duramax diesel four will churn out 369 lb-ft, and gets you the max towing rating mentioned above. And the naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6, the most popular choice among Canyon buyers, pumps out a healthy 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque.

Our tester was powered by the latter, and fitted with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. As a matter of fact, the Elevation package, which sells for roughly 680 $, can only be grafted onto the SLE Crew Cab, Short Box trucks power by either the V6 or the Duramax diesel.

Elevation is essentially an aesthetics package which adds a set of blacked-out 18-unch aluminum wheels wrapped in P265/60R18 all-season tires, a dark grille and a body color grille surround. Honestly, that’s about it. Unlike the Sierra Elevation which comes standard with a turbocharged four-cylinder, nothing changes under the hood of a Canyon Elevation. At least GMC isn’t asking an arm and a leg for it.


On The Road

2019 GMC Canyon Elevation
2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey

While the Canyon is showing its age, we have to say we still love the way this little truck drives. Sure, the dashboard design is far from original, and the hard plastics were out of fashion even when it hit the market back in 2015, but there’s an overall sense of agility in its driving dynamics that can’t be ignored.

Within the midsize truck segment, the Canyon’s handling sits right smack between a Toyota Tacoma and a Honda Ridgeline. While the Honda is the refined, carlike one of the bunch, and the Tacoma the old-school, bouncy body-on-frame hooligan, the Canyon (and Colorado) splits the difference between both, proving to be sporty, nimble, and not too hard on your spine.

We have nothing to say about the way that V6 engine delivers its power. It’s linear, smooth, loves to rev, and emits a satisfying snarl as it takes in air. In that respect, the Canyon feels a lot livelier than the four-cylinder Ranger. The gearbox proved quite solid as well, with precise cog action, no hesitation and a willingness to downshift once, twice, or even three times according to throttle input. Again, we’re seeing GM’s strength in transmission calibration here.

Cabin room remains good for the segment, with a spacious rear seat and ample room in the front, but the Canyon is beginning to feel cramped when compared to Ranger, Gladiator and Ridgeline. We’re also not fans of the hard cloth seats our Canyon Elevation was fitted with.

At least, the seating position is miles superior to a Tacoma. We’re also giving points to GMC for its infotainment system which not only comes standard with a Wi-Fi hotspot (membership required). The system is also Android Auto et Apple CarPlay compatible. We also appreciate the simplicity of its layout, with large, colorful icons, simple menus and redundant physical controls.


Conclusion

2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey

At the end of the day, you can’t help but enjoy the 2019 GMC Canyon for being a solid little truck. It still has a lot of appeal, looks good, drive great, and there’s enough flexibility in its powertrain options to fulfill all corners of midsize truck needs.

That said, we’re still wondering why the Canyon isn’t selling as well as the Colorado. At least, not in the US. While GMC seems to have discovered the secret sauce to satisfy Canadian consumers, with consistently similar, or in some cases, higher sales each year, our friends south of the border aren’t as convinced. One could even argue that the Canyon has no purpose with the Colorado raking in all the cash.

But we beg to differ. If GMC uses a similar strategy as in the Sierra, like adding model-exclusive models similar to AT4, the Canyon could set itself apart. As for the Elevation Package, we’re not convinced it does anything to let this otherwise solid truck shine. What GMC should do, is replace that bargain basement 2.5-liter for the 2020 GMC Acadia’s 2.0-liter turbo four, slap an Elevation badge onto its tailgate and call it a day. Then, perhaps, consumers will take notice.


2019 GMC Canyon Elevation Photo Gallery

2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey
2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey
2019 GMC Canyon Elevation | Photo: William Clavey

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