Redesigned 2023 GMC Canyon Goes Upscale

    This midsized truck is positioned as a premium off-roader

    2023 GMC Canyon AT4X off road
    2023 GMC Canyon AT4X
    Photo: Consumer Reports

    GMC has just taken the wraps off its next-generation Canyon pickup truck, following the unveiling in July of the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado. These mechanical clones offer a single body style (four-door crew cab with a short bed) and lone turbocharged four-cylinder engine. And each brand emphasizes off-roading with new trims. 

    GMC builds on the dirt-bound AT4 trim with the AT4X, mirroring the full-sized Sierra 1500 pickup truck in offering a premium, off-road version with more protective gear, more ground clearance, and more capability. But it comes at a price. The 2023 GMC Canyon top trim AT4X Edition 1 starts at $63,350. Other Canyon trims started around $40,000. (The price range for the 2022 model was $27,100 to $45,300.)

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    All versions use a new chassis that stretches the wheelbase by 3.1 inches compared with the outgoing short bed crew-cab, which is used to reduce the front overhang and improve the truck’s ability to approach steep inclines in off-road settings. Overall length is about the same.

    And more important, each trim now comes with a comprehensive suite of active safety features—something absent from the outgoing truck. 

    Built at GM’s Wentzville, Missouri, plant, the Canyon goes on sale in spring 2023. 

    Here is what we know so far. 

    What it competes with: Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma
    What it looks like: A ¾-scale GMC Sierra 1500.
    Powertrains: 310-hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; rear- or four-wheel drive
    Price: $40,000-$63,350
    On sale: Spring 2023

    2023 GMC Canyon AT4
    2023 GMC Canyon AT4 has a 2-inch lift for added ground clearance.

    Photo: GMC Photo: GMC

    CR's Take

    The Canyon was due for a redesign. Like its twin, the Chevrolet Colorado, the Canyon has long had a midpack road test score, hurt by a stiff ride, awkward driving position, and the lack of low-end torque from the V6. Plus CR members routinely note in our surveys that reliability and owner satisfaction are below average. 

    That said, it does have its virtues. The dimensions make it a welcomed alternative to colossal full-sized trucks for drivers who don’t need those capabilities daily. Handling is relatively agile, and the controls are easy to use. 

    The new Canyon faces fresh competition, from the Honda Ridgeline getting tougher with the HPD package and the recently redesigned Nissan Frontier, to the upcoming Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma redesigns.

    The GMC’s limited body styles and powertrains, coupled with the fortified suspension and abundant bravado-laced upgrades, has the Canyon targeting a subset of the truck market: premium off-roaders. As presented, the Canyon looks to be quite appealing in that niche. But hopefully, this redesigned truck makes notable improvements that go beyond elevating off-road capabilities that, in all likelihood, most consumers won’t explore in earnest. 

    The Chevrolet Colorado has more powertrain variation and a lower starting price, solidifying its role as the mainstream brand among the corporate rivals. 

    For those who drive mostly on pavement, the best news may be that a roster of active safety systems are now standard.

    Outside

    The new Canyon looks much more like its big-brother Sierra than does the current model. The proportions have changed slightly: It rides on a wheelbase that is 3.1 inches longer than the 2022 Canyon crew cab with the short bed, yet preserves the same 213-inch overall body length. This enables a shorter front overhang that provides a better approach angle for off-roading, aided by the omission of the front air dam. Combined, that allows the truck to tackle sharper inclines. 

    The face is differentiated from the Colorado with pinched, horizontal headlamps and a large grille that reminds of an electric shaver. 

    The bed measures 5 feet, 2 inches. There are tie downs, bed rails, a spray-on bedliner, a 110-volt bed outlet, and remote tailgate lock/unlocking available to add functionality. Plus, the tailgate is available with a water-tight storage bin hidden inside. 

    The Canyon comes with an off-road suspension package on all versions, boasting 9.6 inches of ground clearance. The Elevation, AT4, and Denali trims benefit from a 2-inch lift kit to aid off-roading. 

    The ultimate off-roader in the line is the AT4X, with a 3-inch lift kit and 10.7 inches of ground clearance. 

    The AT4X with the Edition 1 package adds a front push bar, grille light bar, winch, 17-inch bead-lock capable wheels to secure 33-inch tires for gnarly off-roading, side rocker-panel protectors for under the doors, bed rail system, and special front skid plate to protect the engine.

    2023 GMC Canyon Denali
    The upscale 2023 GMC Canyon Denali is dressed with chrome trim, side steps, and 20-inch wheels.

    Photo: GMC Photo: GMC

    Inside

    The modern cabin mirrors much of the design seen in the Colorado. It has an 8-inch instrument panel display and 11.3-inch infotainment screen. (The instrument screen stretches to 11 inches on the Denali and AT4X.) Even with all that digital real estate, there are still many physical buttons and switches to control climate, four-wheel drive, and other features.

    The gear selector is a traditional upright lever, with the adjacent rotary dial used for selecting drive modes. 

    Each trim level has its own interior touches. The Denali, for example, has wood accents, perforated leather upholstery on ventilated and heated seats, and a 6.3-inch head-up display, which is unique to the GMC and not available on the Colorado. The AT4X adds a seven-speaker Bose audio system, contrasting color leather upholstery, and numerous off-road controls. 

    A powered moonroof will be offered for the first time on a Canyon.

    2023 GMC Canyon interior
    The 2023 GMC Canyon Denali interior is swathed in wood and leather.

    Photo: GMC Photo: GMC

    What Drives It

    The Canyon comes with a 310-horsepower, 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine adapted from the full-sized GM trucks. It is upgraded to produce more torque, with a 430 lb.-ft. peak, per GM estimates. This is the sole engine. There are no lesser versions, like with the Colorado, thus partially explaining the heady base price. 

    The turbo four is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission engineered to balance comfort and off-road durability. The engine uses regular gas. 

    With the high torque, this powertrain marks a significant increase in raw power over the 2022 Canyon’s V6, which produced 308 hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque, and even its 2.8-liter turbodiesel, which put out 181 hp and 369 lb.-ft. of torque. 

    There are up to five driver-selectable modes, depending on the model, to harness the increased off-road and trailering abilities. These include: Normal, Off-Road, Terrain (low-speed off-road), Baja (high-speed off-road), and Tow/Haul. 

    The AT4X gets high-performance off-road suspension dampers and electronic locking front and rear differentials. 

    2023 GMC Canyon tailgate
    Clever, water-tight storage within the tailgate liner.

    Photo: GMC Photo: GMC

    Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

    All Canyons are equipped with standard Pro Safety Package, which includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assistance, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams. 

    That suite can be upgraded to the Safety Plus Package with active blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning with reverse automatic braking. The Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, rear pedestrian alert, and HD surround vision. But the Super Cruise hands-free active driving assistance feature will not be offered on the Canyon.


    Jeff S. Bartlett

    A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).