2022 GMC Canyon AT4 Review: Age Is Just A Number
Design | Comfort | Technology | Performance | Safety | Fuel Economy | Pricing | FAQs
I’m constantly amazed by the mid-size pickup truck segment. Where automakers are dumping as much equipment and modern technology into their half-ton trucks as possible (and a couple are even innovating with compact pickups), the mid-size truck class thinks it’s still 2012. And thank goodness for that.
Mid-size trucks like the 2022 GMC Canyon AT4 are panacea to consumers that just want A Pickup, free of the frills or modern-day nonsense. This Canyon doesn’t even have a push-button ignition for crying out loud. And while that fact and others do little to help its overall score, the refreshingly honest Canyon doesn’t really need the backup. That’s doubly true of the rugged AT4 trim and its new Off-Road Performance Edition, which splits the difference between everday pickups and hardcore off-roaders.
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Gallery: 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition
- Exterior Color: Cayenne Red Tintcoat (not pictured)
- Interior Color: Black/Kalahari
- Wheel Size: 17-Inch
I swear, mid-sizers like the Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, and Ford Ranger are the red-headed step-children of truck manufacturers, and nowhere is that clearer than in their designs. None of the vehicles in this segment are especially attractive, but aside from maybe the redesigned Nissan Frontier, the Canyon boasts my favorite exterior of the bunch.
It shares excellent proportions with its platform-mate, the Chevrolet Colorado, with strong, square wheel arches adding some flair to the profile. The chiseled, masculine face shares an overall design with the full-size Sierra, carrying a prominent grille and imposing headlights, along with a muscular hood that gives a more mature aesthetic from head-on. That said, the Canyon looks nose-heavy compared to the Colorado owing to the huge grille. The tail is rather anonymous, with uninspiring vertical taillights and a tailgate that’s overburdened with badges. There are four on just that single piece of sheetmetal.
The AT4 trim adds aluminum skid plates to the underbody and removes the front air dam which, combined with a 1.0-inch lift, improves the approach angle. I also dig the twin red tow hooks on the nose. This Off-Road Performance Edition includes gloss-black 17-inch wheels, gloss-black badges, and a new exhaust tip in, you guessed it, gloss black.
Only a mid-size pickup’s cabin is more underwhelming than its exterior, with every model (save the recently redesigned Frontier) wearing uninspiring plastics molded in boring shapes. GMC hasn’t really updated the Canyon’s interior since its debut, with a simple center stack and an overabundance of buttons, a smallish infotainment screen flanked by sizable vertical climate vents, and a corporate steering wheel. This off-road trim adds simple AT4 stitching on the headrests and a vaguely carbon-ish weave to the leather seat outers, but aside from that, it’s indistinguishable from a lesser Canyon.
Plastic is the dominant material, but there’s a soft-touch quality to the dash. The doors and other high-traffic areas are hard and unpleasant. Then again, that’s the rule rather than the exception in this segment.
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 41.3 Cubic Feet
The Canyon shares a splayed-out seating position with the rest of the segment, featuring a low seat height and a relatively high floor. This isn’t uncomfortable once you adjust, but it is decidedly un-truck like relative to a half-ton model and I could see that turning off customers that are downsizing from a Sierra. The seats themselves are open and flat, which should accommodate a wide range of body types, and the AT4 comes with standard front heating (including a back-only option) for those brisk days.
The second row of my Crew Cab tester had adequate space for adults, but the phrase “bench” has never been more apt. The three-abreast seat is flat and unsupportive, and even though the lower portion tilts upward for thigh support, the upright backrest would grow tiresome after an hour or so. If you need storage space rather than seats, the rear section does flip up, but the built-in storage cubby is too small to accommodate anything especially useful.
Ride quality is quite good, despite the 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler rubber and the lifted ride height. This is a body-on-frame design, but the Canyon feels composed and pleasant even over larger expansion joints or potholes. Dirt roads and washboard surfaces flummox the truck more than I’d expect for an off-road trim, with the steering struggling to maintain dead-on positioning, but lower speeds bring back some stability.
Despite its age, I’m an avowed lover of GM’s corporate “High Feature” V6 line. Especially in 3.6-liter guise, these engines have served admirably in everything from the Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Traverse to this Canyon and its Colorado counterpart. It’s a smooth powerplant, with a classic V6 soundtrack that doesn’t abuse the driver’s ears even at higher engine speeds.
What unpleasant sounds make it to the cabin come predominantly from the knobbly tires. There’s some roar on the highway and rough roads bring out the worst in the rubber, but the Canyon comports itself better than more focused off-roaders like the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or Colorado ZR2. This GMC has a solid handle on wind noise, too, which is in line with GMC’s near-premium mission.
- Center Display: 8.0-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 4.2-inch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
The Canyon’s age is clear in its antiquated tech suite. There’s a small 8.0-inch display with sizable bezels atop the center stackThe screen responds readily to inputs and the segregation of each section to icons on a home screen is familiar, but the drab, business-like aesthetic of the operating system feels dated and uninteresting.
Speaking of “business-like,” there’s the 4.2-inch productivity screen in the instrument cluster. I love the sheer amount of information this display can show, from simple stuff like the vehicle speed/speed limit and trip data to more complex info like average fuel economy over the past 50 miles. You can also set it up to show audio information and navigation directions.
However, there’s little getting over the small size of the display or the fact that it’s flanked by two physical gauges that could have come from literally any other car on the market. GMC did well functionally, but as with the broader tech suite, it’s totally free of flash, pizzaz, or style.
There are som innovations here, despite the Canyon’s age. There’s 4G LTE wifi connectivity and Amazon Alexa support, in addition to (wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while an available wireless charge pad is on hand to complement the four USB-A ports. The lack of push-button start and proximity entry is bewildering in 2022, but if you can get over the physical key, the Canyon is surprisingly smart despite its age.
- Engine: 3.6-liter V6
- Output: 308 Horsepower / 281 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
At the moment, the Canyon’s powertrain lineup consists of just two engines: the 3.6-liter V6 featured here and a turbodiesel 2.8-liter four-cylinder. Enthusiasts might flock to the diesel model for its 369 pound-feet of torque, but the price premium, higher cost of fuel, an annoying drone at highway speeds, and most importantly, the excellent performance of the V6, have me leaning gas.
Follow my lead and you’ll find 308 horsepower and an ample 275 lb-ft of torque. There’s more torque in a Ford Ranger (310 lb-ft from a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder) and slightly more of both in the Nissan Frontier (310 hp/281 lb-ft), but GMC positioned the Canyon extremely well in the mid-size truck segment. Initial punch is leisurely, but the engine comes into its own north of 2,500 rpm as the 3.6-liter approaches its 4,000-rpm torque peak. Acceleration at highway speeds is prompt, and no matter where you peg the throttle, you’ll hear a pleasant V6 throb from under the hood.
GMC pairs the V6 exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission (the diesel uses a six-speed box) that favors smoothness over ultimate shift speed. Changes are pleasant and prompt – this transmission simply does not surprise its driver as it manages the cogs. A manual mode, operated via a rocker switch on the left side of the gear lever, is helpful if you’re towing or off-roading, but it’s not really necessary. The computers do a fine job without human intervention.
A soft, predictable brake pedal brings things a halt. Modulation is easy once you adjust to the initial lack of bite, but I’d appreciate a little more immediacy. Handling is not this truck’s forte, but that’s true of everything else in the class. The steering requires little effort on center, but the suspension is also very stable on paved roads, so you won’t be making constant small corrections. As the steering angle increases, the electric power-assisted steering adds some weight, but it never overcomes a rubbery and unpleasant sensation that makes mid-corner bumps a bit of a headache.
I wasn’t able to do any hardcore off-roading in the Canyon AT4, but I did enough trail work to realize the AT4 sits in a rather uncomfortable position (until the AT4X arrives) It’s more expensive than a Tacoma TRD Off-Road but is less capable in terms of ground clearance and approach/departure angles than a TRD Pro. This is simply more of a middle-of-the-road off-roader. Its mix of moderate ability and truck-duty performance would likely be perfect for folks regularly towing up muddy paths, though.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 0
- NHTSA Rating: Four Stars Overall
- IIHS Rating: Not TSP/TSP Plus
If you want active safety gear on your Canyon AT4, prepare to shell out enough money to be annoyed at the price and the lack of equipment. The lone safety pack costs a modest $395, but all it adds is forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and rear park assist. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist are not available, period.
I’d bet my bottom dollar this is due to the Canyon’s advanced age and that the upcoming redesign will address these severe shortcomings. Still, compared to any other mid-size truck on the market (sans its fraternal twin, the Chevy Colorado), the Canyon lags well behind on the safety front. Adding insult to injury are the woeful halogen projector headlights, which IIHS gives its lowest possible score. And in terms of crash testing, NHTSA gives the Canyon just four stars overall, with a three-star rollover rating.
- City: 17 MPG
- Highway: 24 MPG
- Combined: 19 MPG
The Canyon’s 19 mpg combined rating ties a few other trucks, but its 24 mpg highway figure exceeds the competition. The 17 mpg city figure is average. Of course, if you really need fuel economy, the available diesel powertrain vaults the Canyon and its Colorado sibling to the top of the class and by a sizable margin.
- Base Price: $30,185 + $1,195 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $41,395
- As-Tested Price: $46,700
Prices for the GMC Canyon start at $31,380 (including the $1,195 destination charge) for an Elevation Standard model, which is only available with rear-wheel drive. The most affordable four-wheel drive Canyon Crew Cab, the Elevation, demands $38,495, while the leather-upholstered AT4 featured here asks $41,395. If your butt is happy on cloth chairs, you can save $1,800 and snag an AT4 with cloth seats, but that requires giving up more than just the hides. The more affordable trim replaces the 4.2-inch color display in the cluster with a 3.5-inch monochrome display and subs in an inferior standard-def rear camera, while also dropping HD radio.
My tester then added $3,195 for the AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition, $995 for a navigation function in the infotainment, $395 for the Driver Alert pack, and $75 for a wireless charge pad. You can drop the nav and rely on Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and with four USB ports, the wireless charge pad is as irrelevant in the grand scheme as its bargain-basement price. The AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition is the real question mark.
The extra skid plates are nice if you plan on doing some serious off-roading, and the pack also includes a suspension leveling kit and a spray-in bedliner. I dig the gloss black wheels too. But with an out-the-door price of $46,700 for my particular Canyon, I’d be looking closely at the value of the cloth-clad AT4 and the capability of more focused competitors, most of which also feature far more advanced active safety gear.
Canyon AT4 Competitor Reviews:
- Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: Not Rated
- Ford Ranger Tremor: 7.6 / 10
- Jeep Gladiator Rubcion: Not Rated
- Nissan Frontier Pro-4X: 8.7 / 10
- Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: Not Rated
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