2009 Canyon New Car Test Drive
The 2008 GMC Canyon looks very much like it did last year, and the year before. Some new paint colors and standard fog lights (on all but WT) are about the only visible changes for 2008.
The Canyon is aggressively styled with angular wheel arches. Its front end is bright and bold in the GMC tradition and looks mean and menacing, albeit in a classy GMC manner. The black center grille with its floating GMC logo is surrounded by brightwork that extends to either side of the truck. It separates a complex looking array of lights composed of daytime running lamps, turn indicators, and high and low beams. A slight dihedral at the front outer edge of the hood enhances Canyon's aggressive appearance. From the side, Canyon looks sharp and edgy, with boldly angular fender flares that rise toward the rear of the truck.
Overall, however, Canyon looks balanced, whether in Regular Cab, Extended Cab, or Crew Cab body styles. All Crew Cab and Extended Cab models share a 126-inch wheelbase, while Regular Cab models ride on a 111-inch wheelbase. Overall length is 207 inches for all but Regular Cabs, which are 192 inches.
Regular and Extended Cabs have 6-foot, 1-inch beds. The Crew Cab has a 5-foot, 1-inch bed in exchange for its larger cabin. Regular and Extended Cab models have steps in the rear fender ahead of the rear wheels, making it easier to reach and load things in the front of the bed. The tailgate can be opened fully (89 degrees) or dropped 55 degrees to provide support (level with the tops of the wheel wells) for a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood. Extended Cabs use rear-hinged back doors with door handles inside the door jam. Crew Cabs have conventional front-hinged rear doors with door handles that are easy to grip and pull open.
Ride height varies by model. The ZQ8 sport models look slammed with their lower ride height. In fact, they ride about an inch lower in front than the standard 2WD Canyon, with a minimum ground clearance of just 6.2-6.5 inches at the front axle. The standard Canyon has 7.3-7.9 inches of ground clearance, depending on cab style and the number of driven wheels. The Z71 off-road suspension raises the ground clearance to 8.7-9.0 inches, depending on model.
Inside, the GMC Canyon feels generously wide, especially in the rear seat of the Crew Cab, which accommodates three adults far easier than would be possible in the previous generation of compact pickups.
The front seats are chair height, which gives the driver excellent visibility over the hood. Still, our biggest gripe with the Canyon is directed at its seats: The seat bottoms are flat and lack sufficient lateral support, so we always felt like we were sinking to one side or the other.
The Extended Cab is large enough to orient the back seats facing forward, so no one will have to endure the pain of sideways-mounted seats. The rear seats are raised, which improves leg room for rear-seat passengers. Don't expect them to be comfortable, though. The back seat in the Extended Cab is too cramped for anyone but Munchkins on relatively short jaunts. Better to flip the rear seats down, which opens up space for cargo. With modifications (like a fleece mat), it would work passably for a medium-size dog. (None of the midsize pickups are particularly good for canines.) This area works best as interior cargo space, and the front-hinged doors on both sides of the Extended Cab offer good access.
The base Canyon work truck has a no-fault interior right down to its rubber floor mats, so you can get in with muddy work boots and not feel guilty. The SLE models are more comfortable, with carpeting, more luxurious seat fabrics, and chrome accents on the interior door handles, air outlet control knobs, small speaker bezels, instrument cluster rings, and front door sills. Additionally, the center stack and HVAC trim are painted Nova Silver on SLE and SLT.
Operating the Canyon is easy. The instruments are easy to read at a glance, with big white numerals and orange needles on a black background. Lighting functions are clustered on the dash to the left of the steering wheel; there are no switches in any remote location. Turning on the dome light requires spinning the small wheel used to dim the instrument lights, and we found this a bit challenging in the dark. Particularly for this reason we liked the map lights integrated into the rear-view mirror on higher-line models.
The center stack neatly groups together 4WD, audio, and HVAC functions. The emergency flasher button is high in the center where it's easily seen. The cruise control switches, however, are the same turn-signal-stalk system GM has used since the 1970s, albeit refined. Some people hate it; others are familiar with it and don't seem to mind.
The Canyon features triple seals around the doors, another example of its refinement. The seals not only reduce water and dust intrusion; they also reduce wind noise for a quieter cab.