Drive: 2016 GMC Canyon Diesel Review

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT

The 2016 GMC Canyon now comes with a diesel option but that engine’s improved torque and economy don’t come cheap

chris chaseReview and Photos by Chris Chase

This time last year, diesel engines were in the news for their growing popularity, attributable to engineering that had made them quieter, cleaner, and more powerful. Then came September 2015, and Volkswagen’s admission it had cheated on emissions testing for its popular TDI diesels. Suddenly, the future of this fuel-efficient engine technology was in doubt.

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Before the VW news broke, GM had already announced that it would add a diesel option to its mid-size Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks. For better or worse, they’ve kept that promise, and here’s the proof: the 2016 GMC Canyon diesel.

The Engine: 2.8-litre Duramax-branded four-cylinder

The engine is a 2.8-litre Duramax-branded four-cylinder that makes 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, thanks to turbocharging. That horsepower figure doesn’t look like much, but that’s not the point: this little motor makes more torque than the 3.6-litre V6 also available in these trucks, which makes it feel stronger in city driving despite giving up more than 120 hp to the V6. You notice the difference most in situations that require a heavier right foot: the 3.6-litre is a bit happier to rev, but the diesel isn’t much noisier, nor does it generate significantly more vibration under hard acceleration. While the V6 doesn’t feel particularly strong until it’s spinning fairly quickly, the diesel’s power all comes at low revs, and tails off in the upper part of its rev range.

Any tradeoffs in drivability (and we’re not sure there are any worth noting) versus these trucks’ gas engines are offset by the diesel’s economy. GM claims fuel consumption ratings of 12.0/8.2 L/100 km with 4WD, as our truck was equipped, and they seem like realistic numbers: we saw a city-driving average bang-on at 12.0 L/100 km, and more than 900 km of highway driving yielded an average of 8.3.

GMC Canyon Cabin

The rest of the Canyon/Colorado formula remains intact: this is a comfortable truck that proved a fantastic ride for a road trip from Ottawa to visit family in the Toronto area. In spite of a cabin notably smaller than that of a full-size truck, there’s loads of room for two up front and a weekend’s worth of luggage stored on the folded rear seats. They don’t just fold, though: the other option is to flip the bottom cushions up, but where you might like that option for carrying larger cargo best kept out of the elements, hidden storage bins rest on what would otherwise be a flat load floor.

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT

What you really give up relative to a bigger pickup like GM’s Silverado/Sierra twins is a truly full-size rear second row; here, the crew cab is closer, space-wise, to a smallish family sedan. Many will argue that a truck this size gives up too much capability relative to a full-sizer, without coming at much of a discount. While we might agree with the price argument (more on that in a moment), a smaller truck is easier to maneuver in tight places, which we greatly appreciated on a couple of occasions.

…this is a comfortable truck that proved a fantastic ride for a road trip from Ottawa to visit family in the Toronto area. In spite of a cabin notably smaller than that of a full-size truck, there’s loads of room for two up front and a weekend’s worth of luggage stored on the folded rear seats.

We like the clean dash design in these trucks, even in a loaded-up model like the one GM gave us to test. GMC’s Intellilink ‘infotainment’ system provides easy access to stereo and telephone functions, as well as navigation and a wifi hotspot. Safety features in our truck included lane departure warning, backup camera, and front collision warning.

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT Price and Options

Our tester was an SLT-trimmed Crew Cab model with 4WD, a configuration that comes with an MSRP of just under $40,000. Add $4,400 for the diesel and you’re already looking at a chunk of change that would buy a pretty nice full-size pickup, but we’re not done yet. To that $44,000 price, add $800 for navigation, $700 for a Bose sound system, $525 for the spray-in bed liner, and $415 for a ‘driver alert’ package that bundles the lane departure and front collision warning systems. Now you’re talking $47,000, and as much as we liked this truck, it felt like a $40,000 truck at most.

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Certainly, the VW diesel emissions scandal will cause some drivers to think twice about a diesel, but this engine’s success (which its performance certainly merits) will be determined by how willing dieselphiles will be to put money where their mouths are–and forty-four-hundred-dollars is quite a mouthful.

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT

The Verdict:

PROS:

  • Interior space
  • Comfortable ride
  • Torquey, efficient engine

CONS:

  • Diesel an expensive option
  • Poor value relative to larger trucks
  • Diesel’s current reputation not the greatest

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT Specs:

Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel

Power: 181 horsepower

Torque: 369 pound-feet

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes

Steering: Electric power-assist rack-and-pinion

Suspension: Coil-over-shock (front); Solid axle with leaf springs (rear)

Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 12.0/8.2

Fuel economy, observed (l/100km): 12.0 (city)/8.3 (highway)

Price: $39,895, starting MSRP; $46,980 as tested

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT Gallery:

2016 GMC Canyon Diesel SLT

Photos by Chris and GMC

Chris has been writing professionally about cars since 2004, in print and online. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two feline tyrants. In rare quiet moments, he can be found travelling or playing one of his way-too-many guitars. Chris is also a journalist member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).