GMC Canyon SLT 4X4 Diesel Quick Review

Critic's Notebook Takeaway: you can find a refined diesel workhorse after all.

GMC Canyon Review
Max Goldberg/TheDrive.com

Having spent the majority of my professional life driving diesel trucks, I was expecting a clunky, loud, heavy-shifting diesel box from hell. Boy, was I wrong. Powered by a 181 hp, 2.8L four-cylinder diesel engine with 369 lb-ft of torque, the GMC Canyon SLT is a refined pickup for the mpg-conscious countryman. Though the cabin was quiet, when you rolled down the window the four-cylinder's subtle clanging reminded you that you were in fact driving a diesel—but it never threw a plume of fumes in your face.

Although the Canyon is a full-function four-door pickup, its 74-inch width and 225-inch length means the truck is a manageable size. In other words, you can use it on the job site, then easily fit it on the ferry to Nantucket. The particular model I reviewed came with every bell and whistle, from a Bose stereo to a heavy-duty bed liner. Plus, safety features like blind spot-, lane departure-, and front collision warning. If you haven’t caught on by now, the luxury pickup market has officially extended to diesel trucks; I wouldn’t be surprised to see this thing tooling around some posh summer community.

Max Goldberg/TheDrive.com

Even though the Canyon was far from speedy, it did return a healthy 33 mpg on the highway and around 17 mpg in heavy city traffic. With numbers like those, you should gladly relinquish your right to do a burnout or a 65-mph pass. Plus, the combination of a diesel engine and adjustable 4WD is an off-roader's or farmhand’s dream. It's still very much a work truck, but with a six-setting butt-warmer.

Unlike its (extremely) big brothers, the GMC Sierra and the Ford F-150, you don’t need a commercial license to get behind the wheel; the truck’s profile is significantly less than the width of your average lane, and its turning radius shaves more than four feet off that of the F-150. With relative easy maneuverability, it was easy to navigate tight Brooklyn streets and the illogically small driveway in my apartment complex. Still, the Canyon was able to take a decent size payload—in this case, a huge tractor tire for our office's spontaneous workout station.

Max Goldberg/TheDrive.com

As a final review, I gave it the good old-fashioned mom test. Her response: "Now this is a truck I like; it's just the right size.” My mom, and Goldilocks, approves.

The Canyon is the perfect truck for taking on any light-to-medium-duty task in your work or leisure life, without mandating four trips to the pump every week. And, despite my initial misgivings, I can’t emphasize enough how smooth the diesel truck drove. Not as smooth as the oil-burning Audi A8, of course, still light years better than the F- and E-series diesels I've been frequenting of late. The shifts were clean, the start-up seamless, and the cab didn’t fill up with that unmistakable diesel smell. Just be warned: some dude with a Phish sticker on his bumper may come up to you and say, “this sounds like my 1999 Jetta TDI, man.”

Max Goldberg/TheDrive.com

2016 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab 4x4 Diesel
Price (as tested, incl. destination and delivery): 
$37,810 ($43,335)
Powertrain: 2.8-liter inline four-cylinder turbodiesel; 181 hp, 369lb-ft; six-speed automatic transmission
0-60 MPH: 9.1 seconds
MPG (city/highway): 20/29
Towing capacity: 7,600 pounds