The Mid-Size Diesel That Does: The 2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT

Front 3/4 view of 2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT
The 2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT.
Until this year, if you wanted a diesel pickup, you wanted a big pickup.  Not just the full-size half ton pickup, mind you, but one of the "Super Duty", "Extra Duty" or "Heavy Duty" 3/4 ton or one ton trucks.  The last GMC pickup I reviewed was one of those---two years ago---a beautiful behemoth Sierra 2500 HD with an as-tested price of $62,525 and an observed fuel economy of 13.4 miles per gallon in a mix of city street and urban freeway driving.

But what if you want less truck, need a lower purchase price and would like more miles per gallon?

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT
2016 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT.
The good news is that when General Motors decided to re-enter the midsize pickup market and compete against Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier with an all-new GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado, they also made plans to offer what is a fairly common engine option in other parts of the world, but not in the States:  A diesel.  A four-cylinder diesel.

It's a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo.  181 horsepower will not inspire street racing, but anyone buying a diesel knows that.  A diesel is all about torque, and the Duramax has gobs of it---369 pounds per foot at just 2,000 RPM.  That makes the Canyon a great choice for towing.

There is also the improved fuel economy that comes with a diesel.  The EPA estimate for the Canyon we drove---a four-wheel drive SLT crew cab with the short box---is 20 city/29 highway.  That's better than the 19 city/26 highway for a four-wheel drive 2.5-liter gasoline four and much better than the 17 city/24 highway for the 3.6-liter gasoline V6.

You will pay extra for the diesel.  It is a $3,730 option.  But you will make it back over the long haul.

Interior view of 2016 GMC Canyon
2016 GMC Canyon SLT interior.
That long haul will be a comfortable one, as well.  Our test vehicle had a base price of $37,450, with a fully-automatic locking rear differential, electric two-speed transfer case, a trailering equipment package and a six-speed automatic transmission standard.  Also included in the price:

  • Remote keyless entry
  • Theft deterrent system
  • Remote vehicle start
  • Stability control
  • Traction control
  • Four-wheel anti-lock brakes
  • Rearview camera
  • 18-inch polished cast alumnium wheels
  • Fog lamps
  • Heated four-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustments
  • Automatic climate control
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Illuminated vanity mirrors
  • Cruise control
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Sliding rear window
  • Touchscreen audio system with Apple Car Play and SiriusXM
  • 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot
As always, there were options, including $995 for an upgraded audio system, $475 for a spray-on bedliner, $395 for Copper Red Metallic paint and $395 for the Driver Alert Package, which inclues forward collision alert and lane departure warning.  With $925 destination charge, the as-tested price was $44,365.

That is not an insignificant sum of money, but for a smooth-riding, off-road and towing-capable premium midsize pickup truck, it represents very good value.  With Toyota and Nissan not offering diesels in their midsize trucks yet and Ford and RAM still some time away from re-entering the segment, GMC and cousin Chevy have a marvelous opportunity to set some tastes and trends for midsize truck buyers.