In the U.S. market, the lion's share of attention (and sales) goes to full-size trucks. Both Ford and Chrysler have thrown in the towel on their smaller offerings, leaving only the F-Series and Ram full-size trucks to carry the pickup torch. GM saw an opportunity in the midsize market and, after a brief hiatus, is bringing back a second generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. The 2015 GMC Canyon shares nothing with its predecessor aside from the name, and, until recently, even that was in question.

Family Ties

Differentiating the Chevrolet and GMC trucks has often been a question of splitting hairs on minute details over the last several decades, and even the new 2014 Silverado and Sierra share some obvious similarities. Likewise, the new Colorado and Canyon are virtual mechanical twins, but styling shows a much greater degree of differentiation than is typical among many Chevrolet and GMC models. Whereas the Colorado has a more swept-back, "import"-looking front end, the 2015 Canyon's nose is a virtual dead-ringer for big brother Sierra, just scaled down slightly. Aside from the grille, hood, and front fenders, the two trucks share most of their sheetmetal, with the door, roof, and bed stampings essentially identical.

The Power(train) List

Mechanically, the Canyon also shares almost all its hardware with the Colorado, which means a 193-hp, 184 lb-ft 2.5-liter direct-injected I-4 serves as the base mill, mated to a six-speed automatic, and in the entry-level two-wheel-drive, extended-cab model, with an available six-speed manual. GM's proven 3.6-liter "high feature" direct-injection V-6 is expected to power the bulk of models, with an estimated 302 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. The V-6 gets a mandatory six-speed slushbox. And the mill we were all crossing are fingers for, a 2.8-liter I-4 turbodiesel, is confirmed.

Final output numbers on the U.S. model are still pending due to market-specific emissions equipment, but the most recent update on this engine in overseas models produces 197 hp and a stout 369 lb-ft of torque. We expect output figures for the U.S.-spec engine to be within 5-10 hp and lb-ft of the global model. Unfortunately, the diesel will not be available until the 2016 model year, so those of you pining for a torquey oil-burner in a smaller truck will have to hold out a little longer. Like the V-6, the diesel will be offered exclusively with a six-speed automatic.

As with the Colorado, the Canyon will be offered with an optional automatic locking rear differential, with the code G80. The differential is optional on SLE and SLT models, and included in the All Terrain package.

The Differences

Aside from the obvious styling similarities between the Colorado and Canyon, there are a few detail differences between the two. The headlamps on the Canyon are standard projector beams, a feature offered only on the top-trim Z71 Colorado, and standard LED running lights, not offered on the Colorado on any trim level. In addition, the Canyon will offer an optional Teen Driver feature that allow parents to set maximum radio volume, speed alerts, and a top-speed limiter. The system also logs incriminating information such as total distance traveled, wide-open-throttle "events," and top speed. Joyriders, beware. Another feature not available (or not yet announced) for the Colorado is GMC's ProGrade protection plan, which covers the first four oil changes, tire rotations, and inspections.

The Canyon also offers optional AutoTrac 4WD, which automatically engages high-range 4WD when wheel slippage is detected. The driver can also select normal 2WD, 4WD HI, and 4WD LO modes on four-wheel-drive models. Like the Colorado Z71 model, the Canyon All Terrain includes hill start assist and hill descent control.

Part of a One-Two Punch

The Colorado is expected to be the larger-volume seller of the two models by a substantial margin, but the Canyon will play an important supporting role by offering a more premium model for buyers who don't want or need the bulk of a full-size model. The Colorado and Canyon's combined sales volume will probably easily surpass the current second-place Nissan Frontier by a comfortable margin within the first six months of its going on sale, and holds the potential of wresting the long-held sales crown from the Toyota Tacoma, although that feat will be a steeper uphill battle, if for no other reason than Toyota's legendarily fierce brand loyalty.

More Power, Less Fuel

Final EPA figures have not yet been announced for GM's midsize twins, but are expected to easily surpass the unimpressive figures posted by the current Frontier and Tacoma. Add the diesel to the equation, and the advantage becomes even bigger. The unknown factor is how far out the next-generation Frontier and Tacoma models are, which could be anywhere from one to three years. But the Colorado and Canyon's compelling combination of content, modern powertrains, and expected class-leading fuel economy will give them a decisive edge over the established players.

Pricing and Positioning

Also yet to be announced is pricing for both the Colorado and Canyon. Our expectation is that they will be slightly more than a comparable Tacoma or Frontier, and based on their content and design, we think a slight premium is justified. However, if GM is serious about chipping away at the Japanese duo's market share, it can't be too ambitious with the pricing. At launch, the Canyon will be offered in base, SLE, and SLT trim levels, with an All Terrain appearance package offered on the SLE trim. When asked if there could be a Canyon Denali, GMC reps just shrugged and smiled, and said they're "always looking at new possibilities." More than one journalist half-jokingly suggested "Grand Canyon" as a Denali-esque top trim level. We're expecting prices to start in the low-$20,000 range for a 2WD extended-cab base model, going up to the high-$30,000s for a fully-equipped SLT 4WD, possibly topping $40,000 for a fully loaded specimen. Are midsize truck buyers prepared to pony up full-size prices for a well-equipped model? We'll find out soon enough when production starts in fall 2014, with sales following shortly thereafter.


2015 GMC Canyon
BASE PRICE $20,000-$34,000 (est)
LAYOUT Front-engine, 2WD/4WD, 5-pass, 4-door Pickup
ENGINE 2.5L/193-hp/184-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4, 3.6L/302-hp/270-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6, 2.8L/195-hp/365-lb-ft (est.) DOHC 16-valve I-4 turbodiesel
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE 127.9-140.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 208.2-224.5 x 73.2-74.3 x 78.7-78.9 in
CURB WEIGHT 4000-4400 lb (est)
GVWR N/A
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 1500 lb (est)
TOWING CAPACITY 6700 lb (V-6, 4WD)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON (EST) 20/28 (I-4, 2WD), 17/25 (V-6, 4WD), 22/30 (diesel, 2WD)
ON SALE IN U.S. Fall 2014