Here in America we like affordable things. Even the deepest pocketed people among us would be lying if they said they didn’t enjoy a good ‘ol red tag sale. I think this is partially due to the fact a large number of Americans live well beyond their means and if they can get a premium product for a bargain basement price, then by gum they’re gonna find a way to make it happen because for them, it’s all about that name.

However there is a catch, the item in question must be good enough to warrant the fiscal irresponsibility, otherwise you’re not getting something affordable, you’re just getting something cheap. With all the available information (and credit) out there, I don’t think there’s any excuse for getting something cheap these days. From toasters to trucks the golden rule holds true, buy the best you can afford. Why anyone would go spend $109 on a stainless steel 4 slot toaster with LED readouts, when a Black & Decker Toaster Oven will set you back $29.99 is beyond me. I guess it’s just the way I’m wired. I like nice things, but I don’t want to pay for a product that doesn’t get a job done any better than a more affordable version, especially if the more expensive item doesn’t offer any sort of extra long term value.

Full Disclosure: GMC wanted me to drive the Canyon so badly that they rung up the folks at Bugatti, threatened to have them sacked if they approved my idea to send me on a month long trip around Europe with the Veyron, thus freeing me up to spend a week with the base model truck.

Apply this line of thinking to the truck market and I’m continually faced with the same question, why is GMC still a thing? I mean besides all the folks out there who turn their noses up at Chevy but hold GMC is high regard, is there anyone who buys into the whole “professional grade” schtick? The re-designed Colorado and Canyon are targeted at the youth market, the goal is to create a new generation of truck-buyers; convert the masses from their wicked crossover ways. Well I’d say the Colorado is doing a pretty damn good job what with its awards and rather cheeky ad-campaign, but the Canyon, ain’t nobody talking about the Canyon.

Maybe that’s why I was given the keys to the spartan (but not ultimate base model) equipped with the 6-speed manual that all of us enthusiasts were clamoring for. If GMC wants to change the Canyon conversation (they’ll have to get one going first) they’re going to need to do a whole hell of a lot better than this because this isn’t the affordable small truck Americans want. It’s just cheap.

Exterior- 5/10

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Though the Canyon is essentially the same truck as the Colorado with a different front end, that change up front makes the entire package appear bland. Not even the very pretty Bronze Alloy Metallic paint could save this thing from a face that I doubt even its designers love. I know they had to make it different from the Colorado but they didn’t have to attempt squashing the Sierra fascia down to fit the body. The uber macho, “coming at you like a freight train” front end kinda works on a full size pickup, but it comes up short when stuck on the sprightly frame of the Canyon.

There are a number of ways one could make this truck’s proportions better, adding beefier tires and removing that stupid “eco” front air dam would do a lot for its curb appeal but I don’t know if that would totally fix whatever it is that bugs me about the overall look. Whereas I would gaze longingly at the Colorado I had; I would just glance at the Canyon and think to myself, how do I fix you?!

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Interior- 4/10

Chevrolet and GMC want to pull crossover buyers over to the small truck market and they also want to take a nice fat chunk out of Tacoma sales. I’ve not been in the base model Colorado (only the Z71 trim quad cab that I was loaned), so I cannot say for sure whether the following statement applies to that truck as well, but as they are basically the same it probably does.

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The interior of the Canyon is a major letdown.

Everything feels cheap from the shift knob to the seats to the doors and dash. For the duration of my time with truck the poorly installed plastic around the steering column provided a creaking soundtrack somewhere between an early 2000s Subaru and a haunted mansion basement door opening. Letting the clutch in and out provided a nice backup squeak whenever I felt the plastic wasn’t enough. Shame I couldn’t drown it out with a halfway decent stereo but more on that later, let’s talk about seats or what GM calls seats.

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Growing up in Vermont I spent more time crammed into the back of extended cab Tacomas than anyone should. Luckily I’m not the biggest of humans so I suppose it could have been worse but isn’t that an awful way to set the bar for something? Of course it could be worse, you could be stuck in the back of a dung-filled mule cart bound for Tikrit. The “it could be worse” argument is the hallmark of someone trying to spin the situation or flaw in a product and I refuse to acknowledge it as anything but that.

I am, however, glad the saying exists because it will help me make my point. When people get in the back of a previous generation extended cab Toyota Tacoma and complain about their comfort I’ll tell them, “It could be worse, you could be the back of a new Canyon”.

These “seats” are bad even by extended cab pickup standard; I’d go so far as to say it’s kind of insulting that they thought they could stick these in here and not get called out. If GM wants to lure the faithful away from their beloved basic Tacos, they’re going to have to do a whole lot better than this. The People’s Express approach doesn’t cut it when it comes to the automotive industry, not anymore anyway. Those days are over; GM should know better and they probably do. Maybe they thought nobody would notice or care, but clearly they were wrong. Sure they might be pulling in new customers with loaded quad-cab short bed Canyorados but it’s this style of truck that will really make or break this whole quest to topple Toyota.

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Acceleration- 4/10

It is often said that a slow, boring vehicle is made more exciting by a manual transmission. This saying does not apply to the 2015 Canyon 2wd Ext Cab. The 2.5L I-4 eeks out 200hp @6300 RPMs, manages 191 lb-ft @4400 rpm and boy does it feel like it.

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Around town it’s lurchy and unconfident, on the highway it feels like you’re going to send the damn thing into automotive cardiogenic shock. When I say it felt no different than driving my buddy’s 2004 Tacoma extended cab, I mean it felt no different. Not worse, certainly not better, just not different at all. If a brand new $24k truck doesn’t drive better than an 11-year old version of the competition then damn, you’ve got issues.

Braking- 7/10

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At least they didn’t skimp on the brakes, can’t be cutting corners when it comes to safety. Behind all four wheels you’ll find discs with Duralife rotors and ABS is standard. I’d imagine they’re great brakes that will easily slow down you and the dirt bike or jetski you’re towing

Ride- 6/10

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You know what I didn’t do with the Canyon? I didn’t take it off-road, no trails, no desert-driving, not even a grassy lane. I drove it around the streets of Los Angeles for a week and at the end of that week I went to see a chiropractor who upon adjusting my back said, Whoa, you must have been driving a small truck with crappy seats my friend, you’re all out of whack!” What can I say, my guy is gifted.

Honestly the ride isn’t that bad, it’s about what you would expect from a small pickup at this price point but again, it’s not better than the last gen Tacoma. I was constantly surprised by how much I liked the seats in my 2008 Tacoma, especially on longer drives. While I didn’t take the Canyon on a roadtrip, I spent enough time behind the wheel to realize that these seats will not hold up to the kind of abuse they’re going to take from owners. I think GMC trucks should have seats covered in ripstop fabric, that would be truly professional grade.

Handling- 7/10

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When it comes to handling, I don’t expect much from a truck. Don’t flip if I happen to change directions quickly, don’t boot the back end out unless I ask for it and have a halfway decent turning radius. The Canyon checked all those boxes so I was happy with it. The turning radius was above average and it was certainly easier to parallel park than I remember my Tacoma being.

Steering is light and electrically-assisted, and feels just like all the other GM trucks I’ve drive;, suppose that’s a compliment considering I’ve wheeled the Sierra Denali. The 16 x 7 wheels are wrapped in Goodyear Wranglers that were surprisingly quiet at highway speed so points are awarded there. Yay points!

Gearbox- 5/10

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I didn’t care for the 6-speed automatic in the Colorado and I don’t care for the 6-speed in the Canyon either.

The shift throws are long as Kim K’s butt is wide.

Clutch engagement is more vague than the policies of a politician seeking re-election.

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Have I accurately represented my disdain for this gearbox through the use of hyperbole? I think so, lets move on.

Toys- 5/10

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These days a 4-inch touchscreen is a pretty sad sight in any new vehicle, but in a vehicle that has a wonderful available 8-inch touchscreen, it’s just downright depressing. I would much rather have a traditional head unit staring back at me every time I get in the truck, but I guess GMC was too lazy to put the backup camera up in the mirror. If they had gone ahead and done that they could have put in a good ‘ol CD player or at least something that didn’t serve as a daily reminder that you can’t afford the excellent MyLink unit.

I gave the Canyon 4 points because it has 5 toys. A backup camera, Bluetooth, spray-in bedliner and an EZ Lift/Lower Tailgate. All the other stuff included in the $590.00 convenience package doesn’t count because it’s all stuff one expects a truck to have in 2015. Rear window defroster, cruise control, theft deterrent system, remote keyless entry. Sorry GMC but if you’re going to justify your existence as a “premium” brand,then you’ve got to stop patting yourself on the back for offering options you’ll find on just about every compact car.

Audio- 5/10

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I heard many things inside the Canyon, but a pleasant exhaust note, engine hum or favorite song through excellent speakers were not among them. Instead I was treated to groans, creaks, whines and whirrs that didn’t strike me as being unique to this truck. It was the kind of auditory experience you would be familiar with if you had spent time in any GM compact vehicle made in the last 30 years.

I gave the Colorado a high score in the audio department because it had a BOSE stereo system; this base model Canyon does not have a BOSE audio system.

Value- 5/10

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My tester had a sticker price of $24,915.00 which isn’t bad for a new vehicle; it’s just not good for a new vehicle that offers so few reasons to consider buying it. I think having a barebones extended cab pickup with a 6’ bed and a manual transmission is a great thing. If I was going to get a new truck, it’s the style I’d be after. It just wouldn’t be a GMC Canyon.

There are so many clean pre-owned Tacomas out there that offer the same options as this truck that I just don’t see the incentive to go out and get one of these instead. In my eyes the point of a GMC is the optional stuff, the “premium” gadgets that they tout in all the commercials. At the SLE or SLT trim levels I think you can certainly make the argument for a GMC over Toyota, certainly over Nissan. The problem is that its stablemate looks better and costs less so if you’re going to spend more, might as well get a Colorado Z71.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like a basic pickup with 3 pedals just as much as the next guy. I understand why it makes sense to offer a truck like this; I just don’t see why GMC has to offer a truck like this. Let Chevrolet handle the entry level market with the Colorado WT trim level, have the Canyon start at the SLE trim. It’s so frickin’ simple ya’ll!

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Seriously, GM needs to sort this whole mess out because the savvy consumer of today isn’t going to buy into the whole premium shtick like past generations did. GMC doesn’t have badge appeal. I’m sure there are people out there who will disagree with me and that’s fine but it’s the truth. Nobody is excited to rush out and get a GMC because it’s soooooo much nicer than a Chevy. I don’t know why people buy GMC. I have a couple theories but those are probably best kept to myself in the interest of not getting verbally stoned in the digital public square known as the comments section.

Not even that pretty Bronze Alloy Metallic exterior can sway me from my verdict; there is no reason to get the GMC Canyon instead of the Chevy Colorado, especially since they offer the same paint, just under the name Brownstone Metallic. The same colors, the same options, the same damn truck. Sorry GMC Canyon, there is just no place for you in the conversation.

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Total- 53/100

Engine: 2.5L I-4 DOHC VVT with direct injection

Power: 200 @6300 RPM/ 191 lb-ft @4400 RPM

Transmission: N8D 6-speed manual

Drivetrain: 2WD

Curb Weight: 3880 lbs.

Payload: 1490 lbs.

Trailering: 3500 lbs.

Headroom: 41.4” front 36.7” rear

Legroom: 45” front /28.6” rear

Seating: 2 people/4 purse dogs

MPG: 19/26, 21 mpg average observed

MSRP: $22,650 base, $24,915 as tested