Base Camp: 2021 GMC Canyon Elevation Standard 2WD
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
Pickup trucks aren’t often featured in our Base Camp series, primarily because many models have pushed their entry-level prices to the point of incredulity. For some, it makes good financial sense to take a short walk up the ladder, paying marginally more for a healthy dose of extra equipment. Does the 2021 GMC Canyon play that game? Let’s find out.
The General quietly dropped Canyon’s manual transmission a couple of model years ago, leaving this base truck with a six-speed automatic to pair with its 2.5L four-cylinder engine; confusing, considering the word ‘Standard’ is in this truck’s official name. An even 200 horsepower is on tap, enough for daily duty but those who plan to hitch up a trailer need to be aware that towing capacity is capped at just 3,500 lb. Upgrading to the 308 hp 3.6-litre V6 costs just $1,500 and doubles the haul rating.
GMC has decided to give its most affordable pickup a bit of flair, appending the Elevation Standard trim with new 18-inch black painted aluminium wheels along with a colour-keyed grille surround and black grille inserts. This successfully avoids making the base truck look like a Contractor’s Special. Choosing no-charge Onyx Black is an easy decision. It’ll not escape your notice this is the Extended Cab body style, featuring a less spacious back seat but more room in the bed.
Though the truck is fitted with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s an inch smaller than what’s found in some other Canyon trims, it still features satellite radio capability and Apple CarPlay. Economies of scale (the Base Camp’s best friend) permit the inclusion of six audio speakers, air conditioning, power locks, and a tilt steering wheel. Cruise control is absent – so don’t skip leg day at the gym – and the outside mirrors are manually adjusted.
What We’d Choose
If one can suffer the indignity of feathering the throttle on a long journey and (gasp!) starting the engine with an actual key, the Elevation Standard is an appealing trim for those seeking a no-frills pickup truck. However, for the sake of $1,500 we strongly recommend the V6 engine since it adds a tremendous amount of capability and the economy penalty isn’t overly severe.
Also recommended? Spending $410 on an automatic locking rear differential. Absent this option, the Canyon (and any truck, really) essentially becomes a one-wheel drive machine. The locker will add traction when you need most, preventing a wintertime situation in which one rear tire is on dry pavement doing nothing while the other spins uselessly on a patch of ice. Kudos to GMC for making this a stand-alone option instead of as part of an expensive package.
Oh – and for the true hose-it-out feel of a base model truck? Select the no-charge rubberized vinyl floor covering instead of carpet.