Rebadging Done Right: 2018 GMC Canyon

Series

It’s more than just a bow tie badge removal.

When the first generation GMC Canyon and its corporate, less pricey cousin, the Chevrolet Colorado, debuted back in 2003, few paid attention to the Canyon. Why would they? There was little to actually pay attention to. It was yet another embarrassing display of everything wrong with GM at the time. Two words: badge engineering. It was horrible, and badge engineering proved to play a role in why GM went bankrupt. Simply swapping out Chevrolet’s bow tie emblem for a trio of letters and some chrome was not smart business.

Fortunately, the lesson of bankruptcy and the shame that goes with it taught GM a few things, and many excellent vehicles have been the result. When the second generation Canyon and Colorado launched for 2015, it was immediately clear GM had instructed its GMC design team to go above and beyond to make the new Canyon look unique. Although it continues to share all of its mechanicals and powertrains with the Colorado, real styling distinction now exists. The new Canyon has an upscale look inside and out, which has undoubtedly brought new customers into GMC stores. These were people who would never have previously considered buying the Canyon because they couldn’t bear to drive a brand known for value.

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They wanted something more premium, and the GMC Canyon checks all the right boxes. Once again classified as a mid-size pickup truck, the new for 2015 Canyon features bold front end styling and LED daytime running lights. Compared to the Colorado, the Canyon has a more, shall we say, blockier look (just look at the squared-off fenders) in line with GMC’s styling language that has spread to the entire lineup. There’s also a fair amount of chrome detailing, though it doesn’t go too overboard. While the base SL trim features chrome surrounding the grille, once you bump up to the mid-level SLE you can opt for the All-Terrain package that's not only more off-road friendly, but also adds chrome trim in the grille itself.

A combination of 17-inch painted aluminum wheels wrapped in all-terrain rubber, body color rear bumper and grille surround with horizontal chrome bars, and front tow hooks provide an ideal balance between rugged and premium. Now, if you want to start spending even more dough, GMC is more than happy to offer you a way to do just that. For 2017, GMC began offering the Canyon with the premium Denali trim, which includes a leather interior, standard 20-inch alloy wheels, a spray-on bedliner, four-wheel drive, chrome running boards, and plenty more additional exterior chrome trim (welcome to bling territory). Honestly, the Canyon Denali is more like the mid-size truck Cadillac does not build.

The interior, more or less, is the same as the Colorado’s only with notable upgrades like aluminum trim on the instrument panel and an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation for the Denali package. GMC did its homework in how to not only properly package the Canyon, but also how to make it look and feel more appealing to buyers who opted to ditch their car for a truck. Yes, this is a common occurrence, both Chevrolet and GMC representatives have told us. Many Canyon buyers have never owned, or even considered, a truck before. Because the Colorado carries the stigma of Chevrolet’s affordability (which isn’t always true; case in point: the $44,000 Colorado ZR2), these buyers are drawn to GMC because of its premium status.

Then again, the Canyon’s base price is a totally reasonable $22,095, though people always spend more because – duh! – they’re shopping for a premium luxury vehicle. A fully-loaded Canyon Denali will easily come close to $50k. GMC is continuing to separate its styling identity with the just unveiled 2019 Sierra Denali. With front end styling reminiscent of a concept pickup, we fully expect this design language evolution to find its way to the Canyon when its mid-life refresh comes around. The 2018 GMC Canyon has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the premium pickup truck segment. In fact, it has no major competition. Think about it. There is no Lexus version of the Toyota Tacoma and no plans exist for this to happen.

Sure, there’s the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, but that’s sold overseas only. There is, however, the Honda Ridgeline which, like the Canyon, is not the cheapest of the pack. But both trucks (if you don’t want to call the Ridgeline a real truck then that’s fine; we get your thinking) appeal to buyers with more money to spend. Without question, GMC has finally found its design groove, and the Canyon wears that look wonderfully.

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