We recently had the chance to get behind the wheel of the all-new Chevy Trax and GMC Canyon pickup truck and came away impressed.
Automakers are updating their product lineups all the time so it was no surprise when Chevrolet announced a new Trax around the same time that GMC announced a new Canyon. What is surprising is just how good each one is in its own way. After a few days in the Appalachian mountains with each, we came away seriously impressed.
Just what is the new Chevy Trax? It’s a completely redesigned compact SUV that mostly rides like an everyday car. Under the skin is a 1.2-liter (yes you read that right) turbocharged three-cylinder engine that develops just 137 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. It sends that through a six-speed automatic gearbox and then to the front wheels only.
That drivetrain is identical across all five trim levels. Despite GM’s commitment to go all-electric by 2035, there’s no hybridization here. This little car starts at just $21,495 and at its most expensive (before options) costs $24,995.
Before one gets any hint at the interior quality of the new Trax it’s clear from the exterior design that this is a big departure from the old Trax. This SUV is longer, wider, and sharper looking. It shares much of its design DNA with the Trailblazer and Blazer but was actually developed internally before either of those vehicles. Climbing the trim ladder offers even more aggressive styling.
Where we think Chevy really hit it out of the park though is when it comes to the interior. GM vehicles in general aren’t particularly impressive inside but the Trax stands out. Sure, it’s still full of plastics but most are well hidden. Those that aren’t hidden actually have unique and interesting patterning details on them.
The seating position is great with ample visibility in every direction and we really like the available 11-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s not the deepest we’ve experienced but at this price point, it’s more than competitive. Chevrolet also offers adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and emergency braking on the Trax.
Driving the 2024 Trax is an exercise in framing. What we mean by that is that comparing it to anything other than its direct competitors is unfair to it. The little engine and front-wheel drive layout are simply not engaging or fun to drive. The steering is good and the brakes are objectively above average in terms of feedback and stopping power though.
Where the Trax really stands out is when it’s framed as a competitor to cars like the Hyundai Venue or the Nissan Kicks. It drives at least as well as those two rivals and offers a bit more space and comfort too. In town, the lackluster drivetrain of the Trax is barely perceivable. That’s where we see this little SUV making the biggest splash, the city, where parking spaces and lanes are tight.
On the other end of the spectrum, the new 2023 GMC Canyon is here with more power and girth than ever before. Much like the Trax, the entire Canyon lineup gets a single powertrain but this time it’s a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 310 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to tow up to 7,700 pounds.
Most Canyons come standard with four-wheel drive and all utilize an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Pricing starts at $38,095 but can quickly escalate. The top-end AT4X trim demands $56,995 before destination and options.
Bulging at the seams might be the easiest way to describe the angular body of the Canyon. Each corner is laden with hard creases and aggressive bodywork. All three lighting elements including the DRLs, the fog lights, and the headlights feature steep design cues that focus attention on the GMC emblem on the grille.
Those who want to go off-road or at least look like they think about it sometimes can buy a number of different Canyon trims with factory-installed off-road gear. That includes the AT4 with skid plates and bigger tires, the AT4X with DSSV Multimatic shocks, or the Edition 1 with an integrated winch, brush guard, and trail cameras.
The body of the truck benefits from the increase in size. The cabin is roomier than ever before and adults will find ample headroom and legroom in both rows. The interior also looks better than ever before. GMC uses a mix of stitching and soft-touch materials to glam up the situation. Despite that, we’d be wrong not to mention that cheap hard plastics are still prevalent and surprisingly obvious. Where the Trax impressed us, the Canyon is a little disappointing in this aspect.
Still, there are a number of features that we really love like the impressive infotainment system, the available 11-inch digital gauge cluster, and the available 360-degree camera system. GMC also includes underbody cameras, both front, and rear-facing, on the AT4X, and before you wonder what happens when they get dirty rest easy, they come with their own washing devices.
Finding a factory-made pickup that can do everything that the Canyon can do isn’t very easy in our opinion. That’s not because it’s especially excellent off-road or because it’s quiet and composed on pavement but because it’s both. Don’t get us wrong, this is still a truck and it handles like a truck, but it’s better to drive than one might assume.
The steering is communicative which makes the Canyon easy to place. The engine and transmission are responsive and engaging. And somehow road noise in the cabin is almost non-existent. It’s so quiet in fact that we assumed that GMC employed some sort of active noise-canceling in the Canyon but it didn’t.
Overall, we won’t know exactly how it stacks up to the new Ford Ranger or the Toyota Tacoma until we drive those pickups but for now, the Canyon looks like a bonafide competitor. For more details check out this full breakdown of everything the Canyon has to offer.