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Exterior view of the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4     

Not long ago, the U.S. market for small(er) trucks was on the verge of extinction. Today this segment is flourishing, and even more compact and mid-size trucks planned for the near future. One of the newest additions to the market is the redesigned 2021 GMC Canyon, which now offers an all-new AT4 off-road package.

GMC's AT4 lineup was first introduced on the full-size Sierra, and it has since spread to the Yukon, Acadia and Terrain SUVs. Thanks to its rugged body-on-frame design and just-right size, enthusiasts will likely find the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 to be the most promising of the expanded AT4 lineup.


2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Exterior

Exterior view of the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4

Following a slight design refresh focusing on different front and rear bumper designs, all 2021 GMC Canyon models get a different look compared to the 2015 to 2020 versions. But the new Canyon AT4 adds an extra dose of rugged aggressiveness with its blacked-out grille, red tow hooks and unique Y-spoke wheels.

What really sets the Canyon AT4 apart from other Canyon models is the meaty Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrec tires measuring 265/65R17 - or about 31x10.5 inches. These Goodyears are basically the same size as the base Canyon's 18-inch tires, but the AT4's use of 17-inch wheels means drivers will be getting more sidewall, plus a great all-terrain tread design for improved off-road driving. While the AT4 doesn't add anything to the Canyon's ground clearance (8.1 inches on this 4x4 crew cab), you can remove the front air dam to give the AT4 an improved approach angle. We're sure the Canyon AT4 looks good in any color, but this tester's Cayenne Red Tintcoat paint job (a $645 option) really popped.

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Interior

Interior view of the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4

From the outside, the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 looks the part of a rugged off-roader, but inside, our tester revealed a more premium truck that's enjoyable to spend time in whether you're crawling over rocks, heading to the jobsite, or dropping the kids off for school. Even though you can get a Canyon AT4 with a cloth interior, leather is definitely the way to go, as the seats get unique contrast stitching, accents with a carbon fiber pattern, and embroidered front headrests. Standard features such as the aluminum trim, a heated leather steering wheel, heated front seats, and HD Rear Vision Camera all give the AT4 a Denali-like vibe, and our tester added the navigation with Bose premium audio system for an extra $995.

Despite being a mid-size pickup, the Canyon Crew Cab has a surprisingly roomy interior. Up front, the center console armrest is wide enough for both front passengers to enjoy, and there are plenty of options for smartphone connectivity and charging. One thing I loved about this cabin is the dual-zone heated seats, which means you can choose heat for the seatback by itself, or for the seatback and seat bottom together. For the back seat, you can easily fit three adults abreast, and when rear passengers are absent, the headrests fold down easily to maximize visibility. Thanks to the design of the rear bench, there is a generous amount of hidden storage space for tools or gear. Overall, the 2021 GMC Canyon has a very stylish, versatile, and accommodating interior for a truck.

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Performance

View of the engine block of the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4

The 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 off-road package is available only on four-wheel drive models, but buyers can choose between the standard 3.6-liter direct-injected gasoline V-6 or the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder. This tester was equipped with the gas engine, which is rated at 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, and this engine is the only way to get the Canyon's more advanced eight-speed automatic transmission. As expected, this truck can do truck things with a max payload of 1,580 pounds and a tow rating of up to 7,700 pounds. All Canyons equipped with the V-6 (like this tester) have a maximum tow rating of 7,000 pounds.

Not surprisingly, the AT4 package is only offered on 4WD models, and it adds standard features such as a locking rear differential and added skid plate underneath. While it's not as extreme as the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, the Canyon AT4 has no problem going head-to-head with rival off-roaders like the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Ford Ranger Tremor or non-Rubicon versions of the Jeep Gladiator. GMC may have left a little off-road performance on the table in the name of everyday roadworthiness, but the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is easily the most capable entry-level off-roader for GMC since the Sonoma Highrider, GMC's version of the S-10 ZR2.

I was able to do plenty of off-roading during my week with the Canyon AT4, and this truck handled the muddy and sandy terrain of Florida without a hint of concern. Even with all the slow trail riding we did, the Canyon AT4 still managed a respectable 17.3 mpg average over the course of this review period, which is a great real-world showing of the EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg** in the city and 24 mpg** on the highway.

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Safety

View of the safety features of the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4

The 2021 GMC Canyon received a four-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which includes a five-star side impact rating. For added safety, this tester was equipped with the optional Driver Alert Package ($395) that includes forward collision alert and lane departure warning.

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Overall

Exterior view of the 2021 GMC Canyon AT4

With so many options available, this might be the best time for off-road enthusiast truck and SUV buyers since the '70s! Adding to this mix is the new 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 - an impressive pickup truck that's  ready to work and play hard. But you have to pay to play. Compared to the $29,495* base price of a 2021 Canyon, the AT4 can be had starting at $39,395*.

Considering the level of comfort and ruggedness you can get from a well-equipped Canyon AT4, the as-tested price of $43,230* seems like a bargain. It's still less than the price of a Canyon Denali, and features far more off-road capability.

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Jeffrey N. Ross | Apr 13, 2021

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, 4x4

Engine/Transmission

Turbocharged 3.6L V6, 308 hp, 275 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic

Mileage

17/24 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

★ ★ ★ ★  


AutoNation Drive Test Drive Review: ★ ★ ★ ★



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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.