There are plenty of full-size pickup trucks to choose from, but the field has been thinning considerably for shoppers seeking a midsized truck. The 2012 GMC Canyon has been going strong since 2004. Another midsized truck is the Nissan Frontier. If you don't want to go wrong, pick the Canyon because it's the leader in this tight class.
The compelling reasons to go with the 2012 GMC Canyon over the Nissan Frontier start with the price. A two-wheel drive GMC Canyon in Work Truck trim carries an MSRP of $17,490 while you'll be spending at least $1,200 more to put yourself into a Nissan Frontier 2WD King Cab, which has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that's nearly 500 cc smaller than the 2.9-liter unit in the Canyon. The larger engine in the Canyon packs 185 hp and 190 lb/ft of torque, significantly more than the 152 hp and 171 lb/ft of torque the Nissan offers. Torque peaks in the Canyon at just 2,800 rpm, too, which means you've got low-end grunt to get the job done while the Nissan has to rev itself up to 4,400 rpm to generate peak torque.
In this class, where size matters inversely, the Colorado offers up tidier exterior dimensions, making it an easier fit in garages and tight maneuvering situations. The wheelbase in the Canyon is shorter by about a foot, and it also saves five inches of width over the Nissan, meaning you can get in and out of the Canyon even in tight parking spaces, and the turning circle is also smaller. Possibly the most significant bottom-line advantage that the Canyon gives you is a significant weight savings. That two-wheel drive Canyon Work Truck is lighter than many midsized sedans at just 3,366 pounds.
Moving up from the base-model trucks, you'll find that the 2012 GMC Canyon offers more cab configurations than the Frontier, which is only available as a King Cab or four-door Crew Cab. Canyon buyers can choose between Standard, Extended and Crew Cab configurations. Depending on cab style, there's seating for up to six inside the Canyon while the Frontier will seat up to five. If your tastes tilt toward luxury, there are power-adjustable heated leather seats available in the Canyon SLT trim as well. Nissan Frontier buyers can only choose the color of the cloth upholstery, making the Canyon SLT the only choice for luxury-seeking compact pickup buyers.
Other Canyon trims are SLE-1, which adds the Power Convenience Package and can also be equipped with the Z71 Suspension Package for extended off-road capabilities. Alloy wheels are standard for Canyon SLE models, and the optional 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder engine offers 242 hp and 242 lb/ft of torque to put to work. The optional 4.0-liter V6 in the Frontier is good for 261 hp and 281 lb/ft of torque, but that comes at the cost of fuel economy. The Canyon 3.7-liter 4WD returns 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, significantly better than the 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway you'll get from a 4WD Frontier SV V6 with automatic transmission. In fact, fuel economy in a Canyon with the 3.7-liter engine and four-wheel drive is better than even the 17 mpg city, 22 highway from the less-capable Frontier SV four-cylinder with two-wheel drive and automatic transmission.
The 3.7-liter engine is part of the standard equipment list for Canyon SLE-2 trims, along with an automatic locking rear differential, sliding rear window, front bucket seats and trailering equipment. If lots of towing is part of your regimen, the Canyon offers a trump card of underhood muscle. A 5.3-liter V8 engine is available for Canyon SLE-1 and SLT trims, bringing unsurpassed torque to the class. A Z82 HD trailering suspension is standard with the V8, along with the Z85 HD Suspension Package, all of which help the 300 hp and 320 lb/ft of torque get to work without fuss; stability, on- and off-road, benefits as well. Even with the big muscle of the V8, the Canyon returns 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway.
There may be fewer offerings in the midsized pickup market, but it doesn't matter much because the GMC Canyon is still doing what it has done since launching in 2004 – offering the most flexible configuration options, widest array of powertrain choices and best value for your dollar.