Surely, you’ve heard the saying “Sunday Funday” and if you haven’t, just check Instagram stories at the end of the week. For me, Sundays all about moving stuff, which can be fun—with the right equipment. I might be hauling some 2x4s back from Home Depot, dropping my kid (and her gear) off at soccer practice, or heading off with a kayak. During the week, though, my car is all about routine drives to and from work, which is why I’m drawn to a mid-size pickup truck‘s promise of business in the front and party in the back.
I took the 2018 GMC Canyon Denali (from $44,295) out over a weekend of chores to see if a smaller truck could fit into suburban family life. We’re a few years into the resurgence of the mid-size pickups, which GMC returned to back in 2015. And with the Ford Ranger reemerging in 2019, there’s no shortage of interest in smaller pickups. The Canyon fills that space between the full-size Sierra, but with a nicer cabin than the stablemate Chevy Colorado pickup.
If you’ve been in a Denali-level GMC before, the Canyon version feels familiar: A leather interior with nice contrasting stitching, comfortable seats up front, a well laid out and intuitive 8-inch infotainment screen, though designers kept a couple of chunky control knobs, which I’m grateful for. Perched high up, you’ll never mistake the vantage point for the one from your low-slung sedan, but it feels more like an SUV (heated steering wheel, auto climate control, collision and lane departure warnings) than a brutish pickup truck. The quad cab spoils those up front, but if you’re over six feet tall, the rear is a little tight on legroom. Still, it had plenty of space for my kid and her booster seat. The Apple CarPlay integration is seamless and the onboard WiFi (through AT&T for about $20 per month) kept my kid’s iPads humming on long rides.
When it comes time to work, the five-foot-long bed is ready, as it comes with a spray-on liner that grips cargo and prevents rust. On a big gardening weekend around Memorial Day I stocked the bed with 15 bags of mulch during one trip to the home center, only to find a massive free pile waiting for anyone with a truck at the municipal center. (I filled the bed up with that, too.) I also picked up two massive Stihl pressure washers I was testing. Even fully loaded with cargo, the Canyon handles like an SUV. When I wasn’t hauling, the family headed out for pizza and neither I or my wife noticed much of a difference in the handling or road noise that would have screamed “I’m driving a truck.”
On the outside is plenty of Denali chrome, from the front grill along both sides. My ride came with a sports bar package behind the rear window, which felt clunky. The proportions of the Canyon are nearly spot on, though I wouldn’t say no to a bed that’s a little longer, even if it comes at the expense of easy parking.
Until I head out west and live the kind of life that the full-size pickup truck commercials show you, a mid-size ride is the right fit for active families that need to get stuff done without renting a uHaul. The Canyon Denali simply folds in a nice luxurious touch so that, Monday through Friday, it feels more like a high-end SUV.