A white 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is driving through the snow with mountains in the background.

Comparing the Updates on the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado

General Motors has taken a bold move, deciding to update its popular midsize trucks from GMC and Chevy. After five years on the market, a refresh was needed, and GM has made the update worthwhile. But what’s new for these trucks, and how do the 2021 GMC Canyon vs 2021 Chevy Colorado stack up against each other? Overall, these two trucks continue to be broadly similar, offering more or less the same performance but with the GMC model providing more upscale looks and features. The new model year also narrows the gap in off-road capabilities between the two models, with the Canyon gaining the AT4 trim to compete with the Colorado ZR2.

Both the GMC Canyon and the Chevy Colorado have also done away with a number of trims and replaced them with new ones. In the case of the Canyon, this means that the SL, SLE, All Terrain, SLT, and Canyon are gone, while the Colorado said so long to its Base trim. This may be a risky move, as it limits the number of options available to consumers. However, it is probably worth the risk as it focuses on the strengths of these superior midsize pickups. Both the Canyon and Colorado are built on the same frame, so you will get the same roomy cab and spacious bed regardless of which truck you choose. With that being said, there are some key differences between these two models that you should consider when deciding on your next midsize pickup truck.

Trims and Price Points

Both the 2021 GMC Canyon and 2021 Chevy Colorado come in four different trim levels. The base model of the Canyon is the Elevation Standard with an MSRP of $26,400. Moving up to the next trim, the Elevation, you will find standard features such as LED fog lights, remote start, and automatic climate control for an MSRP of $30,000. The Canyon AT4 replaces the old All Terrain trim for the 2021 model year and is the model for off-road enthusiasts with hill descent control, specialized off-road suspension, red tow hooks, and an Autotrac 2-speed transfer case for an MSRP of $38,200. The top trim is the Canyon Denali, and its MSRP of $40,900 gets you a true luxury with ventilated front seats, a Bose stereo system, and a standard Driver Alert Package.

The Colorado returns for 2021 with the WT replacing the Base as its starting trim. The WT has an MSRP of $25,300, which is about $1,000 lower than the starting trim of the GMC Canyon. The next trim level is the LT, which adds body-color exterior elements, a power driver’s seat, and an EZ Lift & Lower tailgate for an MSRP of $27,700. The Z71 has an MSRP of $35,500 is geared for off-roading with an upgraded suspension package, automatic locking rear differential, and all-terrain tires. However, the ultimate off-road trim remains the ZR2 with its standard four-wheel drive, factory suspension lift, and Multimatic DSSV damping system for an MSRP of $41,600.

It seems pretty clear that Chevrolet has chosen to take two different approaches with the Colorado, with the WT and LT as basic light-duty pickups for hauling purposes, while the higher-priced Z71 and ZR2 trims are designed primarily for off-road enthusiasts. This is not the case with GMC, which has taken a more holistic approach to the 2021 Canyon. Only the AT4 is for off-roading, and it falls squarely between the Z71 and ZR2 when it comes to both capability and price. In addition, there is a clear increase in luxury features as you move up the trims with the Canyon going from the comfortable Elevation Standard all the way up to the luxurious Denali trim.

A red and black 2021 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is parked in the desert.

Engines and Performance

General Motors has given the 2021 GMC Canyon and the 2021 Chevy Colorado the same three engine options. The first is a 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder gas engine with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing to improve overall engine efficiency. This engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and produces 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. It is standard on the Elevation Standard and Elevation trims of the Canyon and the WT and LT trims of the Colorado.

The second engine option is a 3.6-liter DOHC V6 gas engine with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. This engine has an 8-speed automatic transmission and produces 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. It is standard on the Canyon’s AT4 and Denali trims and the Colorado’s Z71 and ZR2 trims. However, it is also an option on all the lower trims of both models.

The final engine option is a 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel I-4. It produces 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque with double overhead camshafts, direct injection, and an exhaust brake. This engine is an option on all but the base trims of both models, providing excellent fuel efficiency and towing power.

Fuel Economy

Both the 2021 GMC Canyon and the 2021 Chevy Colorado feature exceptional fuel economy. However, there is a slight difference between the two. The standard trims of the Canyon and Colorado are rated for the same fuel efficiency. With the base four-cylinder engine, you can expect 22 MPG combined with two-wheel drive and 21 MPG combined with four-wheel drive. Upgrading to the V6 engine option will reduce fuel economy slightly to 21 MPG combined with two-wheel drive and 19 MPG combined with four-wheel drive. However, the top diesel engine offers the best fuel economy at 23 MPG combined with two-wheel drive and 22 MPG combined with four-wheel drive.

But these figures only apply to the three lower trims of the 2021 Chevy Colorado. If you choose the ZR2 trim, its higher and wider profile will mean significantly reduced fuel efficiency. With its standard V6 engine, the Colorado ZR2 only makes 17 MPG combined instead of 19 MPG combined, and even with the optional diesel, it is limited to 19 MPG combined instead of 22 MPG combined. So while the aggressive profile of the ZR2 may look good, if you are looking for an off-road capable daily driver, then you will be much better-served with Canyon AT4.

A white 2021 GMC Canyon AT4 is driving in the mountains after the 2021 GMC Canyon vs 2021 Chevy Colorado comparison.

Payload Capacity

Even though both of these trucks are built on the same platform and utilize the same powertrain options, there are actual differences between them. Given that the two trucks share a platform, these differences are not huge, but it appears that GMC has put a greater emphasis on payload than Chevy when designing its midsize truck.

Both the 2021 GMC Canyon and the 2021 Chevy Colorado have a maximum payload of 49.9 cubic feet if you choose a long box. However, the maximum payload weight on a Canyon Crew Cab is 1,570 lbs as compared to a Colorado Crew Cab, which is only 1,550 pounds. The same holds true for the Canyon Extended Cab, with a maximum payload capacity of 1,560 lbs compared to the 1,530 lbs maximum payload on the Colorado Extended Cab.

GMC Remains a Cut Above

It appears that General Motors has put out two winners for 2021 in the GMC Canyon and the Chevy Colorado. Both of these trucks provide a very roomy interior cab and great engine options. However, the GMC Canyon offers a more cohesive trim lineup, slightly better fuel economy on some models, greater payload capacity, and of course, more luxury features and an upscale look.