A red 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X is shown from the front.

Edging Out The Competition On Features: 2023 Canyon vs 2023 Frontier

The 2023 Nissan Frontier and 2023 GMC Canyon couldn’t be more different despite being in the same segment. Yes, they’re both midsize pickups, but who they cater to and why is what distinctly sets them apart. They’re not quite like the full-size rivals in the form of the Silverado and F-150 or the Sierra and the Ram. From price-point to features, both trucks offer varied features for their respective audiences. And that’s what this article will attempt to break down when it comes to the 2023 GMC Canyon vs 2023 Nissan Frontier.

Yes, we know that the Frontier is a popular midsize pickup when it comes to sales, but that doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to the broader landscape of the midsize division and where it sits among its peers. This rings especially true with the GMC Canyon, which isn’t a typical midsize pickup, and many of its features help bear that out. But let’s get into the details and discuss why that is.

Sales Data Isn’t The Whole Story…

When you look at the sales data between the Canyon and Frontier, you might see a simple tale of one midsize truck beating the other soundly every year on end, year in and year out. If you’re wondering why that is, the answer to that is actually pretty simple. It all boils down to the way both trucks are positioned in the market and who they cater to. In short, it’s a matter of affordability.

The Frontier seeks an audience that is looking for an affordable, cheap, functional pickup. It offers the basics for a basic price, and it delivers that. Sure, an argument can be made that some base trim GMC Canyons over the years can be found cheaper than base trims of the Frontier, but the issue is when you scale up the trim spectrum of both trucks. The top-end trim of the Frontier is barely $10,000 more than its base trim, whereas the Canyon’s top-end trim is in a whole other league from its base trim as a truck. It’s a matter of specificity.

The Frontier is the fourth most-sold midsize truck for 2022, just behind the Toyota Tacoma. This puts the Frontier in a very unique place in the market, and this is despite having very few refreshes and very few generational updates over the years. But sales data isn’t everything. What it tells you is that the truck moves a lot of units, and, as mentioned, this is due to its reputation as a reliable, affordable midsize pickup. But what happens when you want more than that? What happens when affordability isn’t the only metric in which to gauge a truck’s functionality? Well, that’s where things diverge greatly between the Frontier and the Canyon.

A grey 2023 Nissan Frontier Pro4x is shown from the front off-roading.

More Performance, More Off-Road Capabilities…

If you look beyond price and a longstanding accommodation from the marketplace for the Frontier, the 2023 GMC Canyon vs 2023 Nissan Frontier takes on a decidedly different tone. Once you start looking at the comparison purely from a performance and capability standpoint, you see where the Canyon begins to come into its own. Sure, the Frontier has the PRO-X and PRO-4X trims for offroad enthusiasts, but in terms of overall performance, it just doesn’t quite live up to the standards of the 2023 Canyon.

The horsepower between the two vehicles is identical, but the Canyon has been tweaked for the 2023 model year to take advantage of a modified 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 430 lb-ft of torque. Compare that to the Frontier’s 3.8-liter V6, which only yields 281 lb-ft of torque, and there’s quite a big difference between both trucks in terms of scaling for different activities. This stands out even more, especially for off-roading, where torque is king.

These sorts of performance differences carry over into both midsize trucks’ capabilities, too. The Frontier has always been known as a casual pickup, but in 2023 its payload tops out at 1,610 lbs, and its towing at 6,720 lbs. That’s likely more than enough for most people looking for a basic midsize truck, but the Canyon readily surpasses that at 7,700 lbs worth of towing and 1,640 lbs worth of payload capacity. So sure, an argument can be made about the Frontier’s pricing and reliability, but an equal argument can certainly be made for the Canyon’s price justifying its performance, towing, and payload capabilities as well.

Amenities, Comfort, And Tech…

Safety has never been a big issue with the Frontier or Canyon. Both come with a great number of features that keep them in the good graces of the agencies that oversee automobile safety. But when you look at the 2023 GMC Canyon vs 2023 Nissan Frontier from the perspective of comfort, tech, and other amenities, once again, there’s a steep divergence in what features you get with one truck and what you don’t get with the other. Much like with the performance scaling, there are some significant differences in the other feature sets of both trucks, too.

When it comes to infotainment, the GMC Infotainment System powered by the Google Built-In suite is worlds apart from the NissanConnect suite. The Frontier tops out with a 9-inch HD touchscreen and a 7-inch Advanced Drive-Assist digital display cluster. The Canyon, meanwhile, comes with a massive 11.3-inch diagonal HD touchscreen with an available 11-inch digital driver information center and an additional 6.3-inch HD heads-up display. It’s all quite impressive on the Canyon’s end, and the price discrepancy is indicative of the feature differences between the two trucks.

Up to 10 available waterproof cameras on the GMC Canyon and off-road profiles all help to elevate the in-cabin experience for navigation and off-road traversal. That’s not to mention that when it comes to interior comfort features, the Frontier tops out with leather-appointed seats. The Canyon, however, comes with available jet-black leather heated and ventilated seats with teak accents. Laser-etched open-pore wood trimming and chrome surround for the interior give the Canyon that extra luxurious feel for those who want it. To the Frontier’s credit, it does top out the Canyon in the audio department, with a 10-speaker premium Fender sound system, whereas the Canyon has a 7-speaker Bose premium audio system. But everywhere else, the Canyon is pure class.

A red 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X is shown from the front driving on a dirt road during a 2023 GMC Canyon vs 2023 Nissan Frontier comparison.

Geared For Off-Road…

Surely, the biggest difference between the 2023 GMC Canyon and 2023 Nissan Frontier is in the off-road offerings for the model year. In recent times General Motors has taken a serious interest in elevating the off-road capabilities of their truck line-up, which has included a strong focus on off-roading for the Silverado, Colorado, Sierra, and now the Canyon. The Frontier has always had off-road options in the form of the PRO-X and PRO-4X trims, but how does the longstanding trims of the Frontier measure up to the revamped Canyon? Well, decently enough.

Both trucks feature a 4×4 transfer case and tuned suspension for off-road traversal. This includes Bilstein shocks and 9.5-inches of ground-clearance for the Frontier. All-terrain tires and skid plates, along with an electronically locking rear differential help ensure you get a great off-road experience with the Frontier. The Canyon, however, offers a bit more beef on bone, with up to 10.7 inches of ground clearance for its AT4X off-road trim thanks to the factory-installed lift-kit and 33-inch mud-terrain tires. The Canyon also features Multimatic DSSV Dampers and both front and rear electronical-locking differentials.

In short, GMC basically said, “We can do everything you can do, but better,” and packaged that mentality right into the midsize 2023 GMC Canyon. As stated near the top of the article, the sales data doesn’t tell you everything about these two trucks, and it looks like General Motors is counting on the higher-end features and off-road capabilities to start eating more readily into the midsize market share for the GMC Canyon. Will it work? Maybe. But one thing is for sure, even though the Frontier may dominate in sales, it certainly doesn’t dominate when it comes to feature sets and performance capabilities compared to the 2023 model year Canyon.