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When it comes to compact pickup trucks, neither the 2020 GMC Canyon nor the 2020 Nissan Frontier is setting the segment on fire. Both trucks tend to linger around the bottom of the class.

The GMC Canyon has uncomfortable seats and low scores for safety and predicted reliability. The Nissan Frontier is showing its age, provides a loud ride, and can’t keep up with the class when it comes to hauling and towing. So which is the better truck?

2020 GMC Canyon

Car and Driver say the 2020 GMC Canyon is a flexible option in its segment. Like its companion, the Chevy Colorado, you can get the Canyon with either a 5.2 or 6.2-foot bed. It’s available in either crew cab or extended cab configuration. 

There are three powertrain choices offered with the Canyon. There’s a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that Car and Driver recommend skipping. There’s a 2.8-liter diesel four-cylinder that isn’t particularly fast but it gets good fuel efficiency and helps power towing.

Finally, the higher trims get a 3.6-liter V6 engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It features cylinder deactivation in an attempt to save fuel and gets 308 hp.

The top-shelf Canyon is the Denali model that offers great style inside and out. But it’s got a price tag of over $50,000 when fully equipped. Even then you still don’t get some of the more common driver-assist features you’d expect at that price.

2020 Nissan Frontier

The 2020 Nissan Frontier is ancient. Even though that age is apparent in many ways, it remains a popular, functional work truck. The Frontier is essentially the same truck it was when it debuted as a 2005 model. You’re not going to find the latest infotainment systems or high-tech driver assists here.

What it does have? It has a tough as nails interior with a configurable cargo box. And with its reasonable starting price, it’s very popular with tradesmen and contractors. It has decent tow ratings and off-road models you can actually afford. 

The Frontier does have a new V6 powertrain to give it more appeal and a softer ride in hopes it will help you not notice what’s missing, according to Car and Driver. The 2020 Nissan Frontier is capable and affordable even if it is outdated.

GMC Canyon or Nissan Frontier: Which is the better buy?

The two trucks are comparable in what both have to offer and price. It all comes down to what you want in a truck.

The 2020 GMC Canyon gives you good gas mileage with the diesel engine and it has a quality interior even though the seats aren’t the most comfortable. The Canyon handles well for a truck and offers an intuitive infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. 

While there are a few driver-assist features, the Canyon doesn’t score highly when it comes to safety. According to Car and Driver, the Canyon didn’t do well in its crash-testing tests. While it got decent safety ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS, it only received a one out of five from Consumer Reports on predicted reliability. Recent models of Canyon were riddled with transmission problems. 

The 2020 Nissan Frontier is a workhorse with few creature comforts and a lack of driver-assist or tech features. But it’s a hard-working truck that offers a smooth, comfortable ride, thanks in part to a competent V6 engine.

Sure, it’s noisy. But it has consistently received decent predictable reliability ratings. It earned a three out of five from Consumer Reports for the 2020 model year based on previous years.

If you need an affordable work truck that handles well enough and has decent towing chops, you may want to opt for the 2020 Nissan Frontier. Keep in mind that the Frontier is all-new in 2021 so you may want to wait for that one.

If you need an affordable truck that’s more than just bare-bones basic, you might consider the GMC Canyon instead. 

With the 2020 Nissan Frontier’s tough work ethic and greater reliability, it has a slight edge on the 2020 GMC Canyon.


Only 1 Type of Driver Should Buy the 2020 GMC Canyon