How Safe Is the GMC Canyon?

With more pickup trucks aimed at families, their safety has never been more important. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety test and rate vehicles, providing consumers with valuable data. One pickup that might not be the best for your family is the GMC Canyon. It has just okay crash test results, especially for the passenger, and lacks advanced safety technology and quality headlights.

GMC Canyon

The GMC Canyon was redesigned for the 2015 model year. The mid-size pickup truck is currently available with an extended cab or a crew cab, two bed length options, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, and three engine options.

Between the 2019 and 2020 model years, the GMC Canyon received only a few updates. It now has Tire Fill Alert, which honks the horn when a tire has been filled to its recommended pressure. It also has a new Carbon Black Metallic paint color option. For new safety features, a Driver Alert Package is now available, which gives forward collision warning and lane-departure warning.

IIHS safety ratings

The GMC Canyon safety ratings are mostly Good, out of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor, but the 2019 model wasn’t ranked well enough to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Data is not available yet for 2020. The IIHS vehicle ratings marked the 2019 GMC Canyon as Good, for small overlap front: driver-side, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints & seats in their crashworthiness category.

Results for the small overlap front: passenger-side test were Marginal, the third of their four ranking standards. This lower rating comes because the structure is not reinforced on the passenger side of the truck. After a 2015 redesign, the structure was reinforced on the driver side starting with the 2017 model year. Passenger safety ratings are something many of the pickup trucks continue to struggle with.

In the crash avoidance & mitigation category, headlights were given a Poor rating, the worst of the four options. Visibility from the headlights was inadequate when curving to the left. Also, the high beams created too much glare.

The optional system for front crash prevention: vehicle-to-vehicle got a Basic rating. Vehicles with the Basic rating fulfill the government performance criteria but don’t include some of the more advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking. Other available safety features that are included are standard daytime running lights and optional lane departure warning.

NHTSA safety ratings

A 2019 GMC Canyon carrying standup paddle boards
A 2019 GMC Canyon carrying standup paddle boards | Courtesy of

The NHTSA rated the 2020 GMC Canyon and found similar results to the IIHS the year before. From their assessment, the Canyon got four out of five stars. The truck received four stars overall for frontal crashes, including four stars for front driver side and four stars for front passenger side. For side crashes, the truck got five stars overall, with five stars in each category of Combined Side Barrier and Pole Ratings, Side Barrier, and Overall Side Pole Star Rating. It received only three stars for the rollover rating; however, that rating is calculated and not based on testing.

Some advanced safety technologies are available only as optional upgrades. Forward collision warning and lane departure warning are both available as part of the Driver Alert Package. Automatic emergency braking and dynamic brake support are not available at all on the Canyon. All models of the Canyon do come with anti-lock brakes, six airbags, and a rearview camera. 

Safer pickup trucks

2019 GMC Canyon
2019 GMC Canyon | GMC

In general, passengers in pickup trucks are more at risk of injury or death than drivers, based on research from the IIHS. The design of trucks, as rigid and sturdy, means they don’t perform as well in a frontal crash. They don’t collapse in a crash, causing more energy to transfer into the passenger area. In addition, with their history as commercial vehicles, it’s taken longer for safety features to become a focus on trucks, although it is starting to be. 

There are a few highly rated pickup trucks currently though. For 2019, IIHS awarded the Top Safety Pick to the Honda Ridgeline Crew cab pickup with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights. They awarded the Top Safety Pick+ to the 2019-20 Ram 1500 Crew cab pickup with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights (built after May 2019).