If you’re one to pay close attention to auto-related news, you might know that midsize pickup trucks are making a comeback. For years, the Toyota Tacoma has been the leader in this segment. It has earned this bulletproof reputation mainly due to its notable reliability — there are plenty of them on the road with over 200,000 miles on the odometer.
However, this may be Toyota’s weak spot, selling Tacomas based on reputation alone. Thus, the automaker has resisted improving some of the truck’s deficiencies over the years. This might be why Kelley Blue Book says the 2021 GMC Canyon is heading the Tacoma off at the pass.
The 2021 Toyota Tacoma
Kelley Blue Book likened its comparison to the “old school fac[ing] off against a fresher rival.” Of course, the old school is the 2021 Toyota Tacoma, maintaining its top position through its reputation for quality. The Tacoma has been a best-selling midsize pickup truck for over a decade and a half. Nevertheless, with a growing number of competitors nipping at its heels, the Tacoma got several upgrades to keep its edge.
Every Tacoma model receives the brand’s safety suite, featuring adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. The Toyota Tacoma comes in six trim levels. The SR starts at $26,150; the SR5 at $27,940; the TRD Sport at $33,060; the TRD Off-Road at $34,315; and the Limited at 38,905.
KBB suggests the 3.5-liter V6 over the standard 2.7-liter I4 because their fuel economy ratings are similar. This is significant considering the latter option offers only 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, while the former offers 6,800 pounds of towing capacity.
The 2021 GMC Canyon
The Canyon is directly related to the Chevrolet Colorado and was introduced on January 12, 2014. The next day, the Canyon made its official debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. While the Canyon offers many of the same features as the Colorado, it comes with added options and a higher MSRP. According to KBB’s review, the GMC Canyon rides more like an SUV than a pickup truck. It’s a sturdy work truck on weekdays and a trusty family vehicle on weekends.
The 2021 GMC Canyon comes in three trims: the Canyon Elevation Standard and Elevation, starting at $26,400; the Canyon AT4 at $38,200; and the Canyon Denali at $40,900. It comes with one of three engines: a 200-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder; an available 308-hp, 3.6-liter V6; a 181-hp, 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel boasting 369 lb-ft of torque; and 7,700-pound max trailering and a 4WD.
Adding to its resemblance to GMC SUVs, the 2021 Canyon sports a huge square grille. Each trim model comes with an extended or crew cab, while the AT4 and Denali trims are exclusively crew cab pickups. Gasoline-powered engines are mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed automatic transmission is paired with a diesel-powered engine.
The KBB’s final recommendation
The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is above average for its sturdy construction, good resale value, TRD Pro off-road ability, and available V6. It’s below average in terms of being long overdue for a significant makeover, including its cabin, comfort, and handling. The 2021 Tacoma’s fuel economy is only average for this segment. With around 33 trim configurations to choose from, the TRD models are best for enthusiasts, KBB said. The TRD can have an optioned six-speed manual transmission, is rugged and durable, and boasts a stronger resale value.
The 2021 GMC Canyon is above average in terms of its off-road AT4 and luxury Denali models, its available diesel power, and, with it, a maximum of 7,700 pounds of towing capacity. The Canyon is below average for having a high bed lift-over and no manual transmission. Additionally, Sierra’s MultiPro tailgate is unavailable. Overall, KBB praised the 2021 Canyon for providing a ride more like an SUV and its new rugged exterior that echoes the full-size Sierra. The All-Terrain X trim has been replaced by the all-new AT4, which offers a better off-roading experience.
In closing, the KBB review stated: “Normally, the Tacoma would be a hands-down winner. But in this case, the GMC upstart offers a new package with a more refined ride, configuration choices, and overall capability. For that reason, the GMC Canyon is the winner of this round.” In other words, the minor upgrades Toyota made to its midsize pickup truck weren’t enough to prevent the Canyon from toppling the Tacoma from its top spot.