Used Guide: 2015-2021 GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado

A few things to look for when shopping for one of General Motors’ second-generation midsize pickup trucks

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The 2015 model year marked the introduction of a new, second-generation version of GM’s midsize pickups—the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado. At the time, smaller vehicles were enjoying a surge in popularity, and pickup trucks were no exception. According to GM, these midsize trucks were aimed at a shopper looking for a capable pickup truck that was easy to navigate in congested spaces or fit in a smaller garage.

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The 2015 GMC Canyon short-bed cab is 212.7 inches long – about 17 inches shorter than a comparable Sierra 1500. An overall width of 74.3 inches is five inches narrower than the Sierra, and just two inches wider than the GMC Terrain compact SUV of the same year .

Buyers can consider petrol-powered versions with four- or six-cylinder options including a 2.5 liter Ecotec four; or a 3.6 liter V6. For the 2016 model year, a 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine was added. Three cab configurations were offered, as well as two- or four-wheel drive.

An available EZ lift-and-lower tailgate used an internal torsion bar to make it easier to raise the tailgate with one hand; and a damper for smoother and more controlled lowering. Towing capacity varies by model and powertrain, with some units offering maximum towing capacities approaching 7,000 lbs. Take a closer look at GM’s towing and towing charts for more.

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2018 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel
2018 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Photo by Chevrolet

Note that many models included an Eaton locking rear axle as standard, which helps increase traction in slippery conditions and winter driving, with less need to engage the 4×4 system.

Look for OnStar, premium sound system, lane departure warning, automatic lighting and climate control, a sunroof, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which were added for 2016. If you’re set on having any of these smartphone connectivity features in your truck, make sure that both exist and work in the Canyon or Colorado you are considering. Both systems can be added to older trucks with a software update, but you’ll need to contact your dealer for more information.

Buyers looking for the best infotainment and connectivity experience from this generation of GM’s midsize pickups might consider a 2019 or later unit. For the 2019 model year, improved infotainment systems were added to the lineup with increased functionality and upgrades such as improved voice recognition, an HD rearview camera system, and improved built-in microphone performance for phone calls.

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2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition
2021 GMC Canyon AT4 Off-Road Performance Edition Photo by GMC

Tip 1: Air conditioning problems

Some owners of GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado models have experienced problems with freezing, poor performing or non-functional air conditioners. Most have not. These problems seem more likely on earlier devices from this generation, for example, model year 2015 and 2016.

Look out for any warning signs on your test drive. First, check the front footwell carpet where it meets the front firewall for signs of moisture, mold, or moisture, which could be signs of an air conditioner leak caused by ice buildup. Second, confirm that the cabin air filter is fresh and clean, noting that failure to replace the cabin air filter in a timely manner is a leading cause of air conditioner and heater performance problems.

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Stress test the air conditioning by parking the vehicle for a few minutes after the test drive, in the sun and running the air conditioning on its strongest setting. Confirm that the system can provide a strong and even stream of cold air, cycling through each available vent to confirm proper airflow.

Generally, air conditioning performance issues can be fixed with a software update or refrigerant charge, although other issues may be at play. If in doubt, have a dealer’s technician investigate. Also check the engine coolant level. A low coolant reading can be a sign of several problems – including a not uncommonly leaking heater core, which can affect heater performance.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado Z71
2018 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Photo by Chevrolet

Tip 2: Lighting

Some owners of Canyon and Colorado models from this generation have complained of disappointing performance from the factory-installed headlights. Many have not. On your test drive, confirm that the headlight housings are in good condition, clear and undamaged. Look for signs of moisture or condensation inside the headlight housings, and note that any fogging or discoloration of the lenses can reduce lighting performance after dark.

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If you do a lot of after-dark driving, budgeting for a set of upgraded headlight bulbs could be just the ticket to improve after-dark confidence, according to the owner community.

2018 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel
2018 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel Photo by General Motors

Tip 3: Recalls

Canyon and Colorado models from this generation were subject to various recalls intended to address latent safety defects. Recall work is performed free of charge by the dealer to make your vehicle safer, so you want to be sure that any outstanding recall work has been performed, if applicable.

Some models were affected by recalls, others were not. With your new truck’s VIN in hand, visit GM’s recall website to see what, if any, recalls apply to the specific vehicle you’re considering. For more information on recalls, check out Transport Canada.

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After your purchase, contact GM Canada to register as the truck’s new owner and provide your contact information. This will help ensure that you are notified of future recalls in a timely manner. Vehicles that have been regularly serviced by dealers, or models sold as part of a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program, likely already have outstanding recall work.

2.8-liter Duramax diesel in the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
2.8-liter Duramax diesel in the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Photo by Chevrolet

Tip 4: Problems with the drivetrain

Some owners have reported engine and drivetrain problems with their Canyons and Colorados. Most have not.

On your test drive, note that 2017 and newer models used a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Some owners complained of rough shifting, poor throttle response and a notable wait for gears to shift when shifting from drive to reverse. GM released Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) to help dealers fix problems like these.

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According to the owner’s community, problems with the quality of shifting can be affected by the moisture content of the transmission fluid. This is why switching to a revised fluid formulation can often solve problems.

If you notice any unwanted behavior from the transmission during your test drive, especially in the form of an unusual shuddering sensation, solutions usually involve a software update and transmission flush, although more expensive hardware issues may also be at play. You want to know before you buy, so be sure to have a professional examine if you notice anything you don’t like.

Owners of diesel-powered models generally report a trouble-free ownership experience, although some have had problems with electronics or sensors that control the diesel engine’s emissions system. The most reliable Duramax powered models tend to be those that have been regularly serviced, updated and religiously maintained by dealers.

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Test-driving shoppers should also check for warning messages when switching between two- and four-wheel drive and have the vehicle inspected for signs of leaks or fluid leaks from the axles and differentials.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Trail Runner
2019 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Trail Runner Photo by Chevrolet

Tip 5: Warranty and diagnostics

If the Colorado or Canyon you’re considering is still covered by the factory warranty, you’ll want to make sure you have all the service records that show consistent and up-to-date maintenance throughout the life of the vehicle. Remember that failure to properly maintain the vehicle as described in the owner’s manual, whether by you or a previous owner, may result in damage and wear and tear not covered by the warranty. Even a single fluid change or inspection and service can put the remaining warranty in jeopardy.

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A pre-purchase diagnostic scan is also an excellent idea. Even if there is no warning light or error message illuminated, the computer in the truck you are considering may store one or more “trouble codes” that may provide insight into a potential problem. These error codes can be accessed using specialized equipment, preferably in a dealer environment. A diagnostic scan takes a few minutes and is one of your best protections against buying a used truck with hidden problems.

Last thought

These tips are designed to help test drive buyers more easily identify possible problem areas reported by some owners. A careful test drive and shopping process that focuses on the areas above can help you find a top-notch example of a used GMC Canyon or Chevrolet Colorado.

Justin Pritchard

Justin Pritchard is a Sudbury, Ontario based automotive journalist and award-winning presenter, photographer, videographer and technical writer. Each week, Justin uses his keyboard, voice and cameras to share his latest car reviews and discoveries with his audience, via several Canadian television shows, print and online publications.

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