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Our sticker showed a base price of $19,950 for the 2004 Canyon Extended Cab Z85 SLE 4x2, but the up-to-date GMC Web site listed this model starting at $20,080 (neither price includes the $685 destination charge). Our test truck also had OnStar ($695), Power Convenience Package ($500), 6-disc CD player ($395), XM radio ($295), traction control ($295), trailer hitch ($270), locking differential ($270) and side curtain air bags ($215). These are the type of options typical shoppers would desire. The entertainment upgrades make long drives more bearable, and the locking diff and traction control help in inclement weather. The tow rating for the 4-cylinder engine with the 5-speed manual transmission and 3.73:1 is just 2000 pounds, so a trailer hitch won’t do anyone much good unless they’re towing personal watercraft or a trailer with landscaping tools.

For those seeking more of a bargain, the Extended Cab with the Z85 suspension can be ordered with the base SL trim, starting at $18,370. The SL includes the 2.8-liter dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual, chrome bumpers, 60/40 bench seat, vinyl floor covering, compact spare tire, AM/FM stereo, air conditioning and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The SLE adds bucket seats with floor console, folding seats in the rear, carpeting, tilt steering wheel, cruise control and CD player.

The Canyon is based on an entirely new platform that isn’t shared with an SUV. As with any new product these days, the frame has been stiffened to improve handling and ride comfort. In fact, GMC says the Canyon frame is 27 percent more rigid than the old Sonoma. We found the interior to be quieter than expected with reduced road noise and a more accommodating cabin atmosphere to conduct conversations and listen to music. The audio system in our SLE trim features six speakers while the base SL trim has four.

The best part of the entertainment system is the availability of XM satellite radio. If you do any extensive traveling, or live in a major metropolitan area such as Los Angeles where quality radio is difficult to find, XM is welcome relief to constantly changing channels. Just pick your favorite genre of music, talk radio or news and leave it there. No commercials, and the DJs are more interested in the music than promoting themselves. Of course, you have to pay a monthly fee to maintain the satellite radio. Our only suggestion to GMC is to add an input jack for an MP3 player or iPod since the manufacturers are going after the youth market. Our truck also had OnStar, which adds security measures.

Added comfort is the key to the SLE trim, especially with the bucket seats and upgraded cloth fabric. But the claim of a larger pickup to warrant the midsize may be a little confusing. While there are no official criteria for acceptance into the midsize arena, the Canyon didn’t expand that much on the outside but picked up enough on the inside to challenge the reigning midsize standard.

The Canyon’s wheelbase was stretched three inches to 125.9. Track was expanded from 54.5 to 57.5 inches. But overall length and width hardly changed: 207.1 and 67.6 inches for the 2004 model versus 205.3 and 67.9 inches, respectively, for the 2003 model. The interior opens a little more with about two inches more legroom and hip room but only two-tenths of an inch more shoulder room (front seat only—the rear fold-down seats in the Extended Cab accommodate only small pre-teens).

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