2020 GMC Canyon vs. 2019 Nissan Frontier

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Canyon Crew Cab and Frontier Crew Cab have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Canyon has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Frontier’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Canyon are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Frontier doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Canyon (except Base/SL) offers an optional collision warning system, which detects an impending crash through forward mounted sensors and flashes a bright light and sounds a loud, distinctive tone to warn the driver to brake or maneuver immediately to avoid a collision. The Frontier doesn't offer a collision warning system.

Full-time four-wheel drive is optional on the Canyon. Full-time four-wheel drive gives added traction for safety in all conditions, not just off-road, like the only system available on the Frontier.

The GMC Canyon has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Frontier doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.

The Canyon (except Base/SL)’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The Frontier doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Canyon SLE/All Terrain/SLT/Denali’s blind spot mirrors use wide-angle convex mirrors mounted in the corner of each side view mirror to reveal objects that may be in the driver’s blind spots. The Frontier doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

The Canyon (except SL) offers optional OnStar®, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to get turn-by-turn driving directions, remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Frontier doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Canyon and the Frontier have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras and available rear parking sensors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the GMC Canyon is safer than the Nissan Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier

OVERALL STARS

4 Stars

3 Stars

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

3 Stars

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

2 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the GMC Canyon Crew Cab is safer than the Frontier Crew Cab:

Canyon

Frontier

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

79

313

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

19 cm

32 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

0%/1%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

POOR

Tibia index R/L

.39/.74

1.77/1.37

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the general design of front seat head restraints for their ability to protect front seat occupants from whiplash injuries. The IIHS also performs a dynamic test on those seats with “good” or “acceptable” geometry. In these ratings, the Canyon is safer than the Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Restraint Design

GOOD

GOOD

Distance from Back of Head

26 mm

44 mm

Distance Below Top of Head

34 mm

48 mm

Dynamic Test Rating

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Seat Design

Pass

Pass

Torso Acceleration

11.5 g’s

12.4 g’s

Neck Force Rating

Low

Medium

Max Neck Shearing Force

15

152

Max Neck Tension

414

645

(Lower numerical results are better in all tests.)

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Canyon the rating of “Top Pick” for 2016, a rating granted to only 164 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Frontier is not a “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

The Canyon’s corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Frontier’s (6 vs. 5 years).

There are over 57 percent more GMC dealers than there are Nissan dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Canyon’s warranty.

Engine

The Canyon’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 48 more horsepower (200 vs. 152) and 20 lbs.-ft. more torque (191 vs. 171) than the Frontier’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. The Canyon’s optional 3.6 DOHC V6 produces 47 more horsepower (308 vs. 261) than the Frontier’s optional 4.0 DOHC V6.

The Canyon’s 2.8 turbo diesel produces 29 more horsepower (181 vs. 152) and 198 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 171) than the Frontier’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. The Canyon’s 2.8 turbo diesel produces 88 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 281) than the Frontier’s optional 4.0 DOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Canyon gets better fuel mileage than the Frontier:

MPG

Canyon

RWD

Auto

2.8 turbo 4-cyl. Diesel

20 city/30 hwy

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

20 city/26 hwy

3.6 DOHC V6

18 city/25 hwy

AWD

Auto

2.8 turbo 4-cyl. Diesel

19 city/28 hwy

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

19 city/24 hwy

3.6 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy

Frontier

RWD

Manual

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

19 city/23 hwy

4.0 DOHC V6

16 city/22 hwy

Auto

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

17 city/22 hwy

4.0 DOHC V6

16 city/23 hwy

AWD

Manual

4.0 DOHC V6

16 city/21 hwy

Auto

4.0 DOHC V6

15 city/21 hwy

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the Canyon V6’s fuel efficiency. The Frontier doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

The Canyon has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Frontier doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

The GMC Canyon comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Frontier.

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the GMC Canyon V6, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a five-speed automatic is available for the Frontier.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Canyon’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier 4 cyl.

Frontier V6

Front Rotors

12.2 inches

11.1 inches

11.7 inches

Rear Rotors

12.75 inches

11.3 inches

11.3 inches

The Canyon stops shorter than the Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier

60 to 0 MPH

123 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Canyon has larger standard tires than the Frontier (255/65R17 vs. 235/75R15).

The Canyon’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 70 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Frontier S King Cab’s standard 75 series tires. The Canyon Short Box Denali Crew Cab’s tires have a lower 55 series profile than the Frontier Long Bed SV Crew Cab’s 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Canyon has standard 16-inch wheels. Smaller 15-inch wheels are standard on the Frontier S King Cab. The Canyon Short Box Denali Crew Cab’s 20-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels on the Frontier Long Bed SV Crew Cab.

The Canyon has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Frontier doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Canyon’s wheelbase is longer than on the Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier

Extended Cab Standard Bed

128.3 inches

125.9 inches

Crew Cab Short Bed

128.3 inches

125.9 inches

Crew Cab Standard Bed

140.5 inches

139.9 inches

The Canyon Short Box SLT Crew Cab 4x4 handles at .79 G’s, while the Frontier PRO-4X King Cab 4x4 pulls only .72 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the Canyon’s turning circle is tighter than the Frontier’s:

Canyon

Frontier

Extended Cab Standard Bed

41.3 feet

43.42 feet

Crew Cab Short Bed

41.3 feet

43.58 feet

Extended Cab Standard Bed 4x4

41.3 feet

43.33 feet

Crew Cab Short Bed 4x4

41.3 feet

43.33 feet

Crew Cab Standard Bed 4x4

44.6 feet

47.5 feet

Chassis

To almost totally eliminate engine vibration in the passenger area, the Canyon has liquid-filled engine mounts. The liquid helps further dampen engine harshness. The Frontier uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

The front grille of the Canyon uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Frontier doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The Canyon Extended Cab has 1.7 inches more front headroom, 2.8 inches more front legroom, .1 inches more rear headroom, 3.2 inches more rear legroom and 2.4 inches more rear shoulder room than the Frontier King Cab.

The Canyon Crew Cab has 1.5 inches more front headroom, 2.6 inches more front legroom and 2.2 inches more rear legroom than the Frontier Crew Cab.

Cargo Capacity

The Canyon Extended Cab has a much larger cargo box than the Frontier King Cab (49.9 vs. 33.5 cubic feet).

The Canyon Crew Cab Short Box has a much larger cargo box than the Frontier Crew Cab Short Bed (41.3 vs. 27.1 cubic feet). The Canyon Crew Cab Long Box has a much larger cargo box than the Frontier Crew Cab Long Bed (49.9 vs. 33.5 cubic feet).

The Canyon’s cargo box is larger than the Frontier’s in almost every dimension:

Canyon Extended Cab

Frontier King Cab

Length (short/long)

74”

73.3”

Max Width

57.8”

61.4”

Min Width

44.4”

44.4”

Height

20.9”

18”

The GMC Canyon offers an optional EZ-Lift and Lower (not available SL), which prevents the heavy tailgate from falling with a crash and causing injury. It allows adults and children to easily open and close the tailgate with one hand to better facilitate loading and unloading. The Nissan Frontier doesn’t offer a tailgate assist.

The GMC Canyon has a standard CornerStep, which allows for much easier access to the cargo area. The Nissan Frontier doesn’t offer a rear cargo step.

The Canyon has bed indentations that accommodate 2x4’s for two-tiered loading to help accommodate diverse loads; the Frontier doesn’t offer two-tiered loading.

The Canyon has stake post holes, to allow the containment of tall, light loads. The Frontier doesn’t offer stake post holes.

Payload and Towing

Maximum trailer towing in the Nissan Frontier is limited to 6710 pounds. The Canyon Crew Cab offers up to a 7700 lbs. towing capacity.

The Canyon has a much higher standard payload capacity than the Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier

Extended Cab

1426 lbs.

900 lbs.

Crew Cab

1475 lbs.

1460 lbs.

Extended Cab 4x4

1432 lbs.

1360 lbs.

Crew Cab 4x4

1531 lbs.

1130 lbs.

The Canyon has higher maximum payload capacities than the Frontier:

Canyon

Frontier

Extended Cab

1602 lbs.

1430 lbs.

Crew Cab

1609 lbs.

1460 lbs.

Extended Cab 4x4

1562 lbs.

1360 lbs.

Crew Cab 4x4

1531 lbs.

1360 lbs.

Servicing Ease

The Canyon uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Frontier uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The Canyon has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Frontier doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

An Oil Life System is standard on the Canyon to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals for oil changes based on actual driving conditions. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Nissan doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the Frontier.

Ergonomics

The Canyon offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Frontier doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The engine computer on the Canyon automatically engages the starter until the car starts with one twist of the key and disables the starter while the engine is running. The Frontier’s starter can be accidentally engaged while the engine is running, making a grinding noise and possibly damaging the starter and ring gear.

The Canyon’s standard tilting steering column adjusts to different sized drivers and makes entering and exiting easier. Nissan doesn’t offer tilt steering on the Frontier S King Cab.

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Canyon SLE/All Terrain/SLT/Denali has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The Frontier doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The Canyon’s standard power windows allow the driver or passenger to lower and raise the windows without leaning over or being distracted. The Frontier S doesn’t offer power windows.

The power windows available on both the Canyon and the Frontier have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Canyon is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Frontier prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Canyon’s driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths. The Frontier’s power windows’ switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully.

The Canyon’s standard power locks allow the driver or passenger to lock or unlock all the doors at a touch without leaning over. The Frontier S doesn’t offer power locks.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Canyon’s available exterior PIN entry system (not available on Canyon SL). The Frontier doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Canyon’s available exterior PIN entry system (not available on Canyon SL). The Frontier doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system.

The Canyon’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The Frontier’s cruise control switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

The Canyon has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The Frontier has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the SL/PRO-4X.

The Canyon SLE/All Terrain/SLT/Denali’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Frontier’s power mirror controls are on the dash where they are possibly hidden by the steering wheel and are awkward to manipulate.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the Canyon Denali keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Frontier doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Canyon’s optional (except Base/SL) heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the vehicle heater warms up. The Frontier doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Canyon owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Canyon with a number “3” insurance rate while the Frontier is rated higher at a number “5” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Canyon is less expensive to operate than the Frontier because typical repairs cost much less on the Canyon than the Frontier, including $102 less for a muffler, $54 less for a starter, $274 less for a fuel pump and $394 less for a timing belt/chain.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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