2021 Tacoma vs. Canyon Comparison

Trucks aren’t just the go-to workhorse these days. Nowadays, they can safely haul what you need without trouble and still include good fuel efficiency ratings, multimedia features, and fun interior and exterior styling.

Deciding on which truck to get can be tricky, though. Most offerings are reliable enough to get the job done, but not every mid-size truck is the same. Some have more impressive individual features like the Tacoma’s available off-roading-capable configurations.

The Toyota Tacoma also benefits from over 50 years of truck heritage. GMC has been building trucks for a long time, but the Canyon is the newest arrival to the mid-size truck market in this comparison, debuting in 2004.

The Canyon does have an off-road styled grade and has great standard horsepower, but the legendarily reliable Tacoma has an impressive array of options including the off-road proven TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro. The Tacoma also has an abundance of safety features too.

So which mid-size truck should get your full attention? Pick for yourself with a side-by-side comparison of the 2021 Tacoma vs. 2021 Canyon in the categories of performance, safety, and reliability.

Published Date: 06/10/2021

Tacoma driving around a curve in the road

Performance

  • The Tacoma TRD Off-Road and TRD PRO have an available manual transmission for those that prefer a more hands-on experience.
  • Both the Tacoma TRD Off-Road and Canyon AT4 4x4 have beefy off-road suspension and automatic locking rear differentials.
  • Although the Canyon has more pure horsepower, the Tacoma has more torque to get over steep obstacles.

Be in control of your drive with off-roading features that will help you tackle variable terrain with ease in the Tacoma and Canyon.

Off-Roading Capabilities

For a more hands-on driving approach, the Toyota Tacoma has a manual transmission available on the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and TRD Pro trims. Conversely, the 2021 GMC Canyon does not have an available manual transmission on any of their trims.

No matter the transmission you choose, both the Tacoma and the Canyon have configurations that can handle steep inclines and rocky roads. The Tacoma TRD Off-Road has standard TRD Off-Road tuned suspension with Bilstein® shocks for a smoother ride and an electronically controlled locking rear differential to help avoid slippage. Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) and Crawl Control (CRAWL) are also standard on the TRD Off-Road 4x4. Similarly, the Canyon AT4 4x4 has a standard Off-Road Suspension Package and automatic locking rear differential.

Whether you're climbing a hill or hauling materials, power under the hood is key. All Tacomas come with a 3.5L V6 engine that has 278 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. torque starting with the Tacoma SR 4x2 Access Cab V6. For more power on the Canyon, the 3.6L V6 engine has 308 horsepower and 191 lb.-ft. torque. However, with more torque, the Tacoma is better able to perform at low speeds in tough situations.

Front view of a Tacoma parked in front of a mountain skyline

Safety

  • The 2021 Tacoma comes standard with more active safety features.
  • You also get Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) standard on the Tacoma Limited and TRD Pro. This feature is not available on the Canyon.
  • Both trucks have extensive airbag systems. However, the Tacoma has the addition of driver and front passenger knee airbag and driver and front passenger active headrests.

Knowing you're surrounded by advanced safety technology in the Toyota Tacoma can help reduce your worries while driving.

Standard Safety Features

The Tacoma comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P). This suite of active safety features includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). The Canyon does have some comparable safety features, like Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning. However, these do not come standard on all trims. They are available on the Elevation 2WD and come standard on the Denali 2WD.

For additional help changing lanes, the Tacoma has Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) available on the TRD Off-Road trim. It comes standard on the Limited and TRD Pro. The Canyon does not list Rear Cross-Traffic Alert or Blind Spot Monitoring on their specs page.

Aside from all of the driver-assistive technology, airbags are still an important safety feature in all vehicles. The Toyota Tacoma has a driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, and front and rear Roll-sensing Side Curtain Airbags (RSCA). You also get driver and front passenger active headrests. The Canyon comes standard with frontal airbags for driver and front passenger, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for driver and front outboard passenger, and head-curtain airbags for front and rear outboard seating positions.

Tacoma driving down a sandy hillside

Reliability

  • ToyotaCare not only covers factory-scheduled maintenance, it also includes 24/7 Roadside Assistance.
  • The Tacoma has a whole list of awards from Kelley Blue Book® including Best Resale Value for Midsize Trucks.

Toyota is a brand backed by a plethora of awards and known for its reliability. The Toyota Tacoma holds up to this legacy.

ToyotaCare and Awards

All purchases and leases of new Tacomas come with the ToyotaCare No Cost Maintenance Plan and Roadside Assistance. This factory-scheduled maintenance plan lasts 25,000 miles or 2 years, whichever comes first, and Roadside Assistance lasts 2 years and unlimited miles.

For the competitor GMC Canyon, GMC Pre-Paid Maintenance and GMC Pre-Paid Maintenance Plus plans are available. However, the cost and duration of coverage depends on the plan you buy. Roadside Assistance is included on the Canyon for 5 years, up to 60,000 miles.

Additionally, the Toyota Tacoma won numerous Kelley Blue Book® Awards. They are: 2020 5-Year Cost to Own, Best Resale Value: Midsize Pickup Truck for 11 years in a row (2010-2020), and 2020 Best Resale Value Top 10. The GMC Canyon did not win any similar Kelley Blue Book® Awards for the 2020 model.

Behind view of the Tacoma parked in front of a mountain skyline

Conclusion: Tacoma vs. Canyon

  • The Tacoma comes with more standard active safety features than the Canyon.
  • Tacoma drivers can choose between two off-roading trims while the Canyon only offers one.
  • ToyotaCare is standard on the Tacoma while you'll need to purchase an extra maintenance plan for the Canyon.

The Canyon has impressive standard horsepower, but that's not the only thing that makes a dependable truck. The Tacoma V6 has better torque ratings and has an available manual transmission. The Canyon does not have a manual transmission on any trim.

Every Tacoma comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), meaning active safety features are included no matter which Tacoma you choose. The Canyon doesn’t offer all of its active safety features on every grade.

Plus, to keep the Tacoma rolling for years to come, all 2021 models come standard with ToyotaCare which includes factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and Roadside Assistance for two years, unlimited mileage. The Canyon has a maintenance plan, but its duration and what it costs depends on the plan you buy. GMC’s Roadside Assistance plan is good for 5 years, and up to 60,000 miles.

With all these features and more, we think the winner is clear: the 2021 Toyota Tacoma.