|Positives: Off-road ready at a moment's notice, iconic Tacoma looks, V6 is powerful, built like a tank, solid towing and hauling abilities.
|Negatives: Interior design is dated, seating position for taller folks is challenging, manual seat adjustability is for the birds, infotainment sucks, transmission is sluggish
|Bottom Line: The Tacoma is one of those trucks that probably doesn't need to change because it sells so well, but it's a bit antiquated in the way it drives, the comfort levels, and definitely the technology. It's a capable truck, but buyers want more, and Toyota needs to give it more.
Even as more trucks are becoming car-like in their driving experience, there's no mistaking the Tacoma for what it is. The It looks, feels, and drives like the body-on-frame truck it is. That's not a bad thing, though.
Ride Quality: The Tacoma's ride is firm but not upsetting. It does a respectable job of handling pavement irregularities, but it's not a cushy ride.
Acceleration: Our tester had the optional V6 engine with 278 horsepower, but the automatic transmission errs on the side of fuel economy, so acceleration suffers a bit. Nevertheless, it will hit 60 mph in a little over 7 seconds, which is pretty good. We wish ours had the optional 6-speed manual.
Braking: Braking in the TRD is better than in the regular Tacoma. Brake pedal progression is good with no dead spots.
Steering: There's some decent steering effort, but it feels artificially weighted. The feedback is non-existent, and there's way too much play in the wheel.
Handling: There's some palapable body roll, but it's not bad. It's just hard to place the Tacoma in turns because there's little connection with the road, as is typical with body-on-frame trucks.
The Tacoma suffers from really dated infotainment that's endemic to pre-2018 Toyotas. Even the updated versions on the new Camry, Corolla, and Avalon aren't spectactular, but the old one is even worse.
Infotainment System: Our tester's 7" in screen is dull and not at all pleasurable to use. We just don't find it very good compared to newer systems. The only pickup with a worse system is the Nissan Frontier.
Controls: Overall controls in the Tacoma are okay. There are good climate control and audio knobs, but they look and feel a bit old.
The Tacoma's look remains in this generation, and that's a good thing. It's more blocky than previous generations, but the ruggedness is welcomed, and the Tacoma looks great.
Front: The creased hood with the scoop, big black grille and body colored bumper all look great. We like the fact that there's not too much busyness going on here like some of the newer pickups.
Rear: The tailgate is simple, and the black trim is a nice, sporty touch.
Profile: The hood and cab are long compared to the 5' bed, but the wheels fill the wells nicely, and there's no hint of chrome, which we like.
Cabin: The cabin is the worst styling aspect of the Tacoma. It's not terrible, but it just looks dark and a bit cheap, even though it's well built. Instrumentation and controls are unrefined, and there's just a lot of black plastic. Even the leather seats don't really look like they're clad in leather.
As you might expect with such a utilitarian vehicle, especially one with so much off-road capability, the Tacoma suffers a bit in the comfort department. Competitors have it beat when it comes to ride comfort, seat comfort, interior space and infotainment interfaces. It was hard for us taller drivers because of the seating position and the total lack of a telescoping steering wheel.
Front Seats: The seats have good cushioning and decent support, but it's just not roomy, and the steering wheel doesn't telescope which makes it more challenging for taller drivers.
Rear Seats: It's a bit cramped in the back, and the seat cushions are definitely on the flat side.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Aside from the hum of the off-road tires and the engine under hard acceleration, the Tacoma is well-built and manages noise well.
Visibility: The seating position compromises visibility a little, but it's decent out the front and sides. The rear camera is a necessity for pickups, and it's standard here.
Climate: We like the round vents in the Tacoma, which are great with moving air volume. The heated seats also work very well.
The Tacoma doesn't nab top ratings, but it does do well in crash tests. The real bright spot is the standard safety features that show up in every Toyota in some form for all 2018+ models.
IIHS Rating: Though it didn't get the Top Safety Pick score, it did get "superior" in all crash tests. The score was only compromised by the marginal headlights and LATCH system.
NHTSA Rating: It earned four stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: Toyota Safety Sense P is a great set of standard safety features that puts it at the top of the pack.
Optional Tech: Our tester's Tech Package came with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking assist, and a blind spot monitor.
Though the Tacoma doesn't have the interior small gear storage of larger trucks, but there's still a good amount of space. The bed is shorter but still capacious.
Storage Space: The center console has cubbies, cupholders, and a medium-sized armrest compartment. The door pockets are also convenient and sizable.
Cargo Room: The bed is 60.5 inches long and 41.5 inches wide, and the tailgate comes off for longer items. It can also haul 1,175 lbs and tow up to 6,400 lbs.
The Tacoma's larger V6 is decently powered, but it can get thirsty. It's pretty typical of a body-on-frame pickup truck that's not economically minded and has no gas-saving measures like auto start/stop and grille shutters.
Observed: 16.8 mpg
Distance Driven: 112 miles
The premium JBL system is an upgrade on the Tech package, but we weren't blown away by the sound quality. It's a decent system, but the fullness and bass were less than impressive.