How Does the Toyota Tacoma Compare to Other Pickup Trucks?

By Scott KingLast Updated October 20, 2020
Photo Courtesy: Team O'Neil/YouTube

The Toyota Tacoma has been one of the most popular mid-size pickup trucks for 15 years in the United States. The third-generation of the truck made its debut in 2016 and brought in a fresher look with a new grille, headlights and other stylish features.

If you’re in the market for a new truck, the Tacoma is worth a look, especially if you frequently go off-road or need to haul some serious amounts of equipment. However, the Tacoma’s competitors, such as the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado, can give the Tacoma a run for its money. There are a few important differences to consider before making a decision.

Understanding the Tacoma

The 2020 Tacoma offers solid performance and reliability. The standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine produces 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a six-speed transmission. The truck can also tow up to 6800 pounds with rear-wheel drive, perfect for traveling with trailers or camper vans, although anyone likely to drive across rough terrain or through bad weather should consider investing in the all-wheel drive (AWD) option.

Photo Courtesy: TheStraightPipes/YouTube

The Tacoma also boasts a wide range of safety features. These include forward-collision and lane departure warning systems, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control (DRCC) cruise control. Knee airbags are also a standard feature.

While the interior of the Tacoma can be a bit bare compared to an SUV, it’s not without features. The base model has a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, which makes managing music, notifications and more easy. There’s also an available front sunroof, an option that many of the Tacoma’s competitors don’t have. The standard base model of the 2020 Tacoma is $26,050 MSRP.

Choosing a Trim

The Tacoma comes in six trims: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro. Each one is geared toward a specific market niche, with the SR being the most basic. Companies often buy a fleet of these Tacomas for use in construction and other industries. The SR5, by contrast, offers amenities that individual buyers are more likely to value, such as remote keyless entry and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Photo Courtesy: TheStraightPipes/YouTube

The TRD Sport builds on the SR5 with features that enhance every aspect of the Tacoma experience, from heated mirrors to a 120-volt/400-watt outlet in the bed. For a little more, you can then enhance what the TRD Sport has to offer with the TRD Off-Road. It comes with everything the Sport has plus extra tech for making rough roads and long hauls easier, including a lockable rear differential and an advanced off-road traction control system with multiple terrain settings and crawl control. Numerous upgrades also exist for both the Sport and Off-Road.

Finally, the Limited and TRD Pro let you take comfort and off-road capability to the respective max. With its lower profile tires, the Limited offers smoother highway performance at the cost of decreased off-road capability. Meanwhile the TRD Pro comes with all-terrain tires and other features that make it easy to drive in even the roughest conditions.

Where It Falls Short

In spite of its strengths, the 2020 Tacoma does have some drawbacks. The base engine and slow-to-respond transmission can’t compare to the specs on some other trucks, which in turn means that it’s not the best in its class for hauling and towing, especially compared to the Ford Ranger. It's also not the most fuel efficient truck on the market, with both the Honda Ridgeline and GMC Canyon beating it in that area.

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The biggest weakness of the Tacoma, however, is in its creature comforts. All of the effort put into the Tacoma’s excellent performance seemingly comes at the cost of the interior experience. The back seat offers little space for the three passengers it’s intended to hold, and the air conditioning struggles to reach back there. There’s also minimal interior storage, and unlike some of its competitors, there’s no mobile hotspot option.

Whether or not those shortcomings offset the Tacoma’s advantages is ultimately a question of personal circumstances. While it may be a worse choice for those who plan on using it mostly for long commutes or running errands, the Tacoma can nonetheless be an asset to the right driver.

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