By on August 22, 2006

06tacomaacab06.jpg Somewhere between the proud homeowner and carefree apartment dweller lives the best of both lifestyles. Who wants to throw money away on a rented apartment or deal with the hassles of home ownership? Enter the townhouse: smaller bills and fewer hassles than a full-size home with more usability than a mere apartment. Just like a townhouse, the mid-size pickup combines attributes of rigs both big and small. And ever since its inception, the Toyota Tacoma has been living large in the mid-size pickup penthouse.

Too bad Toyota forgot the first rule of pickup design: it’s gotta look like a truck. A decidedly cab forward A-pillar flirts with Corolla owners looking to trade up, while asymmetrical fender blisters flow into the Double Cab's sheetmetal to create a pregnant manatee silhouette. Multiple grille textures confuse, while a non-functional hood scoop says "poser" better than any decal-laden hatchback. While the PreRunner's aggressive offroad stance and beefy 16" rims bulk up the look, nothing conceals the bulbous tailgate with its jawless rear bumper. Topping the decidedly un-trucklike presence are girly door handles that operate with a light and flimsy action. Dude, where's my truck?

06tacomadcab34.jpg The almost-truck theme continues within. The interior's car-based door handles aren't working man friendly. A motorcycle-influenced gauge cluster takes the sport-truck theme to places it's never been before– and should never go again. The cabin's blizzard of textures and finishes is schizophrenia in-car-nate. The door's furry polka-dot cloth relaxes like a tall glass of warm milk; a durable, while the breathable netted seat fabric provides an extreme hit of Mountain Dew.

Of course, this approach has its advantages. Ignore the hodgepodge of dashboard polymers (faux Lexus here, Band Aid there) and peep the convincing metal effect trim, numerous storage compartments and tender leather-wrapped wheel. Aside from the dead plug on said tiller; Toyota did a commendable job hiding non-functional items from discriminating eyes. It's a pickup after David Beckham's heart: small and posh. 

06tacomadetails04.jpgFour adults fit into the Tacoma's Double Cab frame with ease. At the same time, the mid-size Tacoma boasts parking lot slalom skills no big truck can touch. The business end also impresses: a plastic bedliner with integral 115-volt power supply makes the Tacoma PreRunner a first-round draft pick for tailgate parties.  Fill with cargo and the Toyota hauls with the confidence of a seasoned bird-dog on the hunt.

Hit the road sans cargo and the choppy-riding Tacoma sends mixed messages. Pickups are no stranger to chassis flex, but the Tacoma's latest redesign keeps the clapped-out turnip truck's legacy alive. Feather the go pedal and jumpy throttle mapping means there's less thrust from the 24-valve engine than initial reports indicate. Sucking high-octane fuel in its full throttle wake, the 4.0L V6 makes a respectable 266lb-ft of torque after 3800 revs, but 236hp at a sky-high 5200 revs mean honest truck grunt is not the Tacoma's strong suit.  Put it another way, this mill feels more at home in a lighthearted passenger car chassis, not a burly truck frame. The powertrain's saving grace is a quick-witted, trigger-happy five speed automatic that usually keeps the narrow powerband in its sweet spot.

Foot flex the pedals in a corner and the Tacoma rewards with confident street moves, even with the off-road prowess of the PreRunner package. Modest grip from the stubby M+S tires nets predictable understeer, with responsive steering and disciplined suspension tuning. While the Tacoma's composed demeanor rarely upsets, the stoppers need re-thinking: rear drum brakes and mushy pedal feel disappoint both on paper and in practice.

06tacomaacab05.jpg Highway cruising is both quiet and comfortable for one so boxy and tall, with a JBL tuned system providing quality sound for all but the rabid, subwoofer crazed hip-hop fan. The audio aura is most welcome, as the door-mounted tweeter grille sings an off key, buzzy tune with the stereo off.  Quality control snafu aside, is there really a place for the Tacoma in the market?

Given the full-size pickup's manufacturing economies of scale, our Tacoma's as-tested price of $28,800 fails to prove that less is more. The Tacoma seemingly trumps a full-size in efficiency, but in the real world, a high-octane diet and moderately smaller proportions translate into less bang for the buck.

While the small(er) truck market has a loyal following with company fleets, these models sport white paint, crank windows, rubber floors and four pot motors with manual transmissions. Give retail customers what they demand and the Tacoma's value proposition flies right out the door. Make no mistake; the Tacoma PreRunner is a good pickup. But Toyota's upmarket mid-size offering forgot its humble origins; whether or not the Tacoma has a significant value proposition over a "real" truck is a question for the customer and entire mid-size genre.

[Toyota provided the vehicle reviewed, taxes, insurance and a tank of gas.] 

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80 Comments on “Toyota Tacoma Review...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    If i`m gonna put up with big fuel cost, rough ride,tough parking then give me a real truck

  • avatar
    ret

    Doesn’t look like the Tacoma can hold a candle to the Nissan Frontier

  • avatar
    nweaver

    Can’t you get a decently equipped, 4×4 F150 for less than that?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Once again, Sajeev writes a useful review. I hope the fray isn’t too hard on him for being anti-American, anti-import, anti-truck, pro-car or whatever.

    What I find interesting is that most of the typical car mag reviewers tend to rate the Toyota at the top of the list of midsize/small pickups. Apparently, it doesn’t take much to beat a Ranger design that is decades old or a 5 cylinder Chevy. And yet, Sajeev makes the point that maybe this is a class of vehicles that doesn’t make much sense.

    About 10 years ago, Chrysler figured out that Americans love size, so they replaced their Mitsubishi sourced small pickup with the midsize Dakota, featuring Ram looks and an optional V8. Smart move, and it forced the imports to upsize their offerings to match.

    But now, we come to realize that the differences between fullsize and midsize aren’t that great. Mikey is right – for thirty grand, buy a “real truck.” And the cost efficiencies of the full size truck platforms are huge — Ford, GM and Chrysler make some 2.5 Million copies a year, plus another million large SUVs off the same platforms. The savings in raw materials in making midsize truck vs. a fullsize one is small compared to the billions it takes to design a new platform.

    So why would anyone design a new midsize truck? Maybe Ford is right to let the Ranger twist in the wind, rather than squander their engineering resources on a dwindling market. Pour everything you’ve got into the F-150. And maybe GM is smart to outsource midsize truck design to Thailand and let the Trailblazer/Envoy die off in a couple of years.

    It will be interesting to see what DaimlerChrysler does here. They have so many midsize truck/SUV platforms – Jeep Cherokee/Commander, Durango/Dakota, Mercedes M/R/GL, you would expect some consolidation, especially as sales volumes shrink.

  • avatar
    brettr

    I still like my full size GMC, but, it’s not a daily driver. I bought it (used) for one purpose; to be a truck.

    Granted, it’s got all the poshy extras (leather, heated seats, etc.) and all the “manly” extras as well (4×4, tow package, etc.), but, it’s first and foremost for me a weekend hauler and it has yet to fail me.

    The best $14,000 I could’ve spent. New trucks are too over priced.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    nweaver: The Tacoma tested was a PreRunner, which is a 2WD truck with off road bits. A similar F150 STX or XLT trim (STX is the more “extreme” of the two) is either the same price (STX), or 3-5 grand more (XLT) at MSRP.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    SherbornSean: excellent perspective. But did the Dakota ever sell well compared to the Tacoma, S-10 and Ranger?

    As a Texan, I still think a real small truck is viable for both fleet and retail sales. The Ranger got the shaft from Dearborn just like the Crown Vic did. Its a nice size, was a best seller for years, but its 1980s chassis and 1990s interior don’t cut it anymore. And I’m still not sure what to think of the Colorado…

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    The Dakota sold well til they messed with the style and made it as ugly as the new Durango.
    Lots and lots of Texas boys on the Dodge truck forums, and they loooove their R/Ts. :)

  • avatar
    phil

    I think the $3 gas is finally forcing some sense back into the truck/SUV mish mash. CNN reported that truck sales to people who actually need them (contractors, farmers, etc) are stable whereas the big fall in sales is occurring in the “second car, recreational vehicle” side of the market. Interestingly only 30% of the truck market is to contractors and their ilk and the other 70% was being sold to those of us who just wanted a truck for fun or image sake. Very bad news for Ford/GM.

    This was a good and more balanced review than i’ve come to expect from TTAC, thanks Sajeev. However, you didn’t really comment on how exceptionally ugly this truck is from the front. I actually have to look away when i see one on the road. You did make the critical point about value, for heaven’s sake why spend 30 large for this butt ugly pseudo truck when you can have a nice F150 or new GM rig for the same bucks. If you’ve after value check out the Honda Ridgeline. Not exactly good looking, but amazingly smooth and well put together, nice ride and runs on regular gas.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Thanks, Phil! (and thank you to everyone else for writing)

    Styling is always subjective, but since you mention it: its mighty ugly, but not in a refined way like Ridgeline. There’s so many ugly features fighting for your attention its like a reality TV show in sheetmetal! There, I said it.

    Something else I didn’t add to the review: my tester was finished in radioactive Blue, which didn’t bother me. Then someone said that color made me look gay.

    That color bothered me after that.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    i think the next big truck crazy is going to begin with the Dodge Rampage. The Honda Ridgeline got the ball rolling with a more car like truck. But i think the Rampage is going to be a big hit. its small enough to drive around town with ease, will likely have a host of engine options, has those really cool hideaway seats. No it wont be able to tow a boat or climb a mountain, but it wont have a problem with home depot runs or helping a friend move. Thats more then sufficient for 95% of the people that own trucks now anyway. i think that the move towards the smaller trucks will bring the full size trucks down in size and totally eliminate the mid-size class.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    LOL, Sajeev, say no more!
    Yah, the Ridgeline has its own kind of ugliness, but it’s so useful it grows on you. Mine was bilious green, with varying degrees of the same shade throughout. I nicknamed it “Frankie” for frankentruck.

    Ugh, I’m a mopar fan, but the new Rampage does nothing for me.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    oh dont get me wrong, i think the Rampage is hideous and the rumor of a FWD Hemi is plain old stupid. but i think its going to be the 1st of its segment and start a whole new trend. sorta like the PT Cruiser

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Suggesting that “real” trucks are a better proposition (with “real” meaning “big”) seems a bit irresponsible, and doesn’t make much sense considering that most trucks wthout company lettering on the door are used for putzing around, commuting, and maybe bringing some leaves to the dump. That would be like saying that someone shopping for a BMW X3 should also consider a Suburban, because they are similarly priced, and the Suburban would be a “real” SUV and bigger. Trucks have gotten huge lately. My dad parked his new Silverado next to his ’86 F350 and the size difference was staggering. Full size has grown into Super-size. Seems like the market should be wide open to fill in the void with more reasonably sized and purposed trucks.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    Saheev, it’s not the “radioactive blue” color you should feel uncomfortable with… It’s that “someone” that said it made you look gay that you should be worried about. Since when does blue go with gay??? Pink maybe, but not blue.

  • avatar
    nweaver

    Sajeev, the Ford is cheaper!

    According to Ford’s web site, a base 2007 SuperCab F150 STX 4×2 is $24k with the current discounting, and 4×4 is $27k, with the 6.5′ bed.

    Why would I get the Tacoma? I’m no Ford loyalist, but the F150 seems like such a better work vehicle than the Tacoma.

  • avatar
    ktm

    Nissan Frontier is a significantly better buy, especially with the NISMO package. It has more power, nicer interior, better functionality and is cheaper than the Tacoma.

    I owned a 1995 Toyota Tacoma LX 4×4. I absolutely loved that truck. It could (and did) go anywhere I asked, from the dirtiest/muddiest construction sites to the snow-laden Sierras. The Tacomas of today are an embarassment to their legacy.

    Prerunners are the true posers, the stance of a 4×4, yet its only 2-wheel drive. The old Tacoma 4×2 had the useability of a truck, but it drove like a car. No more.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Speaking of car-sized pickups, posers, and sport trucks, I really wonder where the likes of El Camino are. Those could be to pickups like crossovers to SUV’s – a nicotine patch of the auto industry.

    In fact, such trucks could be much more popular now than they were back in the 70’s.

    Sporty body styling would appeal to the kind of people who buy V6 Mustangs. Young, clueless buyers have lots more money these days. A cool-looking two-seater (that’s also a pickup) would only need modest sticker price and good fuel economy to own this demographic group lock, stock, and barrel.

    Utility and lack of need for trunk/interior maintenance would counquer the hearts and souls of those who have a month’s worth of dirty laundry lying around their apartment. Let’s not forget that most of these folks live in a city, and they wouldn’t be caught dead driving a real (ugly, tall, cumbersome) pickup.

    Car-like handling and gobs of power for the relatively light package equals welcome reviews from enthusiasts and journalists. Face it, every review of a luxobarge, SUV, or a family sedan usually has the “handling qualities don’t exist” paragraph in it, and this kind of truck could actually manage to come out with a clean review.

    In other words, car that is a truck could be a very desireable “only” vehicle for people who are coming off the SUV/full-size pickup needle, but noone’s making it.

    And no, the new Rampage won’t cut it. A RAM by any other name…

  • avatar
    skor

    I agree, the concept of a mid-sized pickup truck is ludicrous. Why would I want to buy something that is 90% of a full-sized truck, when I can get a full-size truck for the same money or less?

    Small pickups should be small. To see a picture of what a small truck should be, click below.

    http://mysite.verizon.net/vze3j6z2/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/62falc.jpg

  • avatar
    NN

    I cannot believe with all of the comments, and within this article, that nothing is mentioned about the main reason Tacomas sell so well, especially to young men. This is one of the vehicles that has ingrained Toyota = legendary reliability into the minds of consumers worldwide. In reality, it’s the Toyota Hilux that deserves the praise, but the Tacoma is the relative we get here in America. Top Gear tried their best to destroy one and failed, even after driving it into the ocean it started back up. Every third-world idiot with a kalishnakov rides in the back of a Hilux–because obviously they don’t have the money to try and rely on anything other than the most dependable vehicle they can buy. 4-runners, Land Cruisers, and Toyota pickups rule Central America’s rutted muddy roads, Africa’s parks, the UAE’s sand dunes, and even California’s highways. I do not believe any other vehicle on earth has such an indestructable reputation. Regardless of design, price, and matching materials–this is reason #1. Half of my friends drive Tacomas, and will consider no other vehicle.

    I am a Chevy truck fan, and own my 2nd Blazer (ZR2). As much as I enjoy my vehicles and have had nothing but good luck with them, if I was given one choice of vehicle to rely on on a trip through the Sahara, it would be a Toyota truck. Thank God my commute is a lot easier than that, so I can still buy and enjoy Chevy’s (used, of course, so someone else takes the awful depreciation hit). I was considering a Colorado for my next vehicle, as I am interested in a relatively inexpensive truck with decent mileage. So, Sajeev, what do you think of the Colorado?

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Why is a mid-size truck ludicrous? A full-size isn’t always needed, sometimes a smaller vehicle does the job.

    Tacomas, or Tacos as they’re more commonly known to their fans, have a huge following among the recreational off-roading community. They’re light, really tough and have great aftermarket support.

  • avatar
    jenni_p

    Speaking of car-sized pickups, posers, and sport trucks, I really wonder where the likes of El Camino are. Those could be to pickups like crossovers to SUV’s – a nicotine patch of the auto industry.

    The Subaru Baja is being cancelled, so I don’t imagine we will see anything like an El Camino for a long while.

  • avatar

    I think there is really a huge market hole left by the disappearance of the true light pickup. This move to mid-size has left a lot of people without a product for their purse, myself included. The Ranger is the only product still available in this segment and nobody wants to buy a 15 year old design. I know tons of people still driving around old Nissan, Toyota, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi pickups from the 80s and 90s and wondering what the heck they’re going to replace them with that doesn’t suck down gas like it’s going out of style. The light pickup was a great product because it handled something like a car, was easy to park, and got good mileage, but could still be used to haul a few things. You could actually buy it as your vehicle, and use it to commute, run around town, and “work”/haul. There’s a huge opportunity for an upstart car company (Korea? China?) to start stamping these things out again in the sub-$20k price bracket.

  • avatar
    ktm

    NN and Lesley, you are remembering the Tacos/Hilux of old. The new Tacoma has morphed into nothing more than a freeway cruiser with questionable quality (note not reliability).

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    It seems odd to complain that a V6 midsize truck doesn’t have the power of a full-size with a V8.

    Of course it doesn’t.

    And it’s not supposed to, either.

    (I can’t comment about the quality or utility of the Tacoma, personally, since my Toyota pickup is the Last Of The Pre-Tacomas, a ’94 compact. But that one, at least, seems indestructible, going strong at 190k miles…)

    As regards price, well, sure, you can get an F-150 for the price of a tricked out PreRunner, but people after a low-price truck would be getting one of the… low priced ones, starting at just under 14 large. (And the cheapest F150 with an extended cab is $6k more than the cheapest Tacoma extended cab. $3k more if they both have the V6, which is fairer. But then, comparing a full-size with a mid-size is unfair to begin with… the markets are mostly different.)

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    In the San Francisco bay area, Tacoma is very popular among contractors who need to find parking that only fit a mini-cooper or the fuel economy similar to a car. Do they need a full size truck to go between Home Depot and the customer and park their truck 6 hrs a day on the curb? Probably not.

    I suspect Tacoma’s popularity has a lot to do with Toyota’s reputation of durability rather than how stiff their chasis and towing capacity is.

  • avatar
    SloStang

    I’ll be in the market for a new truck in the not-too-distant future. What I really need is 4×4 and an automatic transmission. I currently have a long bed Chevy with a V-8, cruise, and A/C. Other than that, it’s a base model with crank windows and vinyl flooring. To buy something like this new would be around $20-20K, and I’ve been getting 18-20 MPG in my driving.

    So I look at the Tacoma on Edmunds, and to get the 4×4 and an automatic, I have to get the extra cab with the V-6. This makes it more expensive than a lightly-optioned full size, and maybe it gets 10% better mileage.

    Why I’d pay more for a smaller truck that still gets mediocre mileage I don’t know. I might be interested in a 4-banger 4×4 that got 25 MPG, but Toyota doesn’t offer that with the auto transmission anymore.

    There’s also the matter that I live in a strange area of the country: The Chevy dealer is low pressure and handles warrantly claims without question. The Toyota salesmen are jerks, and I have to drive farther to get to them.

  • avatar
    1981.911.SC

    WHOOPS… I should have ended with “but my Porsche is only nickel plated………..

  • avatar
    Point Given

    “Who wants to throw money away on a rented apartment or deal with the hassles of home ownership? Enter the townhouse: smaller bills and fewer hassles than a full-size home with more usability than a mere apartment.”

    Nice writing.

    I drive a mid size truck (old Base 97 dakota) (and live in a townhouse too) but I think that the market is about to take a swing back to the small old truck. The old Nissan 4 cyl and small Toyota Trucks. Something like this http://buggybank.com/14663.htm for the dude who wants to hit Home Depot for two peices of lumber and carry it home. Given fuel prices, whoever does it would have a huge first mover advantage. Small little trucks, small engine. Then again maybe I’ve got heat stroke from the no AC in the old Dakota.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Sajeev,

    Good write up. I agree that the new Taco is ugly and oversized for its role. You also could have mentioned the MPG which is pretty pitiful for a supposedly “mini” truck. I briefly considered one to replace my Outback (I really miss having a truck) but between the exorbitant price, the ugly design, and the sucky MPG, I quickly changed my mind.

    What pisses me off most is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Back in 85 I bought my first new vehicle, a Toyota 4×4 pickup (back when they sold the Hilux in the US). It had a 2.0l RE22 engine, carbureted, and was able to get 25-30 MPG without any difficulty. True, it had manual steering and no AC, but there’s no reason – none at all – why the likes of Toyota can’t sell a geniunely small pickup (maybe even with an economical diesel) in the US like they do in the rest of the world.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    Bring back the Rabbit Pickup.

  • avatar
    Chadillac

    What’s this big commotion about the Hilux?

    The Taco is practically the same pickup, and its built at the same plant the US Hilux was (NUMMI Fremont CA).

    Sajeev, great write up, I agree that the front is ugly, but I have to say I don’t see such a big problem with the rest of the design. But everything else you said was right on.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Point Given – I hear ya on the heat stroke… air conked out in my 97 dakota too.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Chadillac: I think they’re referring to the Hilux that the rest of the world gets, not the US model.

  • avatar

    I’d really like to replace my 2.5L ’96 Dakota (A/C works, which is a very good thing when it’s 115 in the desert, like today) with the rest-of-the-world-but-U.S. Mazda pickup. I’d consider the first new mini pickup offered here in the States actually, but the midsizers just aren’t working for me. The 70s were pretty good times for little pickups, but now the Japanese seem to think they know what we want. That’s a Taco’ on a cut Tundra frame and the Frontier/Tundra. Too big. Too heavy.

    Hell, I’m all for the rebirth of the Chevy LUV if I can get better than 21 MPG driving up and down the hill to my house every day. Where’s the Mighty Max? The Hilux? A new B1800? A – wait for it – brand new Courier? Bring them back and I’ll be hauling my trash down to the dump with a big self-satisified grin that only a sanctimonious Prius owner could appreciate.

    Your pal,

    bob

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Hutton: I don’t understand your BMW X3 to Surburban analogy. The X3 is a car with a liftkit and the Surburban is a wagon on a truck frame. Both the Tacoma and its comprable full-size counterparts are 1) large 2) heavy-framed 3) offer similar features 4) serve the same basic purpose 5) cost about the same to fill the tank.

    (see my rant about premium fuel down below)

    NN: I haven’t driven a Colorado, but on paper its rather heavy, underpowered and expensive. Seems to have a decent interior though, maybe class leading. How often do you hear that about a GM? :)

    Sigivald: I never said the Tacoma needs to compare to/have a V8, it needs to have a real V6. The 4.3L Chevy has (well had) plenty of grunt, even the small 3.0L Ranger pulls strong outta the hole. Heck the Ford 4.9L straight six was one of the best full size truck motors out there. The Tacoma doesn’t have much low end, and redlines at 5500rpm, where it can’t take advantage of the 4-valve heads.

    Martin Albright: my buddy bought the last of the “old” Tacos, I enjoyed that truck. It was like a new Ranger, except it felt modern. To your fuel economy point: I think the mileage is good for what it is (4v motor, mid size frame, etc) but the point I want to drive home is the recommended fuel grade: it needs premium gas. Don’t put high octane in, the knock sensors go into overtime and cut engine timing…resulting in a loss of around 20hp and 1-3mpg in my past experiences with this.

    So what’s the benefit to the Taco over a full-size? Hard to find.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Its been said here, but I’d like to reiterate.

    1) GM and Ford need to bring their Aussie El Camino/Ranchero counterparts down here to give the non-full size pickup market a shot in the arm. After all, they are already planning on using these chassis for upcoming models.

    1.5) At the same time, GM needs to sneak an Aussie-Camino onto the set of “My Name is Earl”, much like the Lucerne on “Monk”.

    http://www.usanetwork.com/series/monk/buick/index.html

    Could Karma give Earl a new El Camino? Don’t touch that dial!!!

    2) Valentine is on the right track. The lack of a competitive small truck (i.e. a Ranger that doesn’t suck) should introduce a new carmaker into the fold. Or maybe Ford/GM/Toyota busts out with one of their third-world pickups for us…provided they actually pass crash tests.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Having driven both the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma, each for a week’s duration, and each also at company sponsored – the company that built them – off-road ride-and-drives, the competition is fierce between them. Most especially, when you take the Nissan and turn it into the Xterra, with its heavy duty differential, well rock climbers take note!
    I bring up rock climbers, because after returning from the Hollister Hills ride-and-drive in the summer of 2004, for the debuting ’05 Tacoma, my next door neighbor told me he’d likely never trade up on his Tacoma; since he loved it so much. His had a bit more than 200,000 miles, and most of those were hauling gear for himself and his rock climbing buddies.
    When I had the Frontier, with a burly (and Ward’s Best Engine winning) VQ/V6 in the engine bay, I missed getting him to drive it and tell me his impression(s). For my own part, I missed that hill-descent control in the Tacoma. Generally, one would just use the brakes. But when going down some deep descents in an off-road park, a bit east of Hollister Hills CA, the damn thing worked well to allay the fears of those with vertigo.
    Is the Tacoma a bargain? Probably not much, anymore. When they first hit in 1995, you could get a decent four-by-four for maybe $16,500. But that was 11 years ago. You know how the Japanese do it: establish a beachhead, and then jack up the price. Remember the original Z car?
    My gut tells me that the Frontier could do most of what the Tacoma does – and probably do it about as well. But perception is reality, in more than just politics. And most people, most especially young rock climbers, think that “Toyota rules.” Who am I to tell them different?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    For shear utility, the Rampaage would actually be hard to beat.

    With no crud out back, the load-in height will be lowered signifcantly.

    Sure, you can’t tow, but boy could you haul.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    The problem with selling any “third-world pickup” here would be keeping the price down. In addition to the added cost of meeting all the federal safety and emissions standards, they couldn’t import it at a reasonable price because of the ridiculous 25% tariff on imported trucks. Building it here would automatically jack up the price because of the increased labor costs and overhead of the domestic factories. Either way, the consumer loses.

    I wonder how an HHR-based El Camino would look. Cut it down just aft of the front passenger compartment and extend the rear a bit to give it a reasonably sized bed. Then beef up the suspension a bit so it could haul more than 500 lbs and put the supercharged Cobalt SS engine in it. I don’t care much for the “delivery van” looks of the HHR but it might make an interesting mini pickup.

  • avatar
    daroli

    Not sure why everyone keeps saying, “for the money, just buy a full-size ford or gm.” Not everyone wants a full-size truck, for whatever reason. That’s the appeal of the smaller trucks. And while the new Tacoma design may be somewhat controversial–I’m sure the people that are buying them think they look good, but others here have used the term “butt ugly”–I don’t think you can argue with the quality and reliability, rust problems from the mid-to-late ’80’s vintage aside. And I’m not just talking about quality of the Tacoma in the current iteration—whatever your problems with Toyota (Honda, too, for that matter), reliability is not one of them. In short, I’d rather pay up for something now that I know is going to nickel and dime me on its way to 100,000 miles and will still have some value in five years than go cheap now and regret it over and over again.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Two wanna-be trucks in my stable.

    03 Tacoma 4X4 4-cyl. Bought it in the fall of 03 for about $16,400. There was some dealer incentive cash that they threw at me to get rid of this thing. I think about a 1,500 payload capacity and eats snow in a manner second only to my 1997 Wrangler. Not even broken in yet and getting 23MPG. Yes – it’s a toy small inside and out, but basically bullet proof. I’ve got it set up to haul 4X8 sheet goods hanging out the back. Handles maybe 14 or 16 sheets of drywall but gets a little squirrely at this point. Traded my complete POS 2000 F150 in for this. The next guy got totally screwed on that one……

    81 VW Rabbit/Pickup diesel. Believe it or not has a payload capacity of 1,300 or 1,400 (real leaf springs in the back.) Bought it as a toy to learn about diesels. Gets a real 51 MPG if I keep it under 70. Yes – slow as molasses. Requires almost constant wrenching at this point, but that’s part of the fun. Was towed 250 miles home from the sellers place by the above Taco.

    I do have a need for a truck owning an old farmhouse and acreage, though I’m not a farmer. I can get by with these trucks for occasional use. If I hauled drywall every day that’s a different story.

    Agree that the new Taco is too big, too ugly and too expensive. The arguments about going full size at that point are mostly valid. Problem is that the Tundra it too pricey, and the new one will likely be more so and even bigger. Nissan is ugly and poor quality. That leaves domestics…..

    Guy around the corner from me has old Subi Brat with the seats in the back. He absolutely refuses to sell and the thing just sets out in the weather all year long. I think lawyers killed those seats, but man would that be cool!

  • avatar
    Steven T.

    A mid-sized pickup is ludicrous? Why anymore so than a mid-sized car? I’m sorry, but that’s just plain silly.

    As a consumer I’m pissed off that I can’t buy a genuinely modern compact or subcompact truck. I need one that has good gas mileage and is as reliable as a refrigerator. Yup, good, old basic transportation, replete with simple floor mats and white paint.

    If today’s auto industry is so diverse, why is it that NO ONE offers a credible compact, let alone a subcompact pickup? My bet is that the market never really died — but rather than the auto companies fell prey to the “bigger, glitzier, more powerful” mantra.

    Someone, please bring back the basic truck!

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Sid: Regarding the Brat, the seats were only put there in the first place to turn the Brat into a “passenger vehicle” and avoid the 25% tarriff.

    I didn’t realize the Rabbit pickup was made as far back as ’81. For some reason I thought it was a mid-80’s thing.

    I think it’s too bad that the Subaru Baja turned out to be such a lousy compromise (which is why it’s such a poor seller.) Also, they made the mistake of introducing it when its fuel-economy advantage didn’t mean much. Now that gas is so expensive, an actual truck from Subaru would probably appeal to a lot of people (I’m one of them.) But the Baja is getting the axe (’06 is the last year) and Subaru got burned so badly that I doubt they’ll introduce another small truck anytime soon. Really a pity.

    Frank: I’m probably the only one on TTAC who likes the HHR, although I still wouldn’t buy one because (a) it doesn’t offer AWD while Honda and Subaru do, (b) it’s still too short for me, by about 6″, and (c) with the future of GM up in the air, I don’t want a vehicle that might have a worthless warranty. Having said that, I drove an HHR last month, and thought it was pretty OK. In fact, if I was a high-school kid or in college, I’d prefer an HHR to a PT Cruiser or a Scion XB just because it’s bigger, better looking (IMO) and still gets pretty good MPG.

    I think an HHR-based pickup would be an excellent idea for those of us who’d like a pickup but who don’t really need full body-on-frame construction. And while we’re HHR-dreaming, I’d also like to see a windowless-panel truck version. I think that would be a big hit with customizers, tuners, and people who like big stereos. Add the AWD package from the Vue or Equinox and I think you’d have a great little mini-SUV.

  • avatar
    nweaver

    Frank: we DO get a “Third World Pickup”, its called the Colorado/Canyon. Thats a Thai-market design brought into the US by GM’s beancounters who couldn’t be bothered to designd a real midsized truck that could take a V6.

  • avatar
    dean

    I know! A SMART car pickup!

    In a large number of comment sections the readers often mention increased safety standards – usually in relation to why we are unable to get a certain vehicle in North America, or why they weigh so much, etc. I think it would be interesting subject material for a TTAC article — give us a rundown on what these standards are, what level of government imposes them and how it impacts the manufacturers.

    I, for one, wish that these standards could be relaxed. I ride a motorcycle with no crumple zones, no airbags, no seatbelts, no ABS, no traction control, no nothing save for immensely powerful front disk brakes and my own discretion (better part of valor and all that). Why can’t I buy a car or compact truck without all this crap?

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Sajeev, rather than complain that it’s nearly the cost of an F-150, why didn’t you try out a Tacoma taken from the cheap end of the ocean? You ended up testing essentially a Camry XLE with a cargo box.

    And, never mind mid-size, count me as another who’d like a good, modern compact truck. In fact, it doesn’t have to be good. Sid Vicious’ Rabbit diesel pickup is pretty close to what I’d want. I don’t even mind a painted metal interior, as long as the seat is comfy, it’s reasonably quiet and it goes a long way between fillups.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Rabbit based VW “pickups” were sold and manufactured (to avoid the Chicken Tax) in the US for only 4 model years – 80 to 83. The quality of the Westmoreland plant was pretty poor, plus VW insisted on equipping 75% of trucks with diesels. I guess at the end dealers couldn’t give them away.

    In the end the plant was closed, Golf production moved to Mexico and I believe production of the truck was moved to Europe. Rabbit based A1 “Caddys” continued to be sold in Europe until 1989 or so I think.

    Dean: The 81 VW diesel pickup is what you’re looking for! 50 MPG, no airbags, power nothing (including under the hood), manual trans, no air, nothing but a thin tinny door between you and that Excursion that just blew the stop sign. Horse power just under that of a new Harley.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Sid Vicious: I can’t speak for the Rabbit, but your ’03 Taco is a real truck in my book. It’s a real compact truck.

    dhathewa: This review was with a press car (which I neglected to mention, emailing RF right now) so I test whatever Toyota gives me. :-)

    In all fairness, a 5-speed manual, 4-cyl SR5 access cab (suicide doors) is about $22,000. Its got power everything, leather wrapped wheel, floormats, upgraded audio (not JBL), and a fair amount of chrome additions. Sounds good on paper, but buyers easily get swept up on option packages and unnecessary gadgets.

    I betcha the V6, automatic, DoubleCab Taco I tested is more indicative of what retail customers actually purchase.

  • avatar
    Willie Dynamite

    You can get an ’07 Ranger w/ a/c for $14,500 (MSRP – rebate) and it’ll get 24/29 mpg w/ a 1620lb payload or a 4×4 supercab w/ V6, auto, a/c, & class III towing for $21,400 (MSRP-rebate) and still get 17/22mpg. Sure, it’s a Ranger, but lots of these posts are focusing on cheap, efficient, easy to maneuver trucks. Also, ignoring the flames and rants, it’s a modern vehicle w/ good dependability & quality.

    On a different note, why don’t you make friends with your local car dealers? Even if they don’t let you drive their cars enough for a full review, they’d probably let you take a spin in differently-equipped models.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Something else to keep in mind here. True cost of ownership.

    I’m talking mostly re-sale value. Depends on how long you plan to keep your vehicle, I guess. I was shocked at how much my Toyota is still worth. Right or wrong, the domestic vehicles value falls right off the cliff. But if you’re going to drive it until the wheels fall off then who cares.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Willie: My last vehicle was a ’99 Ranger, 2wd, Extracab, with the 3.0l FF engine and a 5-speed manual tranny. Even driving very conservatively, the best MPG I was ever able to get was around 25 and 23 on the highway was normal. City was 17-20. On the Ranger message boards I frequented, one of the biggest complaints was the poor fuel economy of the 4wd Rangers, even the ones with the small V-6 (at that time you couldn’t get a 4 cyl in the 4×4, and you wouldn’t have wanted it anyway because it made an anemic 120-something HP.) Many of the owners of 4×4 Rangers were complaining of MPG in the 12-15 range on the highway! For that kind of MPG, you might as well get a full sized truck!

    A buddy of mine had two 4×4 Rangers, a ’99 and an ’03. Both of them had the same problem with the push-button transfer case not engaging in extremely cold weather. As we were living in Laramie, Wyoming, (elevation 7200′), this was something of a problem.

    Having said all that, my Ranger was relatively trouble free for the 93,000 miles I owned it. I finally got rid of it because I needed a vehicle (a) that could carry more than one passenger (those little jump seats in the extended cab don’t cut it for grown-ups), (b) I needed something with 4wd or AWD, and (c) I was looking for better MPG. I get all three from the Outback, but I have to confess there are times when I do miss my truck.

    Bottom line, a true 4-door Ranger (not that hideous “Sport trak”) with an economical motor (diesel?) and a reliable 4wd system would be of interest to me. Sad thing is, I don’t see anyone rushing to bring in such a vehicle.

    PS: Some people here on TTAC have criticized the Ranger’s “Outdated” design. I have to quibble with that. One thing that Truck buyers value is reliability and another is simplicity. Truck people don’t neccessarily need lots of frills and geegaws to keep them happy, and the fact that a truck’s design hasn’t been “updated” in 4 or 6 years means that if a parking brake cable or a door handle on our 5 year old truck breaks in Resume Speed, Montana, we are much more likely to be able to find a replacement at the local dealer. Similarly, top-of-the-food-chain accessories like power windows and door locks, automatic climate control and integrated stereo/navigation systems are fine for cars, but in a truck it is often just something else that can break when we’re far from home. Not saying that manufacturers shouldn’t offer that stuff to those that want them, but they should also keep the stripped-down versions for those of us who neither want nor need the extra headaches.

  • avatar

    When it comes to buying a truck I am definitely a “truck person” in the sense that I don’t want power assisted anything or any other electrical gizmos that lessen the chance I’m going to make it home with anything more than the hand tools I keep in the toolbox or behind the seat. If you want comfort, why drive a truck in the first place? I would readily buy a new truck with a painted metal interior — because I know in 10 years or so I can have it repainted it instead of suffering through a cracked, warped vinyl dashpad. I would also rather have rhinolining than carpeting, etc. The third world gets rugged, no-frills trucks but they’re withheld from our market not only because of safety and emissions requirements, but because of a perception that they are beneath American buyers tastes. That’s simply not true. There are plenty of people in the American heartland that are happy to buy something rugged and drive its wheels off over 20 years. It’s also entirely possibly to design a vehicle to meet safety and emissions requirements without loading it up with expensive gizmos, but nobody has bothered to try.

    If a VW Rabbit pickup is what you want, you can buy one new in South Africa:
    http://www.vw.co.za/models/model_detail.jsp?modelName=pickup

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Valentine said:

    There are plenty of people in the American heartland that are happy to buy something rugged and drive its wheels off over 20 years.

    Well, I suppose if you were of a conspiratorial mind you could argue that that’s the problem. Manufacturers don’t make much money when people buy a truck and drive it 20 years. They make money when people buy a truck, drive it for two years, then trade it in on a new truck.

    Still, I think there is (or will be) a demand for an economical truck that some forward-looking company will answer. I still like the idea of the HHR-based pickup.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I would also rather have rhinolining than carpeting, etc.

    Me too. Trucks get dirty and carpeted floors is a joke. When I have kids, even my Minivan’s gonna have a rhino liner floor. Let ‘em puke and poop all over it! LOL

    I do like power windows and locks for a crew cab style truck (too many doors to mess with) and stuff like a nice stereo and cruise control, but that usually negates any chance of you getting a durable Fleet-buyer type of interior.

    Martin Albright: I agree with your Quibble about the Ranger’s classic-ness, but with a company like Toyota providing consistant redesigns and their (perceived or otherwise) reputation for quality, Ford can’t let the Ranger slide. People like new stuff, even compact truck buyers. Hell, just redesign the Ranger’s 1995 Explorer dashboard and you’ll entice a few Tacoma buyers.

    Toyota wants to outsell Detroit. They are getting there and I expect the Tacoma will (finally) outsell the Ranger this year. (maybe they did last year, haven’t checked)

  • avatar
    radimus

    Hm. What good are small trucks? Good for lots of stuff.

    If you need a truck for a daily driver, and whatever you’re carrying is within the payload capacity, a small 2WD pickup is a good idea for its better gas mileage. Their smaller size can also be a big advantage in urban settings.

    If you’re looking for something to horse around off-road with then a small 4×4 pickup can make a better choice than a full size one. With a high-output V6 you can have a higher hp/lb ratio. Install a lift kit and bigger, wider tires and you have a lower lb/sq ft ratio that helps keep from getting too bogged down in the mud. The narrower chassis can also be better for handling rock piles. There’s more advantages in this dept, but that’s fine for now.

    Beyond much more than that, I think the full size trucks are more practical.

  • avatar
    Tommy Jefferson

    I second, and third everything said about our need for a third-world truck.

    The Ballooned-up Gas-Guzzlers currently offered by Toyota & Nissan are NOT small trucks.

    I heard Kia may bring a real compact truck to the US market. I bought a Toyota in the 70’s, a Nissan Hardbody in the 80’s, and a Mazda B2200 in the 90’s.

    Perhaps the Koreans will beat the Japanese using the strategy the Japanese employed to break the American market; reliable, cheap, durable vehicles for the REST of us.

  • avatar
    FormerTacoOwner

    At my friend Sajeev’s request, I have to tell about my experience with Toyota’s customer service. I purchased a 2004 (prev gen model–you know the ones with the steel beds not plastic) brand new in June 2004 for around 24,500. It was a fully loaded Access Cab, 4X4, TRD, V6, AT. I can still say without a doubt it was the best compact truck of that year, hands down, and I never had one single problem with it and loved driving it. But my problems came with Toyota itself. I went to get my truck inspected in June 2006, but I drove away with a reject sticker because the Registry Officer felt my exhaust was too loud. Massachusetts passed a law the past year that bans aftermarket exhaust which amplify the sound of the exhaust over stock. I did put a stainless steel cat-back exhaust on myself, so I guess I was breaking the law, only one catch it was a TRD cat-back exhaust purchased from a Toyota dealer, and I still had the receipt. After arguing with the local inspector that the truck could come stock with the exhaust and is a factory option I was referred to the state inspector who is in Boston. He was pretty cool and understood what I was saying….”How can I amplify the sound of the exhaust if it is a stock option?”. He said all I need is a letter typed up by the dealer or by Toyota with a Toyota letterhead stating that they sell the exhaust and is installed by Toyota and I will have no problems at all and I will get a passing inspection sticker. Easy right…WRONG. I went to the dealer where my wife and I purchased the truck from two short years ago and have been looking at purchasing a full size Tundra (roughly 32,000$), as we were walking in we saw one Tundra and three Tacoma’s with the TRD exhaust installed and the exhaust was listed as a dealer option on the sticker! This is going to be easy I thought to myself, well the store manager refused to type or have anyone type out two lines on a piece of paper, claiming that he didn’t want any legal ramifications and instead gave me Toyota’s 800 customer service number. So I called the number, I was on the phone for over an hour and a half with a smart alleck woman. She claimed that I have to bring the Tacoma back to the dealer have them do some 200 point inspection, pay for it out of my own pocket and then MAYBE they can type something up for me. I told her I spent 24k of my hard earned money on this truck and planned on spending at least another 30 in the following month, they did not care. I told her Toyota will NEVER get another penny out of my pocket or my families, ever. Their customer service is bad. Needless to say I traded the truck in and now drive a 2006 Silverado. If anyone is thinking about buying a Toyota, think again, do a search on paint chips and engine ticking for the 05-06’s, they have serious problems and Toyota refuses to fix. The 05’s and some 06’s came through with really cheap paint and it is peeling off the rocker panels. Toyota refused to re-paint unless you as the consumer purchased their running boards (which are ugly) and had them install them, which roughly costs five hundred dollars. The 4.0 V6 is a strong engine but it ticks terribly, there have been service bullitens about it, but once again Toyota refuses to fix the problem. Its too bad, most Toyota’s are quality products, and I myself might buy a used one down the road if the price was right, but I will never buy new ever again.

  • avatar
    4runner

    It appears that many of the responses to this review believe that the size and price of the Tacoma will hinder its success in the marketplace. However, when considering a truck, many buyers are not the traditional truck buyer. Many non traditional truck buyers are looking for a capable, good looking truck, that has excellent build quality, holds its resale value and can get small jobs done (think picking up plywood sheets at Home Depot).

    Unfortunately, none of the other trucks in this class are up to snuff. The Ranger, although attractive, is too small and outdated for the task. The Colorado/Canyon twins are quite ugly (their front ends look like the results of an explosion in a polygon factory and their interior looks like the inside of a plastic mailbox) and are underpowered. The Dakota, although capable, is not going to bring in the non-traditional truck buyer with its tupperware interior and unrefined chassis. Finally, the Nissan, although very competitive, doesn’t seem to be as refined as the Tacoma and Nissan seems to be unwilling to spend the marketing dollars to make it a worthy competitor.

    Some of my points are quite subjective. However, the marketplace has spoken – the Tacoma is the best selling truck in its class.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Thank you all for such a lively and informative discussion. Its nice to see that TTAC’s commentators know a thing or two about pickups.

    Bravo TTAT-ers!!!

  • avatar
    KeepItSimple

    Today I replaced by deteriorating Geo Tracker with a 97 Taco, regcab 4×4 5spd. $5k for 159K miles with few options and air not cold, but looks and drives like it’s a year old. I had to go 150 miles to find even a few manual 4x4s to consider. People are either keeping them, buying them immediately, or scrapping them. You guess which.

    Why buy a little Taco/Dakota when a F150/1500 can be had? Because it is those ubiquitous “full-size” trucks that fall short. Sure they can hold 4×8 sheets, but try to pile some weight in or do any serious towing and they are hopeless. I already have a 94 F250 with the big 7L. That truck can do some WORK. I had a ton and a half of rock in it, with an extra leaf and damn good tires. The pro does the grunt work and I’ll use the little Toy for my daily 100 mile round-trip commute. I don’t have to go into gas debt to haul trash, I can get to work in any weather and park easily when I arrive, my grill guard will toss the 2-3 deer I hit each year into the ditch like Frisbees, and I bet it has a lunar (238857) on the odometer before I even start thinking about what comes next.

    I agree that the newer small trucks are getting too big. Seems like most car/truck models have been doing this for decades, though. Something new steps into the tiny niche when it frees up.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I am now on my 3rd small Toyota pickup (’03 Tacoma Prerunner V6 Xtra Cab) and it is everything I want or need in a truck. I have driven the newer model and my first reaction was “Are they out of their minds?” It’s soooo BIG.
    Unless they re-introduce a small Hilux size pickup back into the US I won’t be replacing my ’03 ‘Taco anytime soon.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Today I replaced by deteriorating Geo Tracker with a 97 Taco, regcab 4×4 5spd. $5k for 159K miles with few options and air not cold, but looks and drives like it’s a year old.

    Thanks for sharing. Your comments are spot on, but the premium fuel requirement (sure it can run on regular, but that’s not the recommended fuel) and larger dimensions make the new Taco…well…its more like a big truck and less like your Taco. And that’s what I dislike about it.

  • avatar
    cook

    If you need or want a new pickup, and you want it to be.. 4×4, manual transmission, extended cab, and four cylinder engine. Then your only option is the Tacoma (it is the only truck available that fits all those criteria), I’ve had mine for a month and i love it. I can tow small trailers well and it drives no different with a ton of mulch in the bed. I mean unless your towing a trailer full of horses around and still need to rally it off the line like its a GTO, why on earth would you even want one of these big american v8’s anyway? the days of cheap gas are gone and they are never coming back.

  • avatar
    zenith

    The Subaru Baja failed because it has no box.

    The original Omni-based Rampage, not the pudgy piece of garbage of the same name assembled by an unimaginative German company that can’t make anything that’s in between ultralight and ridiculously heavy for its class, was a blast to drive and had a GVW of 3350 lbs. Most small trucks don’t weigh as little empty.

    Re-release this truck, with its full 6-foot box , galvanize the ENTIRE floorpan (these things died of premature cab-floor rot because the bean counters told Lee and Lutz to galvanize only the box floor and nobody will notice anyway), and give it modern fuel injection and ignition. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    I have a 2WD Ranger that’s the only thing I can find with anywhere near as low a liftover height as the old Rampage. It has more rated horsepower and torque than the Rampage had but seems slower.
    The extra 28 horses should negate the extra 500 lbs curb weight but doen’t.

    Still, I’d take a Ranger over a Tacoma and definitely over a Ridgeline.

    The Ridgeline’s curb weight is an astounding 430 lbs higher than my Ranger’s GVW and the payload ratings are exactly the same. Put two pudgy Yuppies and their 2.3 couch potato kids in a Ridgeline and you’ve barely capacity to spare for their iPods. Damn near every one of those vacationing families you see in Ridgelines must be overloading the vehicle. Ditto most fams travelling in “soft carlike ride” SUVs.

  • avatar
    Clargnblost

    After reading this review and (particularly) the comments that follow, I felt obligated to both register and post my experiences.

    Historically, I’ve always been buy-‘merican. This has lasted since my early dirty-finger-nailed high school 70s muscle cars days (man, I wish I had never sold my ‘70 GTO).

    My previous truck was a ’97 Chevy extended cab 1500 which effectively (and finally) ended my lifelong (I’m now 43) love affair with GM. This truck was purchased new and the problems began as early as the next morning after I woke up and more closely examined my new truck procured late night just prior. This should have been a precursor – but apparently the factory just plain forgot to paint certain portion of the exterior just behind the front bumper. Hmm.. It was still pre-coat gray and I must have missed that during the late night brief examination just before taking ownership.

    Now – I’m a white collar guy and this truck had the easy suburban life. Despite this – the ensuing seven years were marked by what I’d consider a lofty frequency of visits to the dealer until eventually, at a mere 73K miles, both the head gasket and rear main seal decided they’d had enough and performed an all-at-once impressively coordinated collapse. Combine this with the experience of my prior GM product committing a premature, spectacular, and massively expensive blown head-gasket suicide while idling at a stop-light one day – and the love was definitely gone.

    Now consider my wife – who had (at the time) only two cars her entire life. The first was a Toyota, the second was a Honda. When both were traded in, they were in perfectly operational condition with very high mileage. You just get tired of looking at them after a while and you want something new. They don’t break – this was a new (and very appealing) concept to me.

    You certainly can understand then that I only visited Honda and Toyota dealers looking for my next truck. The Ridgeline was too weird for my taste, the Tundra was about to be complete redesigned, but the freshly redone Taco fit the bill. Perfect size – about the same length as by C-1500 but about 4” narrower. Fits in the garage. Done deal – I got the four door with the off-road sport package (had them pull off all the silly decals – I don’t like driving around with the letters “T[u]RD” stuck on the side) – this was in December of ’04. The truck has about 30K on it now. Now – at this point in my Chevy’s brief and pampered life the steering had about 1 inch of play, there were rattles and squeaks coming from all four corners (hitting a bump made the thing shudder endlessly) and the alternator and compressor had already been replaced. The Toyota – is tight and (so far) problem free. Put in gas, change the oil. Drives as if it were still new.

    My theory on why most think Ford/Chevy/Dodge make better work trucks is that since they treat you so poorly – you don’t feel all that bad about returning the favor.

    The only complaints about Toyota I have is the buying experience was horrendous. The dealer was sleazy, the packaged options make no sense, they seem designed to make you purchase options that you don’t need and there was no available leather or sunroof options.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I mean unless your towing a trailer full of horses around and still need to rally it off the line like its a GTO, why on earth would you even want one of these big american v8’s anyway? the days of cheap gas are gone and they are never coming back.

    Because a 2WD, V6, automatic Taco manages 16/20 and a similar V8 (5.3L) Chevy Silverado gets 15/20. Those are EPA cycles.

    The Toyota is only 1 MPG better? And it needs Premium gas to make that happen???

    Aside from its garage-friendly size and reputation for quality, where’s the value in this vehicle?

  • avatar
    Clargnblost

    The Toyota is only 1 MPG better? And it needs Premium gas to make that happen???

    The numbers on my 4.0 four door long bed Tacoma are actually 17/21 with semi-primo fuel, but still – if you are looking for a high mileage pickup, keep looking (and looking..and looking…). Maybe that four bang Ranger (24/29) is for you.

    Keep in mind that the Tacoma is not really so much a compact truck (anymore).

    I have, however, noticed that this particular Toyota engine, the 4.0 V6, is not a shining star of efficiency. If memory serves me, Toyota’s own 5.7L V8 gets only 1 MPG worse in the Tundra than if it had the 4.0 V6. From a mileage perspective, it seems like a no brainer to actually go with the bigger V8.

    Aside from its garage-friendly size and reputation for quality, where’s the value in this vehicle?

    After enduring years of dis-proving GM’s engineering experiments, I have to say that the second item in your list is the big one for me. My Tacoma was a little north of $30K when I purchased it but I am pretty sure I’ll get at least six digits of mileage without major re-investment in it.

    As a side note – consider the recalls lately. Ford just recalled trucks because they randomly catch on fire (even if turned off). I received a recall notice for my Chevrolet truck for the wiper motor about a month after I was driving in a very heavy downpour on the freeway (you know, at freeway speeds, with other cars around) and the wipers stopped – just stopped. I’m in the left lane of an 8 lane city freeway and completely blind at that point. Talk about soiling your underwear.

    Compare – I’ve received two recall notices on the Tacoma. One was because they didn’t put quite enough umph on a nut enough under the dash that holds the emergency brake lever and the other was for the driver side floor mat.

    Hmm…

    Someone up there mentioned that the Tacoma is ugly. While I respectfully disagree with this evaluation – I’d also like to direct your attention to three of the most butt-ugly trucks / SUVs for sale these days:

    The Dakota. What were they thinking?? I can find no angle to look at this machine that is pleasurable. I think the old AMC (remember the Hornet or the Matador?) design engineers finally broke out of the closet at Chrysler and have taken over.

    The Nitro. Looks like it was modeled after the old Willys Jeep wagon. Have they already run out of good looking old vehicles to retro?

    The Nissan Armada. This one screams Studebaker at me and not in a good way.

    THOSE are ugly.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Clargnblost: You’re right, the Tacoma is not a compact pickup, nor is it efficient. The 4.0L is a rev happy motor; its not the ideal partner for a large-ish truck. Its a good truck by itself, but it leaves the market wide open for something the size of a Ranger but with modern design.

    And when you factor the price, the market’s big picture gets worse. Its a lousy value, IMO.

    But you mentioned piece of mind, and those quality concerns are most valid: and that’s why the Tacoma will please many. The Tundra was plagued with suspension (balljoint?) problems and the new one had camshaft failures…all seem to have been addressed without much trouble. As long as the Tacoma doesn’t follow suit…

    I’ll also agree that the Dakota is even uglier…but that’s not a compliment to the Taco. I still think its a clumsy, bloated rig with no sense of what a truck is supposed to look like.

    But I understand why you bought it, and I’m sure you’re gonna love it for years to come.

  • avatar
    naugahyde

    I bought an ’07 TRD / offroad Taco a few weeks ago – and love it so far. Sure, I was a little lukewarm on the styling, but that’s not that important to me.

    I want to address the comments that the 2wd Prerunner model is a “poser 4×4″. I like to go out in the backcountry, places like trailheads at the end of a primitive road. I need a truck that can get me to those places, and the 2wd Taco with the locking diff does a fine job of that. I don’t go 4-wheeling just for the fun of burning gas in the wilderness and tearing up trails. I go to those places for quiet, scenery and solitude where I get the workout, not my machine.

  • avatar
    Clargnblost

    Sajeev – I really appreciate the dialog. I’m impressed with your attention to your work.

    I’ll also agree that the Dakota is even uglier…but that’s not a compliment to the Taco. I still think its a clumsy, bloated rig with no sense of what a truck is supposed to look like.

    Glad to know it’s not just me when it comes to the Dakota. Seriously – it looks like they went ahead and pre-wrecked it for you before you took delivery to save you the trouble.

    Tacoma Bloated? For a primo example of bloated see above reference to the Armada (as well as the Nissan pickup that originated the statement). Nissan must have hired away Billy Bulbous from Pontiac to needlessly push the panels out further on an already ginormous vehicle.

    Why am I the only one who cowers from the Nissans?

    I’ll concede that the fender flares on the Tacoma could be slightly more conservative – but this seems like the thing to do these days. The new Chevy full size reminds me of the early 70s Monty Carlo, and I think I’ve said enough about Dodge and Nissan. Ford has done a respectable design job, but good God – those “Big Dog Daddy” commercials have got to go.

    And – need I mention the Honda Ridgeline?

    IMHO by comparison, the Tacoma is pretty restrained – but you are correct in one regard. It does not look like what a truck is supposed to. It also doesn’t have fjord like panel gaps (btw – that was fjord, not ford – but either way…) and rattle like a cowbell if you drive over a speed bump.

    Since you mentioned it – what is a truck supposed to look like?

    I want to address the comments that the 2wd Prerunner model is a “poser 4×4″.

    I contemplated the 4×4 – but went pre-runner. My truck is primarily a commuter and weekend home-depot plywood hauler (apparently too harsh a workload for my C-1500, RIP) and the step down in mileage for the privilege of carting around extra 4×4 parts un-sold me. I do go off-road on rare occasions with all my astronomy gear but it’s pretty tame stuff which the Tacoma has 0 problems with.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Clargnblost: its always nice to chat with owners like you. :)

    When I saw the Dakota I thought it was a reject from a Grand Theft Auto video game. Just a terrible design with zero refinement inside and out. At least the Ranger has aged well. (i.e. as well as can be expected)

    I feel the Nissans are a bit overdone in styling too, but they are cohesive designs and avoid the mistakes of the Taco (beefy door handles, no fake scoop, symmetrical fender flares, etc). Speaking of, TTAC needs to test the Frontier.

    And I don’t mind the Pre-runner concept at all. You get the ground clearance/locking axle/tires/etc needed for trail use but none of the parasitic drivetrain loss of a 4×4. And there’s a whole class of Baja Pre-Runner race trucks. Its the real deal, even if Poseurs flaunt ‘em too.

  • avatar
    Clargnblost

    Clargnblost: its always nice to chat with owners like you. :)
    Thanks – this is fun!

    … At least the Ranger has aged well. (i.e. as well as can be expected)
    I knew it – you’re a Ranger guy [cue Toby Keith].

    Actually – I completely agree with you regarding the Ranger. I can appreciate it, though I have no desire to drive one.

    I feel the Nissans are a bit overdone in styling too, but they are cohesive designs and avoid the mistakes of the Taco (beefy door handles, no fake scoop, symmetrical fender flares, etc). Speaking of, TTAC needs to test the Frontier.

    I’ll give you that the Nissan’s do have a more purposefully consistent design over, say, the Honda Element. However, the overly manly door handles and random bulges are not attractive to everyone. I do appreciate function over form.

    Having said that – this is as horrible a time as any to mention that my Tacoma does have the hotly disparaged synthetic hood scoop (hey – it was on there when I picked it off the lot).

    I reason that it is functional in the sense that it takes me back to my youthful days with my GTO’s twin hood shovels.

    Alas, the GTO “functional” scoops had about the same level of effectiveness as the Tacoma’s (i.e. none) but at least you could pop the hood on the goat and see that they went somewhere. Perhaps I should duct the Tacoma’s scoop to the AC intake or something.

    TTAC needs to test the Frontier.
    If this comes to pass, I will expect a hearty railing on the fake “bolts” that are “holding” the fender flares on. Poser indeed!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Actually – I completely agree with you regarding the Ranger. I can appreciate it, though I have no desire to drive one.

    I like completely rude and obnoxious trucks, but the Ranger is much too outdated to be a primary vehicle for most anyone.

    Having said that – this is as horrible a time as any to mention that my Tacoma does have the hotly disparaged synthetic hood scoop (hey – it was on there when I picked it off the lot).

    If you want a nicely loaded Taco, you’re pretty much forced to deal with it. Its a shame, really.

    I will expect a hearty railing on the fake “bolts” that are “holding” the fender flares on. Poser indeed!

    Yeah that stuff is terrible.

  • avatar
    baldheadeddork

    I don’t know if anyone will ever read this because the thread is so old, but Sajeev overlooks the most obvious source of value in the Tacoma – its resale value.

    I bought my 2005 Taco Prerunner (Regular cab/4cyl/5sp/SR5) new three years ago for $15,600 plus tax and plates. Today its worth $13,200. That’s a total depreciation of 15% over three years. Any full size truck has lost about 50% over the same period. That’s the value of the Tacoma and no other truck comes close.

    The four-banger Taco does a lot better on fuel economy, too. I get 20/25 and the 2.7 Taco doesn’t need premium to hit those numbers.

  • avatar

    baldheadeddork

    Taco owners lucked out. The huge move out of full-size trucks pushed demand for small pickups through the roof. Better to be lucky than smart, as my father always says.

  • avatar
    baldheadeddork

    Not quite, Robert. The four-cylinder Tacoma’s have always held their value better than practically everything else in the market. Even in 2005, before gas really took off, the three-year depreciation for a last-generation Tacoma was under 20%. The Ranger and Colorado took that kind of hit in their first year, and the Nissan wasn’t far behind.

    You can see this if you do resale research today, too. The four-cylinder Ranger still has the highest depreciation rate despite having the best fuel economy in the class – thank Ford for hanging four-figure incentives on the nose of new trucks to kneecap the value of the one sitting in your driveway.

  • avatar

    I haven’t been able to see the Toyota Tacoma yet at a dealership. It, the Chevy Colorado and the Jeep Patriot are the only cars I like, at all. I want to see what they’ve done to the back parts of the 2009 Taco Access Cab. I would like to have a useable rear seat for a 5’9 adult, and the older seats didn’t work–I checked. I wonder whether the new seats help any. The backrest still looks awful and uncomfortable, but it’s got headrests and a place for your bottom, and it looks like they might be a little taller too. I remember that there was plenty of room back there, or at least for an extended cab compact there was.

    Has anybody seen the new ’09 Access Cab?

    Further, can anybody explain to me why they didn’t just make the jumpseats a single solid bench, maybe with a cloth lightly-padded backrest? The new center console looks like it would make it harder to use the back part of the cab to lay out long things, like a sleeping dog or what have you. Why didn’t they just eliminate the console entirely and stretch the jumpseats from one side to the other, like in the old T-100 extended cab?

  • avatar
    ptensioned

    I know this is an old article, and it’s unlikely anyone will read this post, but as a Tacoma driver I feel the need to put in my 2 cents as to why I disagree with many of the statements above.

    First off, cost. Yes, it’s expensive, but not much more than the (in my opinion) clearly lower rent Frontier. Compared to a full size domestic, it’s about on par. But the reliability alone is worth that to me. This truck is bulletproof, as just about every survey can attest. Resale is also a huge factor. I priced used trucks along with new when I was doing the shopping, and a three year old domestic is worth barely 50% of purchase. A similar Toyota was closer to 80%. In fact, that’s the main reason I bought new as it made no sense to get a mid-mileage truck for marginal savings.

    Second, size. Where I live, the downtown area is very dense. Lanes, parking spaces, turning radii, all are squeezed to the limit. A full size truck is simply a pain to live with day-to-day in this environment. The Tacoma (I have the full Double Cab, long box, TRD version) is long (just as long as an extended cab 6.5′ box F-150), but significantly narrower. This makes all the difference. Yes, it’s big for a so-called mid-size truck, but I would argue that it’s the full size trucks that have gotten too big.

    Overall, I have spent significant time in every full size with the exception of the Nissan Titan (whose reliability record automatically disqualified it from purchase consideration). As a specialty contractor, I travel a lot for jobs and therefore rent whatever is available locally. The Dodge is crappiest, and calling it a lard bucket is being kind. The GM is solid, but I hate the soft, floaty ride (I know I’m in the minority of truck owners there, but hey…). The Tundra is simply huge, and with the 5.7 an absolute rocket, but to me it seems Toyota cut costs in too many places to try and be at least close to the domestics in price. The Ford is my favorite of the bunch, with low MSRP, decent enough handling, and reasonable quality.

    Overall, though, none of them can touch the Tacoma for usability. For the way I use a truck, it meets my needs perfectly. It can haul and tow 2/3’s of what a full size can, which realistically is all I need. It can cope with a much broader range of driving environments (tight downtown traffic, far better off-road for my occasional back woods camping trips and muddy jobsites, not to mention it’s dramatically better in the snow). It gets marginally better fuel costs (including premium gas) than any full size I’ve driven. Finally, it’s more fun to drive (yes, you need to rev the teats off it).

    I read a lot of comments above (not all) from people who clearly don’t understand what many people want out of a truck. Considering the Tacoma’s comparative sales numbers (with a huge price disadvantage), clearly I’m not alone in finding the Tacoma to be an ideal compromise.

    The hood scoop does suck though.

  • avatar
    ted1

    I hear ya man. Hilarious to read these old comments about the Tacoma not meeting the grade. Duh! Taco’s continue to prove their worth. I made my mistake when I chose a Ranger over a Taco back in 2006. When I look a the resale value of the Ford vs. Tacoma now I cry. End of 2009 it’s Taco time.


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