Reviewed by Susan Frissell 

If you’re looking for a midsize/compact truck with a gazillion choices, the Tacoma fits the bill. Some 14 choices of configurations are available; surely, there must be one to fit your needs. Available in Regular Cab, Access Cab (extended), and Double Cab (crew) body styles, the Tacoma comes in two-or-four-wheel drive. Regular and Extra Cabs come with six-foot beds, and Double Cabs offer a choice of a sorter five-foot or six-foot box length.

Our test vehicle was the Access Cab 4×4, with Toyota’s V6 engine. The base engine in the Tacoma is the 2.7-liter, 159-horsepower inline-four, mated with Toyota’s five-speed manual transmission. One can opt for the 4.0-liter V6, with 236-horse; standard on the Double Cabs and optional on4-WD Access Cabs. Paired with the V6 engine is either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Our test Tacoma came tacequipped with the automatic.

Standard safety features on the Tacoma include four-wheel-anti-lock-brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, stability control, traction control, side-impact/side curtain airbags and active headrests.

This next statement is, of course, coming from a truck fan, however, if you’re interested in learning about how up-to-date and comfortable these trucks can be, take a test drive. You might get hooked.

New for 2013 in the Tacoma is Toyota’s next generation audio system. The latest in digital technology includes navigation, Toyota Entune services, XM/Sirius radio (90-day trial subscription), HD radio with iTunes tagging and txt/email-to-voice, all playing or premium quality through a JBL Green Edge system, which helps to lower the power output effecting fuel consumption. The sound comes from all around through 7 speakers. The AM/FM Satellite radio comes with a single-disc CD player, built-in Bluetooth/hands-free and steering wheel controls.

The 2013 Toyota Tacoma continues to offer more each year, enabling it to remain the most popular of the midsize trucks. The ‘compact’ (think Ford Ranger) pickup is no longer available on the market, so one starts off with a midsize truck. Named Most Dependable Midsize Pickup by J.D. Power & Associates in 2011, Tacoma also received the Best Overall Value by Intellichoice. The 2013 Tacoma was also named the best pickup in its class, and best for rugged terrain, durability and reliability by New Car Test Drive.

Owning the segment, Tacoma sells more than 100,000 vehicles a year, causing other manufacturers to get out of the market. In addition to the demise of Ford’s Ranger pickup, look for the disappearance of the Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.tac

The last major redesign for Tacoma was in 2005. A new look in/out appeared in Tacoma for 2012, along with an updated audio system. Other additions, including a Limited Package appear for 2013 and include 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, chrome grille trim and rear bumper, SofTex-trimmed heated seating, auto-dimming rearview mirror with camera display, outside temperature gauge, HomeLink and dual sun visors.

Buyers can choose from 14 different versions of the Tacoma (up one from 2013), including 4×2 regular/access cabs, PreRunner 4×2 Access, Double (4-cyl., 6-cyl.); 4×6 Access, Double; X-Runner V6, 4×2 Access and Base V6, 4×4 Dbl in two bed lengths. Air Conditioning is standard on all Tacoma versions, as is brake intervention in place of a mechanical-type limited-slip to help reduce wheel-spin (with the exception of the TRD off-road model).

Toyota’s TRD (Toyota Racing Development) models offer several accessories to improve road performance, on/off-road. New to the version is the TRD Baja Series, featuring high-performance Bilstein off-road shocks, special Eibach springs, 16-inch headlock wheels with BF Goodrich /All-Terrain T/AKO tires, sports exhaust and special graphics.

Our test Access Cab 4×4 model adds a few more standard features, including power windows/locks/mirrors, bucket seats, functional consoles, six-speaker audio. Owners will not want for extras in the Access Cab version. Four-wheel-drive is available in Regular, Access and Double Cabs (both engines), as are automatic or manual transmissions.

While the interior of the Tacoma Access Cab we drove was comfortable, it isn’t luxurious, by any means. In fact, the IP and control center seemed a bit dated in styling. The one CD unit might be more about drivers utilizing iPod and iTune equipment these days. CD’s are quickly becoming obsolete; the latest victim of upgraded technology. Cup holders are situated in the center console, with one in the door, and the center console is large enough for a laptop.

Seating is comfortable but hardly plush, but then we tend to become spoiled by today’s average sedan. Tacoma’s steering wheel sports a more modern look with dark-colored spokes and brushed-metal look. All controls are easily operated, even when hands are gloved; and, as this writer appreciated, features are intuitive. Driver’s seat is height-adjustable, accommodating short, small drivers. 

Options on our test Access Cab 4×4 included the Convenience Package (rear privacy glass, sliding rear windows, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls/cruise, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, $1005); and the TRD-Off-Road Package (S$5 equipment, locking rear differential, off-road suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, engine skidplate, sport seats, overhead console with compass and outside temp, heavy-duty front tow hook, 115x.400w deck-mounted power point, unique TRD graphics, TRD, Hill-start Assiste Control, Downhill Assist Control.

Looking tough without going overboard, Toyota Tacoma is recognizable as a Toyota product. With its trademark lower air opening framed by a body-color extension, the protruding black plastic inner grille and front-end trapezoid-shape give it familiarity among truck buyers.

Tacoma’s overall length varies by body style, while the Regular Cab offers a lot of cargo space, the Access Cabs feature large dual rear auxiliary doors, opening up to 2 fold-up seats with center console. Although two additional passengers can ride back here, it works out even better for extra ‘stuff,’ and a couple of dogs!

The Tacoma is a great riding truck, with little bounce or harsh reactions. With all the amenities available in trucks today, it’s easy to understand why folks are opting for a truck. Even highway driving is pleasurable and parking not as difficult as one would think. Handling is good, especially when maneuvering curvy ramps; roll and lean are minimal. When switching into 4WD, one has only to twist a rotary knob.

We enjoyed our week in the new 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab and left it wondering “Why not?” Take a test drive; who knows, you might be persuaded.


MSRP: $25,805

Total vehicle price: $33,738; range $24,286-$26,110

Engine: 4.0-liter,DOHC, 236 horsepower

Transmission: 5-speed ECT

Wheelbase: 127.4 in.

Length: 208.1 in.

Width: 74.6 in.

Height: 70.3 in.

Tires: 265/70R16

Wheels: 18-inch chrome alloy

EPA fuel economy:  16/21 mpg., 18 mpg.

Assembled: Fremont, CA