Susan Frissell

tacomaThe most popular of the midsize/compact pickups, the Toyota Tacoma is one of the few left in this category. Other competitors are now members of the midsize category, rather than being labeled “compact.” Named “Most Dependable Midsize Pickup” by J.D. Power & Associates in its 2011 Vehicle Dependability Study, and Intellichoice’s “2011 Best Overall Value” in the compact pickup segment,.

Tacoma is available in many iterations Toyota Tacoma can be had in these versions: Regular Cab 2.7-liter L4 5-speed manual with 4-speed automatic; Access Cab 5M with 4A; Double Cab 4A, PreRunner Access Cab 4A; PreRunner V6 Access Cab with 5A; X-Runner V6 Access Cab 6M; PreRunner L4 Double Cab 4A; PreRunner V6 Double Cab 5A; PreRunner Long Bed V6 Double Cab 5A; 4WD Regular Cab L4 5M; 4WD Regular Cab L4 4A; 4WD Access Cab L4 5M; 4WD Access Cab L4 4A; 4WD V6 Access Cab 6M; 4WD V6 Access Cab 5A; 4WD V6 Double Cab 6M; 4WD V6 Double Cab 5A; 4WD V6 Long Bed Double Cab 5A.  Tacoma offers many amenities and is a desirable truck to have around as a daily driver. One not familiar with 21st century pickups would be surprised to hear this, but these vehicles are picking up speed with buyers due to their comfortable cabs, refined ride and quality construction. This writer did not have the opportunity to take the 2014 Tacoma off-road but know it would not disappoint. What we did appreciate is the cab’s generous rear seating, good quality materials in its interior, and the fact that it can tow up to 6,500 lbs.

It is reported that Toyota sells more than 100,000 Tacomas a year. Because of this fact, no doubt, other manufacturers have left the small pickup market in the U.S. Lack of demand killed the Dodge Dakota, Suzuki models and Ford Ranger. Soon to be gone, probably, will be the likes of the Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon Redesigned in 2005, Tacoma was also given a new interior and on the outside in 2012.

The pickup also received a Limited Package, with 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, chrome grille and rear bumper, metallic instrument panel, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, HomeLink transceiver, rearview camera display and outside temperature gauge, among other things. Many more configurations were added in the 2013 model year, each offering a lot of durability and reliability.

Standard on all models of the Tacoma are A/C, audio systems with six-speakers, AM/FM/CD, USB Port, aux input and Bluetooth. One can opt for JBL GreenEdge with navigation and Toyota’s Entune which our 4×4 Double Cab V6 version. Safety equipment is plentiful on the Tacoma and includes the Star Safety System, which includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TC), Automatic Limited-Slip Differential (Auto-LSD), which uses brake intervention. Our V6 came equipped with Toyota’s TRD Off-Road packages, with separate locking differential ($3,860).  TRD or Toyota Racing Development offers several accessories to further improve on-road performance or off-road capability. BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires, sports exhaust and special graphics are part of the package. 

The Tacoma’s base engine is a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional. A 4.0-liter V6 is standard on X-Runners and 4WD Double Cabs, and optional on some, but not all, other models, sporting 236 horsepower.  The Tacoma double cab models add more standard features, including bucket seats and functional consoles for the floor and ceiling. 

Double Cabs have six-speaker audio systems, and the V6 models offer a premium JBL system with amplified subwoofer, Bluetooth, XM, and Toyota Entune. The audio upgrade includes steering wheel controls. An option on our Double Cab version, the Entune Premium includes the JBL audio with navigation and App Suite, Entune multimedia bundle, high resolution touch-screen w/split screen display, AM/FM/CD player with MPE /WMA playbook capability, subwoofer, auxuiliary audio Jack, SUB, 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, Advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless, HD radio, predictive traffic/dopplar weather overlay, AM/FM/Cache radio, SiriusXM radio, gracenotes album cover art, integrated backup camera display ($2,330).

Four-wheel-drive is available throughout the line and our test vehicle came so equipped. Four-cylinder and V6 engines, along with manual and automatic transmissions are available, including a 5-speed manual and 6-speed manual, or 4-speed automatic and 5-speed automatic.  Safety features are numerous and come on all models; they include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, and the Automatic Limited-slip Differential. Models with automatic transmission also include Hill-start Assist Control, and TRD Off-Road models add Downhill Assist Control. 

In addition, front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models.  Tacoma not only looks like a Toyota, it also gives the impression and feel of being tough and rugged, but not without good clean lines and nice looks. Tacoma’s overall length varies by body style: Regular Cabs are the shortest and most maneuverable, measuring 190.4 inches overall on a 109.6-inch wheelbase. Access Cab and Double Cab short-bed models have a 127.4-inch wheelbase and 208.1-inch overall length. Double Cab long-bed models are quite long at 221.3 inches overall on a 140.6-inch wheelbase. A

All models have six-foot beds except the Double Cab short-bed, which has a five-foot bed.  Feel free to load up Tacoma’s composite inner bed with just about anything. Lighter than steel, the composite bed is still tough and durable; not to mention good looking. The bed features two-tier loading and an integrated deck rail utility system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. The rails are compatible with numerous Genuine Toyota Accessories, including cargo-bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack, and other useful items. 

The Toyota Tacoma climate and audio controls are very small and seem almost old-style; Larger ones would probably fit most men’s fingers better and be easier for all drivers to operate. The display screen is almost on the small side, but adequate. All-in-all, Tacoma’s IP is simple, functional and attractive, but not fancy or necessarily the latest in interior trim and design.   The steering wheel, however, is more modern and features a rectangular hub, dark-colored spokes, and brushed-metal-look spokes. The audio can be operated from the wheel, as in most vehicles today. Our Double Cabs 4×4 V-6 model sported a somewhat more high-tech display audio system with the latest in digital technology, much of it beyond this writer’s knowledge. Nonetheless, fairly simple to understand, the Entune services, XM Satellite Radio (with 90-day trial subscription), and nav were easily figured out.


Our TRD model came with water-resistant seat fabric, which was attractively presented in two tones. Available in all Access and Double Cabs is also heavy-duty all-weather flooring. The lower dash and console are a lighter color than the main upper dash. The driver can adjust his/her seat height, manually. Overall, the Tacoma provides the driver with a good driving position, and has large mirrors.  For rear seats, those in the Tacoma Double Cab are comfortable (for a pickup, should we say?); leg room is adequate and headroom can accommodate tall passengers.

One can also tote cargo in the rear seats when they fold down. We also like the center window that opens for air. The Toyota Tacoma drives well and cruises nicely. It offers plenty of power from the V6. It handles well and feels relatively refined. We really enjoyed driving the new 2014 Tacoma Double Cab all week and hated to relinquish it. The automatic V-6 engine still deliver only a combined 18 mpg., but then that isn’t surprising with the trucks’ weight and large tires.

Handling is good on most roads, coming off highway ramps, as well. The Tacoma feels steady and not too top heavy. Size can affect parking but then one has to remember he/she is driving a ‘pickup’ truck, not a sedan. The Toyota Tacoma is a very enjoyable midsize pickup, with lots of creature comforts. The 4WD models offer crisp handling, a nicely balanced ride quality.


MSRP: $27, 885; total vehicle price $36,254; destination $885; value package discount $435

Engine: 4.0-l, DOHC V-6, 24-valve, VVT, 236 hp.

Transmission: 5-speed ECT-I automatic

Wheelbase: 140.6 in.

Height: 70.1 in.

Length: 221.3 in.

Width: 74.6 in.

Weight: 4,285 lbs. curb

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

Warranty: 3 yrs./36,000-mile basic Tires: P245/75R16 Wheels: 16-inch styled steel

Assembled: California