Full-size pickups seem to snare most of the headlines nowadays so it’s easy to forget that for many users - both work and recreational - a compact truck can be the best choice. Not everyone needs the bulk and payload capability of a big truck and compact models can be much less costly to run too.
So intense is the demand for full-size trucks that some automakers have gotten out of the compact market altogether. Not so Toyota, which offers its popular Tacoma in an almost bewildering variety of sizes and configurations. It’s no surprise that given the Tacoma’s versatility, it’s the best selling compact truck in the Canadian market. According to Toyota, there are 23 possible combinations of the award-winning Tacoma. There are eight models offering a choice of drivetrains, transmissions, cab and bed sizes and the usual lineup of tempting upgrade packages.
My most recent test Tacoma was a snappy blue 4X4 Double Cab V-6 with the longest bed available for the product. It was thus an amazingly capable truck with great towing capacity and lots of people and cargo room - truly a multi-purpose vehicle.
In the configuration my brawny-looking Tacoma came in, it’s a pretty lengthy rig, but it doesn’t feel that way on the road. Parking takes a little more care than usual, but on mine, this was aided considerably by a rear view camera which provided a wide angle display on the big dash screen. It’s easy to get in and out of this truck, whether you’re riding up front or in the back. All four doors are nice and wide for easy entry and exit. Unlike a full-size pickup, the step-up to get in is not that high, so running boards or swing-out steps aren’t really needed. At the rear, a bumper step is provided to simplify getting in and out of the bed area for loading chores. Set up for towing, the truck will haul up to 6,400-lbs with the V-6.
Buyers have two engine choices - a 159-horsepower 2.7-litre 4-cylinder or a 236-horsepower 4.0-litre V-6. The V-6 mine came with was very torquey and responsive and obviously designed for serious work. Of course, for those who need a large truck with a big V-8, Toyota offers its Tundra range. As far as transmissions go, the Tacoma has a choice of no less than four, which isn’t common in this class. Available are a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual, a 4-speed automatic and a 5-speed automatic. Your dealer will tell you which transmissions are available for which engines.
The Tacoma I drove was loaded just about to the limit with regard to options and the TRD Sport Package adds nearly $5,000. Even so, the list of upgrades you get for that money is long enough to merit a feature of its own. There are some very interesting sport features like Bilstein shock absorbers and a fair number of engine upgrades. Since this is a truck that a buyer could plan on living with for many years, the TRD package is money well spent.
This may be a work-capable truck, but as with all Toyota products, it’s beautifully finished and put together. Everything fits perfectly and by the look of the paint and interior trim, it would stay that way for a very long time indeed. Considering that Toyota offers a 3-year/60,000-km warranty and given that the brand has about the best resale value in the industry, this truck is certainly worth its price. It’s also enjoyable to drive and feels more like a good sedan under most road conditions and is just as comfortable too.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Crew cab, extended bed, pickup truck
ENGINE: 4.0-litre V-6, as tested
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
TOWING CAPACITY: 6,400-lbs (automatic transmission)
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.9-litres/100 km city; 7.5-litres/100 km highway (basic 4-cylinder 2WD Tacoma)
PRICE: Base Double Cab $30,370. As tested $38,632. An entry level Tacoma costs $23,985 MSRP