Mike Hatton: For many pickup-truck shoppers, mid-size is the right size. And in a less than crowded field, the Toyota Tacoma has consistently been the most popular.
Amanda Salas: For 2012, the Tacoma gets an assertive new look with bolder hood, grille and headlight features.
Mike: Today we're testing a Double Cab 4x4 model with a V6 and an optional tow package and off-road package. It's a good example of the balance of power and practicality that keeps buyers interested.
Amanda: And when it comes to urban traffic and parking, mid-size trucks like the Tacoma are way more convenient than their full-size siblings. Yet it's versatile enough to tow a small boat or help your friends move into that new apartment.
Mike: And with the Tacoma there's a host of variations that include the base Regular Cab (which is more like a compact pickup), extended Access Cab and five-passenger Double Cab models as well as the unique X-Runner performance truck. Plus, there are rear- and four-wheel-drive powertrains.
Toyota has reworked the 2012 Tacoma's interior, too, with a revised gauge cluster and center stack with new climate controls. All well laid out and easy to use.
Amanda: The Double Cab V6 models offer the optional smartphone-based Entune mobile app interface that we have in our test model. It's a really good example of cutting-edge technology that you won't find in other brands.
Mike: Our Tacoma Double Cab comes with a four-liter V6 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. And we like this setup because of its strong acceleration and its solid towing and hauling capabilities.
Amanda: It makes 236 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. Opt for the V6 tow package, and it'll pull up to 6,400 pounds. The smaller 2.7-liter inline-4-cylinder engine produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque.
To take performance to a higher level, Toyota Racing Development offers a four-liter V6 supercharger kit capable of generating 304 horsepower.
Mike: But the TRD Off-Road package on our test Tacoma is a more practical option, especially for the adventurous. It adds an off-road-tuned suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, locking rear differential, skid plates, hill start assist and downhill assist control.
Amanda: If only Toyota would figure out how to boost fuel economy. The ratings are unimpressive with either engine, ranging from a high of 21 city, 25 highway with the 4-cylinder to a low of 15 city, 19 highway with the V6.
Base MSRP for the Tacoma is close to $17,000. Our well-equipped Double Cab model costs about $34,000. All models get a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Mike: The 2012 Toyota Tacoma offers an attractive mix of functionality and flexibility for those seeking a mid-size truck with some big-truck capability.