Why should you consider a 2015 Toyota Tacoma? Maybe because you don't need an enormous truck that could tow your residence off its foundation.
Sure, those big trucks get all the press with their incredible capabilities, but they also require sacrifices. If you want to squeeze into a tight parking space at the mall, for example, best of luck in the massive Tundra. If you want your truck to feel somewhat maneuverable and nimble on the road, the F-150 will probably leave you cold. In truth, most full-size pickups just aren't designed for the realities of congested daily driving.
Fortunately, the Tacoma is. Granted, it's not nearly as compact as it used to be, but its midsize dimensions are still tidy enough to make it a viable urban option. Plus, the newly standard Entune audio system ensures that no Tacoma driver will lack for rush-hour entertainment.
Don't get us wrong: The Tacoma is still a proper truck. It'll tow up to 6,500 pounds and haul about 1,500 pounds with the V6. It's a champ off the beaten path with 4-wheel drive, but it's also happy to be your errand-running companion and hang out in your apartment's parking garage at night. For many current truck shoppers, the Tacoma just might offer the best of all worlds.
What's New for 2015?
The Tacoma makes two changes for 2015. Base-level Tacoma regular cab models are gone, while a new off-road-oriented TRD Pro model joins the lineup.
What We Like
Muscular V6; numerous body styles; convenient in-between size; sporty interior
What We Don't
Fuel economy isn't great; starting to show its age
Most Tacomas offer a choice of rear- or 4-wheel drive with low-range gearing. The base engine is a 2.7-liter inline-4 rated at 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque; it comes with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. Despite the engine's small size, fuel economy is surprisingly unimpressive: The maximum is 21 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway with the rear-wheel-drive manual, while the 4-wheel-drive manual dips to just 18 mpg city/21 mpg hwy. Automatic 4-cylinder Tacoma models return 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive or 18 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive.
The muscular 4.0-liter V6, which cranks out 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, is considerably less efficient. Four-wheel-drive versions return 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with the automatic or 16 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with the manual. Two-wheel-drive models reach 17 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with the automatic or 16 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with the manual.
Standard Features & Options
Interestingly, the Tacoma doesn't really do trim levels. Instead, buyers choose a bed length (short or long), a cab style (either an extended Access Cab or a 4-door Double Cab, as regular cab models have been discontinued for 2015), an engine and a drivetrain.
All models come standard with Toyota's Entune audio system, though drivers can upgrade it as they see fit. At the top of the Entune line, the system has navigation capabilities and Web-based app integration that includes services from OpenTable, iHeartRadio and MovieTickets.com, among others. All Tacoma models also come standard with air conditioning, Bluetooth and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel.
As for options, the Tacoma offers the gamut. Shoppers can choose between anything from a simple cloth bench seat to leather upholstery with heated front seats. Other options include cruise control, remote keyless entry, a reversing camera and alloy wheels. The new-for-2015 TRD Pro package adds an improved suspension and other goodies for improved off-road capability.
The 2015 Toyota Tacoma comes standard with stability control, active front headrests, and front, side and side-curtain airbags.
In government crash tests, the Tacoma Double Cab received an overall score of four stars out of five, including three stars for frontal impact and five stars for side impact. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Tacoma its highest score of Good in all categories except roof strength, where the Tacoma got a subpar Marginal grade. The Tacoma has not yet been subjected to IIHS's difficult new small-overlap front crash test.
Behind the Wheel
Because there are so many different Tacoma models, it's hard to sum up the truck's overall driving character. One issue that plagues them all is a low seating position, which makes the midsize Tacoma feel like more of a hulk than it really is. Otherwise, the Tacoma feels quite maneuverable from behind the wheel. We also found parking to be a relative breeze. The 4-wheel-drive models have a higher center of gravity, so handling suffers a bit. However, a 4-wheel-drive Tacoma with the new TRD Pro off-roading package is a beast in the dirt, while the TRD Sport package optimizes on-road handling. Suffice it to say that if you want a midsize truck, there's likely a Tacoma variant that drives to your liking.
In our interior evaluation, we immediately noticed the crisp black-on-white numerals in the gauge cluster, a welcome upgrade from the old orange numerals. The main controls are exceptionally straightforward, and the touchscreen's virtual buttons should generally be operable with gloves on. Most of the materials seem durable enough, though we wonder how long the silver-painted plastic trim will last before it starts to degrade.
Most Tacoma models have front bucket seats, which come in various forms. We'd look for the ones with adjustable driver lumbar support, which will improve long-distance driving comfort significantly.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Colorado -- The Colorado isn't out yet, but if you're not buying right away, it's worth adding to your shopping list. Expected this fall, the Colorado brings a fresh new design to the midsize-truck segment and offers an available diesel engine.
Ford F-150 -- It's not a midsize truck, but base- and midlevel versions of the F-150 can run toe-to-toe with the Tacoma in terms of pricing. Same goes for other full-size pickups, but you'll get a bulkier ride than the Tacoma provides.
Nissan Frontier -- Now that all other midsize trucks are gone, the Frontier is the Tacoma's main competitor. While the Frontier doesn't have a regular cab, it's similar to the Tacoma in nearly every other way. We recommend test-driving both.
The beauty of the Tacoma is that Toyota makes one for practically every purpose. We especially love the new off-road-oriented TRD Pro model. Like Marty McFly in "Back to the Future," we just think there's something cool about a tough, trail-ready Toyota pickup.