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2016 Toyota Tacoma: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2015

For the first time in 10 years, pickup fans can be excited about the arrival of an all-new Toyota Tacoma. Revised but never totally overhauled since 2005, the Toyota Tacoma boasts new styling, an updated interior and several new features putting a modern spin on the midsize pickup.

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma also faces some stiff competition, thanks to the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, which debuted last year with new designs and some new equipment of their own. It's a great time to be looking for a midsize truck, as the segment has reached its most exciting and competitive point in a decade.

What do we think of the new Tacoma? We like it, and if you're a fan of the popular pickup, we suspect you will, too. Sure, it's been modernized, but not so much that it loses the tough, durable character it's been known for since the early days, back when it was simply called the Toyota truck.

What's New for 2016?

The Tacoma is totally new for 2016, with a new look, an updated interior, several new features and updated powertrains.

What We Like

Legendary durability; more modern look and feel; reasonable pricing; several body styles; excellent new features

What We Don't

Styling isn't updated much; sluggish base engine; ride quality improved but still not great

How Much?

$24,300-$38,800

Fuel Economy

The Tacoma is offered with two powertrains, a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder and a new 3.5-liter V6. While both engines are offered with rear- or 4-wheel drive, only 4-wheel-drive models offer manual or automatic transmissions. Two-wheel-drive Tacoma models are only available with the 6-speed automatic.

The 2.7-liter 4-cylinder makes 159 horsepower, just like last year, and returns up to 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive, 19 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive and the automatic and 19 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive and the manual.

Meanwhile, the V6 offers 278 hp (up from last year's 236 hp) and touts surprisingly similar gas mileage numbers of 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive, 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive and the automatic and 17 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with 4-wheel drive and the manual.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma is offered in five trim levels: base-level SR, midlevel SR5, upscale Limited and the off-road-oriented TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road trims. Most models (SR, SR5 and the TRD models) offer an extended cab (Access Cab) or crew cab (Double Cab) variant, though the Limited is only offered in Double Cab guise.

The base-level SR ($24,300) doesn't include much, merely touting a backup camera, steel wheels, power accessories, air conditioning, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free for Apple iPhones, a GoPro mount and a 6-inch touchscreen interface with Toyota's Entune Audio system and a USB port for music. The SR also comes standard with the 4-cylinder engine, though it can be upgraded to the V6.

Next up is the midlevel SR5 ($26,400), which adds remote keyless entry, cruise control, satellite radio, improved exterior trim, rear tinted windows, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, fog lights and variable intermittent wipers.

From there, drivers can upgrade to the TRD Sport ($31,800), which boasts keyless access with push-button starting, enhanced suspension, Toyota's excellent Crawl Control system, an electronic locking rear differential, LED daytime running lights, 17-in alloy wheels, a wireless phone charger, an auto-dimming mirror, rear parking sensors and a larger touchscreen including Toyota's Entune App Suite and a navigation system. TRD Sport models also come standard with the V6.

Drivers looking to get even further off the pavement can choose the TRD Off-Road ($33,100), which boasts off-road-oriented wheels and tires, further enhanced suspension and a revised look.

Topping the range is the Limited ($38,800), which is only offered in crew cab (Double Cab) guise. The Tacoma Limited sheds some of the TRD models' off-road equipment, but adds 18-in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

When it comes to options, many Tacoma models offer available equipment that's standard on higher trim levels. For instance, many of the Tacoma Limited's features are available on TRD models, many TRD features can be had on the SR5, and many SR5 features are optional on the SR.

Safety

All Tacoma models come with side-curtain airbags, driver- and passenger-knee airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a backup camera. Available safety gadgets include a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert, which are optional on the TRD models and standard on the Tacoma Limited.

Because it's so new, the Tacoma hasn't yet been tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Last year's model also wasn't fully tested by the IIHS, though the NHTSA gave it an average 4-star overall score.

Behind the Wheel

Handling and ride comfort in the Tacoma is predictably good in most situations. If you're going to be driving your Tacoma as a car stand-in, pick a tire and wheel setup matching your intended use. Riding around on off-road tires all the time won't do much for your daily drive or peace of mind, though your truck will look cool.

Inside the cabin, there's nothing cheap or rough-hewn about the Tacoma. Luxury-level amenities, like heated power leather seats, dual-zone climate control, Smart Key with push-button starting and other features, have been integrated into most trim levels. In a nod to the active young buyers Toyota is courting for Tacoma, each pickup will be equipped with a standard GoPro camera mounting-point on the dash.

As for the powertrains, we find the 4-cylinder to be merely adequate. Most drivers will likely skip it and go straight for the new V6, which is a good move, as it boasts far more power than last year's 6-cylinder and offers impressive fuel economy numbers that rival the 4-cylinder.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Colorado -- The Tacoma's closest rival is the new Chevy Colorado and its GMC Canyon mechanical twin. Both have been recently redesigned and both offer similar improvements in styling, ride comfort and interior quality. Choosing between the two will be difficult.

2016 Nissan Frontier -- Nissan's midsize Frontier pickup soldiers on without an update in the face of two much newer rivals. While the Frontier is tough, so are the new Tacoma and Colorado. Only consider it if you can find a great deal.

Used Toyota Tundra -- If you like the Tacoma's persona but want more space, pulling power or payload capacity, Toyota's larger Tundra is what you're looking for. Prices are steep, though, so you may have to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

If we were using the Tacoma as our daily driver, we'd choose the well-priced SR V6 model and add some features, including tech goodies like navigation, parking sensors and a larger touchscreen with Entune App Suite. If we were buying the Tacoma as a weekend toy, we'd choose the TRD Sport model, which comes standard with all that stuff and some neat off-road extras.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Toyota Tacoma: New Car Review - Autotrader