The 2020 Toyota Tacoma receives a refresh in the middle of its lifecycle, and it’s poised to remain the go-to midsize pickup for those truck enthusiasts with a knack for getting things dirty. Very dirty. That goes for each of the Tacoma‘s six trims, but, really, it’s the two off-road-oriented models that stand out, as they give buyers a little more to get excited about than the off-road packages offered by the Tacoma’s competitors. They also do so with style and a rugged yet sporty personality that is undeniably cool.
But that ruggedness comes with some trade-offs. The Tacoma is a little less comfortable and less refined than new rivals from the likes of Ford, Jeep, Honda and, in a few ways, General Motors, meaning that buyers looking for a midsize truck primarily for on-road use will want to check out any of those trucks before the Tacoma. The Tacoma’s odd driving position alone is enough to turn away some drivers. The midsize truck segment is also heating up — there are new entries from Jeep and Ford, not to mention two strong off-road trims offered on the Chevrolet Colorado. The Tacoma now has more competition in the market than ever before.
But thanks in part to some updates, the Tacoma manages to hold its ground and remain competitive in this red-hot segment. While it isn’t without its weaknesses — some of which are rather frustrating — the Tacoma will certainly remain the right truck for a lot of buyers.
What’s New for 2020?
The Tacoma, which has been on sale in its current form since the 2016 model year, receives a mild face-lift heading into 2020. Upper trims receive a new grille, new headlights, new taillights and new wheels. V6 engine-equipped SR5 trims and up also get a power-adjustable driver’s seat, which should help to compensate for the vehicle’s awkward seating position. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard across the board — a long-overdue addition — as is Amazon Alexa integration. Base SR trims get a 7-in touchscreen, while all others get a new 8-in unit. New multiterrain and panoramic view monitors are available on upper trims as well. Tacomas equipped with passive keyless entry — where you just need to touch the door handle with the key to unlock the door — now offer this functionality on the driver and front passenger doors.
Two new colors are available on the TRD Pro trim: magnetic gray metallic and army green. (The latter is getting all of the attention.) While it’s no longer offered on the top-spec off-road Tacoma, last year’s unique TRD Pro color, voodoo blue, is now available on lower trims. See the 2020 Toyota Tacoma models for sale near you
What We Like
- Tacoma’s durability is still legendary
- Ruggedness and off-road readiness are superior to similar midsize trucks
- Infotainment system is competent, finally
- Price is reasonable
- Accident-avoidance technology comes standard on all trims
What We Don’t
- Driving position is still a little awkward
- Towing is a chore with the automatic transmission
- Ride is rough
- Cabin is no overachiever
The Tacoma is offered with two engines, each of which is available with either rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive.
The 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. It comes only in a 6-speed automatic transmission. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the 4-cylinder gets 20 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in combined driving with RWD. 4WD lowers those numbers by 1 mpg.
Interestingly, the V6-powered Tacoma gets virtually the same fuel economy. This 3.5-liter engine produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque and can be paired with a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. (The manual is only available on Tacomas equipped with 4-wheel drive.) Fuel economy differs based on the drivetrain, transmission and body style. Tacomas equipped with RWD and an automatic transmission get 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined. The 4WD Double Cab and TRD Pro get 17 mpg city/20 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined. Opting for the manual yields only a moderate improvement.
When properly equipped, the Tacoma is rated to tow up to 6,800 pounds. That said, we’ve used a current-generation Tacoma to pull a small camping trailer weighing less than half of the max load and found the whole experience to be rather unpleasant. We place most of the blame on the automatic transmission, which wanted to sit in third gear at high RPM just to do 70 mph on the highway. If you’re planning on doing a lot of towing, you might want to look elsewhere.
Standard Features & Options
The Toyota Tacoma is offered in six trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro. Most models are offered in what Toyota refers to as Access Cab and Double Cab variants (these are more commonly known as extended and crew cabs, respectively), though the Limited and TRD Pro are only offered as a Double Cab. Toyota also offers the Tacoma in two bed lengths. Access Cab models come with a six-foot bed, while Double Cabs come with a 5-foot bed, although a 6-foot bed is optional on lower trims.
The base-level SR trim ($27,145) comes standard with 16-in steel wheels, power accessories, a composite bed that doesn’t require a bed liner, bed tie-down points, air conditioning, a rearview camera, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a GoPro mount, three USB ports and a 7-in touchscreen interface. The SR comes standard with the 4-cylinder engine but can be upgraded to the V6.
One step up from the base trim is the SR5 ($29,810), which adds a more refined exterior trim, rear tinted windows, a power driver’s seat, keyless entry, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with phone and audio controls, satellite radio and an 8-in infotainment system.
The TRD Sport trim ($33,840) offers increased curb appeal and an improved road experience. The Tacoma TRD Sport boasts an on-road-oriented sport suspension, proximity entry and push-button start, LED daytime running lights, 17-in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming mirror and a wireless phone charger. Crew cabs include a power rear window. TRD Sport models also come standard with the V6.
The Tacoma Limited ($39,885) is only offered in the Double Cab and prioritizes comfort-oriented features, adding 18-in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic warning system, all as standard.
The choice for outdoor enthusiasts is the Tacoma TRD Off-Road trim ($35,095), which boasts 16-in wheels, mild all-terrain tires, a Bilstein off-road suspension, skid plates, the deletion of the front air dam for a better approach angle, a locking rear differential, Toyota’s Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select systems and some unique styling elements. While the TRD Off-Road is cheaper than the Limited, it’s arguably a much better value — it tops out at around $45,000 with the addition of the TRD Premium Off-Road package, which gets you almost all of the good stuff offered on the Limited.
The TRD Pro ($45,055) is only available with the double cab and 5-foot bed, and it builds off of the TRD Off-Road trim by adding upgraded Fox-branded shock absorbers that give the vehicle a 1-in lift, a TRD cat-back exhaust, Rigid Industries-branded fog lights, a hood scoop, leather seats, all-terrain tires, unique wheels and a few other aesthetic filigrees. A JBL audio system is included as long — as you opt for the automatic transmission. Toyota often advertises the TRD Pro with a snorkel-style air intake, but this is an accessory that can be purchased from your dealer and installed on any Tacoma, not just the TRD Pro.
When it comes to options, many lower-end Tacomas offer equipment that comes standard on higher trim levels as an upgrade. Toyota takes an odd approach to color and option combinations, and the online configurator often shows that certain combos are out of stock.
The Tacoma offers all of its available active safety features as standard on every trim. Every Tacoma comes with forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection with automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are optional on the TRD Sport and the TRD Off-Road trims and standard on the Limited and the TRD Pro.
Every truck also comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control, side-curtain airbags, driver- and passenger-knee airbags, and a rearview camera.
In crash testing conducted by the third-party Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Tacoma earned a score of Good in most major categories, which is as good as or better than the competition.
Behind the Wheel
When running errands around town or covering long distances on the highway, the Tacoma will feel a bit more rough-and-tumble than its rivals from Ford, GM and Honda. The Tacoma’s ride is a bit bouncier and its driving position is very odd, as the default seat height has you sitting pretty low to the floor. That said, the new power-adjustable driver’s seat should rectify this a bit (although how much will vary by the individual). The back seat isn’t much better, even in the crew cab.
But while the Tacoma isn’t the most refined midsize truck on sale today, it’s arguably the most fun. It feels like the smaller, more agile truck that it is. Its steering is comparatively responsive and it feels playfully tossable, especially in the dirt. The Tacoma is a great choice for off-roading and offers two trim levels, the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro, tuned for that specific purpose.
As for the powertrains, the 4-cylinder engine is merely adequate. Most drivers will likely skip it and go straight for the V6 — which is a good move, as it boasts far more power and nearly the same fuel economy as the 4-cylinder.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Jeep Gladiator — While it’s based on the rough and rugged Wrangler, the Gladiator is the most modern midsize pickup on sale today in a number of areas. It offers a great infotainment system, a surprisingly nice interior and a lot of fun features. The roof and doors come off, too. That said, the Gladiator is still considerably more expensive than the Tacoma, and the drive is a lot harsher.
2020 Ford Ranger — The Ranger offers arguably the best powertrain in the midsize pickup segment, not to mention a competent array of active safety features and a great infotainment system. The Tacoma has gotten by on its reputation for durability and reliability over the years, but the recently revived Ranger is the better choice in a lot of ways.
2020 Chevrolet Colorado — The Colorado and the GMC Canyon, its mechanical twin, are overshadowed by the new Gladiator and the new Ranger, and they don’t have as much character as the Tacoma. Their interiors are subpar and, overall, it feels like GM kind of mailed it in with these two. The off-road-oriented Colorado ZR2 is a bright spot in the lineup though, as its capabilities go well beyond those of its more pedestrian siblings.
2020 Honda Ridgeline — When it comes to midsize trucks, think of the unibody Ridgeline, which is based on the Honda Pilot, as the Tacoma’s polar opposite. It’s every bit as comfortable, refined and versatile as the Tacoma is rough, rugged and single-minded. If you aren’t 100% sold on owning a pickup, the Ridgeline might be the one for you.
If you have no intention of getting your truck dirty, there are better options out there than the Tacoma. (If this is you, check out the Ranger or the Ridgeline). If you do plan on going off-road, though, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is a great option, and we think the TRD Off-Road trim offers the best overall value by accentuating the Tacoma’s best attributes. The TRD Off-Road comes with virtually every off-road feature available in the Tacoma’s toolbox without the styling and feature frivolities of the pricier TRD Pro. Find a Toyota Tacoma for sale