2020 Toyota Tacoma gets a mid-cycle refresh
Toyota Tundra has been on sale largely unchanged since 2007
The Toyota Tundra and Tacoma have a reputation for unbeatable reliability. The current generation Tacoma has been on sale since the 2016 model year and builds on the iterations that preceded it with regard to simplicity and off-road capability. An update for 2020 sees the addition of a new camera system and a new infotainment screen that, along with some aesthetic tweaks, serve to keep the Tacoma feeling fresh in the competitive midsize truck segment.
While it was updated ahead of the 2014 model year, the Tundra last received a full redesign way back in 2007, making it pretty old, especially in the highly competitive full-size truck segment. Needless to say, it’s due for a redesign, and Toyota has made it clear that an all-new Tundra will debut in the next year or so. Still, the Tundra on sale today remains competitive thanks to some technological improvements of its own in recent years along with its proven track record for no-nonsense reliability, and at least one example is known to have traveled in excess of one million miles on its original engine.
In case you’re wondering which of these trucks might suit you better, we’ll compare the Tundra and Tacoma in a number of categories below to highlight the major ways in which they differ from one another.
The Tundra is a full-size truck, so naturally it’s a lot bigger than the midsize Tacoma. Both wear tough, chiseled styling. It isn’t hard to tell that they were designed by the same automaker.
The Tacoma and Tundra are both offered in either extended or crew cab configurations. Their respective regular cab versions were phased out years ago. Extended cab Tacomas come with a rear hinged half door for accessing the cramped rear seats, while crew cab models get two full-size doors on either side. Extended cab Tacomas are offered with a six-foot bed, while crew cab models can be had with either a five- or six-foot bed.
Both of the Tundra’s cab configurations come with four front-hinged doors. The doors on the extended cab are just significantly smaller than those on the crew cab. Double cab models offer either a standard 6.5-foot bed or an elongated 8.1-foot bed, while crew cab models come exclusively with a 5.5-foot-long short bed. See the 2020 Toyota Tundra models for sale near you
With its shorter 5-foot bed, the Tacoma has 38 cu ft. of cargo space, while the long bed variant has 47 cu ft. The Tundra comes with 55 cu ft. in its short bed configurations, 65 cu ft. with the standard length bed and 81 cu ft. with the long bed. See the 2020 Toyota Tacoma models for sale near you
As one might expect, the full-size Tundra is much roomier on the inside than the midsize Tacoma. Up front, the Tacoma comes with 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom, while in the back seat of crew cab models, you get 38.3 inches of headroom and 32.6 inches of legroom.
In its front seat, the Tundra has 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.5 inches of legroom, while the crew cab model offers 38.9 inches of headroom and a whopping 42.3 inches of legroom in its back seat.
Neither vehicle excels with regard to interior refinement. The rough-and-tumble Tacoma puts an emphasis on durability and functionality over comfort and refinement, while the Tundra’s interior was considered pretty nice when it was new, but that was now 14 model years ago, and the design is now understandably dated by modern standards.
Mechanicals and Capability
Buyers have two engine choices when it comes to the Tacoma. Entry-level trims come with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder putting out 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. The engine you really want, though, is the 3.5 liter V6, which makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque and comes paired to either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. A Tacoma with the V6, automatic transmission and four-wheel drive will achieve 18 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined.
While it offered an additional small V8 option in the past, the 2020 Toyota Tundra is offered with just one powerplant, a 5.7-liter V8 making 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque and paired exclusively with a 6-speed automatic transmission. A Tundra fitted with the V8 and four-wheel drive will manage only 13 mpg city/17 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined, making it the least efficient vehicle in the full-size truck segment.
As it competes a segment up from the Tacoma, the Tundra offers significantly more payload and towing capacity. The 2020 Tundra offers up to 10,200 pounds of towing capacity, while the Tacoma tops out at 6,800 pounds. Payload is a similar situation, although the differences are less dramatic. The Tundra can haul up to 1,730 pounds while the Tacoma can haul a maximum of 1,620. While both trucks offer trailer sway control, only the Tundra can be had with a factory trailer brake controller.
Both the Tundra and Tacoma can be had in off-road performance-oriented TRD Pro trim levels. While the TRD Pro versions of both trucks can be had in crew cab, short bed configuration, the Tundra TRD Pro is offered as an extended cab as well. Both TRD Pro models gain heavy-duty Fox off-road shock absorbers that give the vehicles a 1-inch lift, an aluminum front skid plate, matte black TRD wheels and a black plastic grille with the "TOYOTA" wordmark across the front. The Tacoma is much better suited to recreational off-road use than the larger Tundra due mainly to its size but also to the presence of additional off-road tech, including Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control systems and a locking rear differential, none of which can be had on the Tundra.
Features and Technology
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma and Tundra both get new infotainment systems, which is great, given that this area was a major weak point for both of these trucks in previous model years. While the Tacoma’s base SR trim gets a 7-in unit, all other iterations of the Tundra and Tacoma get an 8-in screen with a redesigned interface. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard across the board, which is great given how hit-or-miss Toyota’s own infotainment software is.
The Tacoma is available with some extra stuff like a wireless charging pad, a standard deck rail system, a 120-volt outlet located in the bed and a power sliding rear window.
As it’s pretty long in the tooth, the Tundra isn’t huge on special features. It offers somewhat luxurious Platinum and 1974 Edition trim levels, which come with high-end leather, unique wheels and other luxury features. The Tundra also features a segment-exclusive power roll-down rear window, similar to that which is offered in the 4Runner and Sequoia.
The Tacoma scores much better than the Tundra in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is yet another sign of the Tundra’s old age. The Tacoma earns scores of Good in five of the six crashworthiness categories, the lone imperfection coming in the form of an Acceptable in the passenger-side small-overlap front crash test. This is good enough to earn it a coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation. The Tundra falls short of these marks, earning only a Marginal in the small-overlap front crash test and an Acceptable in the roof strength test.
Both of these trucks come standard with an array of active safety features. Every Tacoma and Tundra comes with forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and high-beam assist. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist and rear parking sensors are also available. The Tundra can also be had with front parking sensors.
Quality & Reliability
Most Toyota truck owners will tell you that their vehicle’s reliability was a major motivator behind their purchase, as Toyota trucks are regarded as being among the most long-lasting vehicles on the road. The Tundra and Tacoma both come with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is on par with the competition.
The Tundra and Tacoma are both competent, reliable pickups that trade heavily on their reputation for dependability. The thing that separates these two is size. The Tundra is a full-size truck, competing with the likes of the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado and Nissan Titan. As you’d expect, the Tundra has big truck traits like a strong, 381 hp 5.7-liter V8 engine and a towing capacity of up to 10,200 pounds when properly equipped. The Tundra is seriously old, though, as evidenced by its aging design, poor fuel economy, lackluster crash test performance and lack of clever features that you find on other full-size trucks. The Tacoma, on the other hand, was redesigned for 2016 and receives a refresh for the 2020 model year. It counts vehicles like the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and Jeep Gladiator as its main competitors. If you’re looking for a truck to support your active lifestyle and don’t need the capabilities of the Tundra, the Tacoma is probably the better alternative, especially given the Tundra’s age. Find a Toyota Tacoma for sale or Find a Toyota Tundra for sale