Pickups have grown through the years, like every other vehicle, some now being nearly as long as a semi-trailer.
But compact pickups, such as the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, are really closer to the more manageable size of pickups from 20 or 30 years ago. These smaller pickups are more economical to buy and operate if you’re after a pickup that will haul boxes, plants and building materials on a weekend and you’re not a farmer or construction worker needing a full-size truck.
Tacoma is a pleasant drive, too. This one gives you a full rear seat and four doors so that four adults can easily fit inside. My black test truck was a 4×4 model with a 4.0-liter V6 that creates 236 horsepower and will tow up to 6,400 pounds. So the Tacoma can handle a trailer with two snowmobiles, or a fishing boat or a camper.
The engine is plenty strong and gets you up to highway speeds easily via a five-speed automatic that shifts smoothly – better than some cars I’ve driven in the past year.
Handling is decent. The truck corners well and, with its four-wheel drive system, is good in snow. Steering is easy, with a moderately heavy feel to the wheel, although there’s a fair amount of play in the wheel.
Ride is typical truck, with some bounce over large bumps and dips in the road. The test truck added the TRD Off-Road Extra Value Package for $4,850 and included virtually everything you could add.
There’s also a $650 tow package that gives you extra oil coolers, a heavy-duty battery and upgraded alternator along with a towing hitch and electrical hookup.
Braking comes from discs up front and drums in back, a typical truck arrangement. Anti-locks are standard as are traction and stability control. All worked fine, but the brake pedal in the test truck required more pressure than I was expecting, probably due to those rear drums.
Tacoma checks in at 4,155 pounds, at least 1,000 pounds less than most large pickups. And if you’re taking it off-road, you’ll have 9.3 inches of ground clearance.
The truck’s moderate weight helps fuel economy, which is rated at 16 mpg city and 20 highway by the EPA. I got 17.1 mpg in about 60% city driving.
Inside, Tacoma is pleasant and roomy, the test truck with gray cloth seats upgraded via that pricey Off-Road package. These seats are well formed, supportive and comfortable enough to drive cross country. The driver’s seat also has a knob to adjust the lumbar support.
There’s a black leather-look dash and textured metallic trim on the center stack, also part of the Off-Road package. The lower door and dash are gray to give the interior a lighter and somewhat more upscale look.
Toyota’s dash is simple and functional, with good controls and large knobs and buttons. Radio and phone controls are located on the steering wheel hub and the wheel is a manual tilt/telescope model.
Other items in the Off-Road package include a JBL stereo system, fog lamps, remote entry, cruise control, variable speed wipers, a sliding rear window (without defroster), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and three months of satellite radio. The test truck also added daytime running lights, a bargain at $40, and a few other options.
All that moved it from its reasonable $27,025 starting price to a less manageable $32,772. That includes an $810 delivery charge, and a $950 manufacturer discount.
Like all pickups, there are about a million ways to configure a Tacoma, starting with a base regular cab model with 159-horsepower engine and manual transmission for $20,220. Adding automatic moves that to $21,350 and moving up to an Access Cab model, meaning there are two small rear jump seats with small doors that flip out to give access, pushes the starting price to $23,490. Adding an automatic adds $900. A V6-equipped Access Cab model starts at $25,045, but now you’re getting close to the Double Cab and it’s much more useful full-size rear doors and seat.
The test truck’s bed is a decent size for hauling if you’re not into giant loads on a regular basis. It’s also a good height for loading and unloading. Still, it’s way less than in a full-size pickup.
If you require a pickup, the Tacoma is just the right size for a daily driver. It’s easy to maneuver, comfortable, capable and won’t cost you a quarter-ton, either.