2023 Toyota Tacoma Review: Best seller, but not the best truck

·11-min read


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Pros: Rugged good exterior looks; historically good reliability and resale value

Cons: Cramped and uncomfortable inside; noisy, inefficient and unrefined; poor tech

It’s getting hard not to notice that the Toyota Tacoma hasn’t changed much in the last eight years. It was last redesigned for the 2016 model year, and even then, it was hardly a dramatic transformation. All of its competitors feature fresher designs and engineering, and put simply, it shows.

There are good reasons why the Toyota Tacoma is the sales leader despite its old age. It’s earned a well-deserved reputation for longevity and durability, a fact that helps the truck stay near the top of resale value charts year after year. It’s offered in several different styles, including a couple that are intended for off-road enthusiasts. And it’s ruggedly handsome, too.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of chinks in the Tacoma’s armor. For starters, its powertrain is thirstier and less powerful than many of its competitors. It doesn’t have class-leading specs anywhere, in fact, including for trucky things like towing and hauling. We said its interior looked dated a few years ago, and it hasn’t gotten any better since then. Neither has its interior space or odd seating position. It’s not exactly nimble, either. At least Toyota still offers a manual transmission on some trim levels, which we very much appreciate, but in total, the Tacoma needs to catch up with the times.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it's like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2023?

Toyota mixed up the paint and options packages for 2023, and that’s about it. Buyers can choose a blacked-out SX package on either the SR or SR5 models (red truck, below right), adding chunky black fender flares and wheels. A Chrome package for the SR5 Double Cab (dark truck, below left) marries chrome wheels with bright, shiny exterior accents. All V6-powered Tacomas get dual-zone climate control standard, V6-powered SR5s get smart keys and there are some additional things like power seats and an upgraded 8.0-inch touchscreen on Limited trucks.

Past that, the TRD Sport is now offered in searing Electric Lime paint, while this year’s special TRD Pro color is the orangey red Solar Octane.

What are the Tacoma’s interior and in-car technology like?

Well, there’s not a lot of tech there to talk about. Unlike the larger Tundra, the Tacoma has not received Toyota’s latest infotainment system. Midsize trucks are not known for being luxury cruisers, and the Tacoma, perhaps more than most in the segment, has a cabin that sticks to its functional, somewhat spartan roots.

While higher-trim Tacomas offer plenty of features, they’re packaged into an interior that leans hard into the truck's rugged, off-road focus. There are some soft-touch materials; everything is screwed together well and the power-adjustable driver seat corrects the awkwardly low driving position that still remains in Tacoma trims without it. Nevertheless, there’s no mistaking the back-to-basics feel. This is especially true when compared to a few of its rivals, like the newly redesigned Nissan Frontier. Note that the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are new for the 2023 model year and look very nice inside, but we’ve yet to test them.

This is perhaps most noticeable when you look at the steering wheel, which boasts large buttons reminiscent of an off-brand video game controller. This theme extends to other interior switchgear, all of which looks and feels robust, but does not impress when it comes to material choices or design sophistication. It’s chunky, blocky and simple, perhaps exactly what truck buyers in this segment want.

The infotainment system works well enough, but doesn’t do much beyond provide the fundamentals. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are fortunately included, and they dress up an otherwise drab — but functional — multimedia interface. Toyota’s graphics remain pretty tired, but at least they’re simple and functional.

How big is the Tacoma?

The Tacoma follows the basic footprint of the midsize truck segment. Access Cab models are fitted with a 6-foot bed, but the Double Cabs can be paired to either a 5-footer or the 6-foot one that's known as the long bed. A pair of key rivals, the Ford Ranger SuperCrew and Jeep Gladiator, don't offer a long-bed/crew-cab combo. Both beds are just 41.5 inches wide at the wheel wells, so they won’t fit 4x6 piece of plywood lying flat. The Tacoma's overall length is similar to that of its rivals. For what it’s worth, only the smaller 5-foot bed can be paired with the manual transmission.

Inside, you'll find unusually low-mounted seats. Specifically, the driver seat doesn't have standard height-adjustment and the resulting splayed legged seating position drew constant complaints during our most recent midsize truck comparison. At least higher-trim models now get the "luxury" of a power-adjustable driver seat, but headroom and visibility in the short cab can still be an issue.

The Tacoma Access Cab model doesn't realistically offer enough space in the back seat for adults to travel in any semblance of comfort (and you really shouldn't put children back there, either). However, that's typical for the segment. The real point of comparison, then, is the Double Cab. Though it adds a whopping 8 inches of legroom compared to the Access Cab, it's considerably less spacious and comfortable back there than the Ranger, Gladiator, Colorado/Canyon twins and the Honda Ridgeline. If you're looking for a family-friendly midsize truck, this isn't it.

What are the Tacoma fuel economy, performance, towing and payload specs?

Toyota offers two engines in the Tacoma. The base engine is a 2.7-liter inline-four producing 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. The Tacoma’s competitors don't offer such a low-power base four-cylinder. Fuel economy ratings haven’t been released for 2023 yet, but since nothing has changed, we expect nearly identical numbers from 2022. That puts the four-cylinder at 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive (4x2) and 19/22/20 with four-wheel drive (4x4). A six-speed automatic is standard with the base engine.

The upgrade is a 3.5L V6 that makes a much healthier 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The six is also one of the weaker offerings in the segment, but not by an insurmountable amount. Despite the wide gap in power, there’s not much difference in fuel economy between the upgrade V6 and base inline-four. When equipped with the standard six-speed automatic, the V6 returns 19/24/21 with 4x2 and 18/22/20 with 4x4. The TRD Off Road and TRD Pro can be equipped with an optional six-speed manual that returns 17/20/18.

In its most towing-friendly configuration (V6, 4x2, Towing Prep package), the Tacoma maxes out at 6,800 pounds of trailering. Its GM, Ford and Jeep competition typically offers around 7,500 pounds or more, but the Honda Ridgeline lags behind the Tacoma at 5,000 pounds. The Nissan Frontier is just barely outpaced by the Tacoma at 6,720 pounds.

Maximum payload capacity is achieved with the four-cylinder 4x2, which can haul 1,685 pounds, and with this, it compares more favorably to the segment. The popular configuration of Double Cab V6 4x4 with an automatic can haul 1,155 pounds with the regular bed. Going with the 4x2 adds a couple hundred pounds of capacity up to 1,285 pounds.

What’s the Tacoma like to drive?

There are a lot of different Tacoma trim levels, and the off-road models naturally aren’t designed to coddle occupants with a comfortable ride and crisp handling. Limited models are likely the best for asphalt, and the V6 has adequate acceleration for highway merges and passing. However, that engine is noisier and coarser than those of rival trucks and the six-speed automatic tends to hunt/find itself in the wrong gears (and has fewer gears from which to choose than rivals have). The manual six-speed gearbox available on V6 models is pleasant as truck transmissions go, but doesn’t do much to make the experience more engaging. Both the throttle and brake tuning are difficult to adapt to, as both become abnormally touchy after an initial deadzone making it difficult to drive the truck smoothly.

TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models can be a bit bouncy and harsh on poor surfaces due to their beefed-up suspensions, but they’re tolerable on iffy roads for enthusiasts who want the extra go-anywhere capability. And go anywhere they most certainly can. Both come with terrain-specific drive modes, an electronic locking rear differential, and heavy-duty drivetrain cooling. Automatic models even get an auxiliary transmission cooler. All 4x4 models get a two-speed transfer case, TRD or otherwise. Toyota offers a TRD Lift Kit for V6 4x4 models, too, in case you wanted to take your non-TRD Pro even further off-road (and would rather such a modification come from the original manufacturer).


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In general, the Tacoma just feels more rugged and truck-like than its competitors. Off-road, that's a good thing, and many are bound to find this ruggedness adds character. However, from its ride quality and handling precision, to its interior space and comfort, the Tacoma just isn't as livable or pleasant to drive as a Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Jeep Gladiator or Nissan Frontier. That's a key reason it came in last in our midsize truck comparison (see below).

What other Toyota Tacoma reviews can I read?

Autoblog Midsize Truck Comparison | Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado, Jeep Gladiator

We test the Tacoma against the midsize pickup segment newcomers.

 

2020 Toyota Tacoma First Drive Review

More information about the changes made for 2020 plus our off-road driving impressions

 

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Lift Kit Road Test

Our review of the Tacoma with its newly-available TRD Lift Kit fitted.


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Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road Drivers' Notes

Toyota offers the Tacoma in increasingly rugged off-road variants. What are they like to live with?


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How much is the 2021 Toyota Tacoma price and where is it made?

The Toyota Tacoma is built in Mexico in either Tijuana or Guanajuato.

Pricing starts at $28,485, including destination, but that's a pretty stripped-down truck, and most folks will want something pricier. Indeed, speccing out a pickup truck can be tricky, and even the Tacoma, which is available in relatively few configurations compared to some full-size offerings, comes in more than 30 variants before you even start adding options.

There are simply too many permutations to list them all here, but suffice it to say that with the exception of the TRD Pro and Limited models, you can build your Tacoma pretty much the way you want. The shorter Access Cab is available only with the long bed; Double Cabs can be optioned with either. The Limited and TRD Pro are available only in Double Cab configurations, and the TRD Pro can only be had with four-wheel drive. TRD Sport and TRD Off Road models are available in 4x2 “Prerunner” style if that’s to your liking.

Here's the basic model lineup and pricing for the 2023 Tacoma, but you can find a full breakdown of these trim levels' features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.

  • SR: $28,485

  • SR5: $31,165

  • TRD Sport: $35,395

  • TRD Off-Road: $36,675

  • Limited: $41,240

  • TRD Pro: $47,920

What are the Tacoma safety ratings and driver assistance features?

The Tacoma offers plenty of standard active and passive systems, especially for a midsize truck. Toyota’s “Safety Sense P” system includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control that can easily be toggled off for those who prefer the old-fashioned variety.

Rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and parking sensors can all be added with packages available on the SR5, TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road models. Higher trims get them bundled in.

There’s no rating for the 2023 just yet, but it should be similar to the 2022 edition. Models that have been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received a four-star overall rating with a four-star frontal rating and five-star side rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2022 Tacoma the best-possible “Good” rating for everything but the small overlap passenger test where it earned an “Acceptable” score. Tacomas equipped with LED headlights (standard on the TRD Pro and Limited, optional on TRD Off-Road and TRD Sport) get a “Good” headlight rating, while the standard halogens only score the third-best/second-worst “Marginal.”

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