The Toyota Tacoma is an attractive truck, more conservatively styled than the stylish Nissan Frontier and Dodge Dakota. Big headlights and a bold grille, new for 2011, highlight the Tacoma's front end. Flush rear surface glass and flush surface structures between the bumper sides and body give it a polished look. PreRunner and 4WD models are distinguished by bold overfenders.
Overall length of the Tacoma varies by body style: Regular Cabs are the shortest and most maneuverable, measuring 190.4 inches overall on a 109.4-inch wheelbase. Access Cab and Double Cab short-bed models have a 127.4-inch wheelbase and 208.1-inch overall length. Double Cab long-bed models are quite long at 221.3 inches overall on a 140.6-inch wheelbase. All models have six-foot beds except the Double Cab short-bed, which has a five-foot bed.
How to choose? Regular Cab models pack lots of cargo space in a relatively small package, good for maneuverability in the big city. Regular Cab PreRunners and 4WD models also have the best break-over angle due to their short length, and therefore offer the best capability off road. Access Cabs feature large dual rear auxiliary doors, not good for people but very good for gear. Double Cabs have long, conventionally hinged rear doors that open 80 degrees for ease of entry or loading gear. Double Cabs offer the people-carrying comfort of a sport-utility. Long-bed Double Cabs can carry more stuff but are unwieldy in tight places.
The Tacoma comes with a composite inner bed, lighter than steel yet tougher and more durable. The bed features two-tier loading and an integrated deck rail utility system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. The rails are compatible with numerous Genuine Toyota Accessories, including cargo-bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack, and other useful items.
All of the latest-generation midsize pickups have decent interiors, but the quality of Toyota's interior materials seems just a little better. The lower dash and console are a lighter color than the main upper dash, brightening the interior. Trim rings surround the three clustered gauges, the cloth upholstery is decent and the seats look nice. The manually-adjustable seats include lumbar adjustment but no adjustment for seat height or the angle of the seat bottom. Overall, the Tacoma provides the driver with a good driving position, and big mirrors afford a good view to the rear. Excellent grab handles on both A-pillars.
Our test model had the upgraded seats and interior that come with the TRD package, and it was nice, if costly. The metallic-tone instrument panel trim, a plastic dashboard face with the texture of an aluminum golf ball, left something to be desired; but at least the black leather dashboard panel and gray leather door trim was classy. The sport bucket seats with driver lumbar support were made of a sturdy gray fabric and had excellent bolstering. There was an overhead console with compass and temperature gauge, as well.
Cup holders are provided in the center console area. On models that don't have sport seats, the front passenger's seatback flips down to form a tray table or to make room for long objects, a handy feature. The switchgear is easy to operate, and everything is where you expect it to be. Big rotary knobs make it easy to adjust cabin temperature even with gloves on; the knobs are electronic, so they're easy to twist. The radio is fully integrated into the upper center stack and it's easy to operate. CDs sound good through the JBL speakers. Models with automatics come with a foot-operated parking brake, while the manual transmission models use a pull-out handbrake from the past that we weren't thrilled with, on our test model. However we were totally thrilled with the air conditioning, which blasts real cold real fast, according to our notes.
The rear seats in the Tacoma Double Cab are particularly comfortable for the class, offering good legroom and shoulder room and decent headroom. The seatback is angled back slightly, making it more comfortable than the overly upright rear seats in some other compact pickups. In a back-to-back comparison test, we found the back seats of the Tacoma more comfortable than those in the Nissan Frontier. A younger person should be okay to ride across the state back there, and even adults won't complain too much on short trips. The rear windows even go all the way down.
The rear-seat area in the Double Cab is also good for carrying cargo. The seat is split 60/40. Flip the seat bottoms forward and fold the two sections down to form a flat platform for gear. It takes two hands to do this, and you first have to remove the headrests, which is a hassle, though Toyota has at least provided a place to store them. The backs of the seatbacks are hard, and form a sturdy cargo floor. It's not a bad spot for a dog, better than the bumpy floors in the Nissan Frontier and Dodge Dakota, but still a big jump down. Our experience has been that none of the trucks in this class is particularly good for dogs.
The Access Cab has rear seats, with the access coming on the passenger side only, but there isn't enough room for adults. The two kids we sentenced to the rear of our Access Cab are 5-feet and 5-feet, 5 inches tall, and they were okay back there for a short ride, but would rather have ridden in the bed with the dog.