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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Toyota Tacoma

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Expert's Rating

4.8Excellent

MPG 18 City / 22 Highway
Pros
  • Many standard safety features
  • Good off-road performance
  • Available performance equipment
Cons
  • Standard stereo system underwhelming
  • Rough ride on uneven pavement
  • Options can get pricy
, Automotive Editor -
Toyota is one of the few players left in the midsize pickup category, but the Tacoma still racks up consistent sales because of its powerful V6 and size that works for a lot of buyers looking for the practicality of a pickup truck but who are unwilling to live with the bulk of a full-size model with a V8 engine. The Tacoma offers a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with the promise of 25 MPG on the highway, or a 4.0-liter V6 and a 6,500 lb. towing rating. For many people, the Tacoma is all the truck they need.

Introduction

The Tacoma comes in a number of different cab sizes and bed lengths, as well as trim levels. The Regular Cab is only available as a base model with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder, three-passenger bench seat and a 6-foot bed. But it can be had with either two or four-wheel drive and with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Opting for a V6 4x4 Double Cab sinks fuel economy to as low as 16 MPG city and 21 MPG highway – some versions of Ford's F-150 with the EcoBoost V6 do better.

Get the lowdown on the pickup truck market with our 2012 truck buying guide

V6 Access Cabs and Double Cabs can be had with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Access Cab has two small doors and two small seats behind the front passengers for four-passenger capacity. Double Cabs have four full doors and seating for five passengers and most come with a five-foot bed. The Base Tacoma is a no-frills work truck, while PreRunner models get more cosmetic enhancements and off-road gear to look like the 4x4 models. The X-Runner is a lowered, sportier version of the Access Cab that has two-wheel drive and the V6, 18-inch alloy wheels and a hood scoop. The TRD Off-Road Package on 4x4 models adds upgraded mechanicals for more serious adventuring.

The Nissan Frontier is the Tacoma's direct competitor. It combines rugged good looks with a strong V6. The Tacoma beats it by offering a regular cab for drivers who want to prioritize bed length and offers superior in-car technology with the Toyota Entune system. The Honda Ridgeline is less direct. Its unibody platform comes from the Pilot and Odyssey and it comes only as a four-door with one bed length. The Ridgeline is more carlike than the Tacoma and offers unique features like a lockable cubby in the bed. But the bed is shorter than ones offered on the Tacoma and it has less towing capacity and off-road capability.

Thanks to its size, powertrain options and wide array of cab sizes and trim levels, the Tacoma remains the perfect pick for buyers shopping for a pickup truck but who want to avoid the bulk and poor economy from full-size models. The strong V6 and availability of both a tuner-looking X-Runner and serious 4x4 models means there's likely to be a Tacoma for every buyer's tastes.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Toyota Tacoma
Starting price
$12,995

2012 Toyota Tacoma Base

Recommended for: For truck shoppers who value the no-frills approach

Base Tacomas come with a low price in exchange for being relatively devoid of creature comforts. Still, the Base trim comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, a five-speed manual transmission and the 2.7-liter four-cylinder that's good for 25 MPG on the highway. The Double Cab 2.7-liter comes standard with the automatic, but also standard is a 6-foot bed with Toyota's Deck Rail tie-down system. Inside, air conditioning is standard, as is a six-speaker audio system with AUX input. Double Cab Base models get iPod connectivity and Bluetooth as standard – it's an option on Base Access Cab. The Double Cab Long Bed gives you four real doors and the longer bed of the Access Cab. Double Cabs also add standard power outside mirrors and an overhead console with map lights and sunglass holder. The SR5 Package adds power mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, chrome grille, leather steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror with backup camera and fog lamps on V6 trucks. The TRD Off- Road Package for 4x4s gives Bilstein shocks, upgraded suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, locking rear differential, Hill Start Assist, front skid plate, sport fabric seats and a Homelink system.

2012 Toyota Tacoma
Starting price
$12,995

2012 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner

Recommended for: For buyers who want a two-wheel drive truck with a 4x4 look

PreRunner Tacomas get looks that resemble the lifted, tougher 4x4 trucks even though they're 4x2s. That means it gets the skid plates, beefier 16-inch wheels, power windows and power locks. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are optional. PreRunners come only as an Access Cab or Double Cab. V6 models are available with Toyota's Entune infotainment system that also has Bluetooth and iPhone connectivity, as well as a touchscreen navigation system. The SR5 Package is also available. Like most Tacomas, PreRunners have a 127.4-inch wheelbase and six-foot bed, but there is a PreRunner Double Cab Long Bed. Available only as a V6 with automatic, this is the model for Tacoma shoppers looking for maximum cargo and people-hauling capability.

2012 Toyota Tacoma
Starting price
$12,995

2012 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner V6

Recommended for: For fans who like a street-oriented truck

The X-Runner adds some show and go to the Tacoma, starting with its monochromatic appearance and lowered ride height over the 4x2 Access Cab. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, and the only powertrain combination is two-wheel drive with the V6 and six-speed manual. The seven-speaker audio system has SiriusXM radio and sport front seats are standard, as are cruise control and remote keyless entry.

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