All-new for 2016, the third-generation Tacoma follows a predecessor that has been the most popular compact pickup on the market. Attracting an intensely loyal following, Tacoma is a large compact (near midsize, sometimes dubbed right-sized), targeting shoppers who shun the familiar “bigger is better” approach to truck-buying.
Toyota says 29 distinct configurations are available, promising good fuel-efficiency, so there should be a Tacoma to suit just about anyone. More athletic in appearance than before, the 2016 Tacoma replaces a model that lasted 16 years.
What's New for 2016
The 2016 Tacoma is totally redesigned, considered all-new. A new 3.5-liter V6 is available, along with the previously-offered 2.7-liter four-cylinder. The six-speed automatic transmission also is new. Suspension tuning also has been revised.
Choosing Your Toyota Tacoma
Tacomas come in two cab configurations: extended Access Cab, with two rear-hinged back doors and fold-down seating for rear occupants; and Double Cab, with four full-size doors and a conventional back bench.
Five grades (trim levels) are offered for each cab style.
Tacomas may have either rear-drive or four-wheel drive.
Double Cab models may have either a short (60.5-inch) or long (73.7-inch) cargo bed.
Access Cab comes only with the long bed.
A new 3.5-liter V6 offers 42 more horsepower than its predecessor: 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder makes 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet. The four-cylinder with automatic gets a fuel-economy estimate of 19/23 mpg city/highway, while the V6 manages 19/24 mpg in the same configurations.
Tacomas get a new six-speed automatic transmission, but the V6 can mate with a six-speed manual, while the four-cylinder engine teams with a five-speed manual.
Peak towing capacity is 6,800 pounds with V6 and the optional towing package.
All models get a GoPro camera mount for the rearview camera, ready to take photos of off-road excursions in a Tacoma.
Like other pickups, a Tacoma can get expensive in a hurry by overdoing the option list. Space is ample in the Double Cab, which is the obvious choice if you expect to carry two or more passengers for any distance. Not everyone will be satisfied with an Access Cab. The strong V6 is a better bet than the overtaxed four-cylinder.
The Toyota Tacoma has been an enduring favorite in the pickup market. For its new model year, as it faces new competition from General Motors, the entry-level hauler gets an all-new look and a more powerful, more fuel-efficient V6.
Pricing and Equipment
The Toyota Tacoma continues as one of the most popular midsize pickups in the U.S. despite a base MSRP of $23,300 that's a good bit higher than its competitors. For this price, the Tacoma SR comes standard with:
Six-speaker audio system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen
Bluetooth streaming audio
Buyers who want added features can choose from four additional trim levels: SR5 ($25,385), TRD Sport ($31,320), TRD Off-Road ($32,100), and Limited ($37,820).
The optional V6 puts out a healthy 278-horsepower V6.
A Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds and hauls up to 1,620 in its bed.
The TRD Off-Road makes off-roading a walk in the park.
The purpose of the base 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine leaves us confused -- with a mere 159 horsepower it lacks grunt, and it's no more fuel efficient than the V6.
We wonder why Toyota doesn't offer the four-cylinder, though, in a basic configuration with rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission.
The ride can get a bit bouncy, even when traveling on paved surfaces
The cabin still has the rugged looks of a pickup truck that's ready to get down to business -- this will be a plus for some buyers.
Toyota clearly spent plenty of time and money to keep road noise to a minimum.
While styling in the Tacoma's cabin is much better than it used to be, it hasn't kept pace with competition that's already ahead of its redesign. Cross-shoppers may not be impressed by the cabin's relative simplicity.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The extra power of the 3.5-liter V6 is a welcome addition to the pickup. The old 4-liter engine was pretty stout, but this new motor takes the Tacoma to a whole new level in performance and fuel economy.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
Aside from its lower cost, the four-cylinder engine really seems useless. It has significantly lower power ratings, and its fuel economy is abysmal for a four-cylinder. We have a hard time figuring out why it is still available.
The Bottom Line
The Tacoma remains a great option for buyers who want an alternative to full-size pickups. But be aware that the Tacoma remains a dyed-in-the-wool pickup truck that rides rough, has a relatively simple cabin, and won't impress anyone with its four-cylinder performance or economy.