2010 Toyota Tacoma Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 26, 2009

The Tacoma is a workhorse truck that gives a little more space and capability than a true compact, yet offers decent fuel efficiency and a low price.

To bring you an expert opinion of the Toyota Tacoma, the editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven several variations of the Tacoma—and hauled a few items. Then, to bring you the most useful information for your shopping process, TheCarConnection.com has researched the range of available road tests on the new Tacoma and produced an adjacent Full Review.

The Toyota Tacoma got some significant revisions for 2009 but returns for 2010 with few changes. A little larger than compact and more mid-size, like the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma serves those who don’t need the hardcore hauling and towing ability of the full-size trucks but still require the day-to-day durability of a pickup.

Though the Tacoma saw some changes last year, its fundamental design and styling are carried through, essentially unchanged since its last full redesign in 2005. Despite offset, flared sheetmetal around the wheelwells, the Tacoma looks a little more aggressive, especially if you outfit it with one of several off-road trims. Inside, it depends on the trim; although entry Tacomas look basic and even a little drab inside, the top trim levels have an interior that uses more matte-metallic panels and upgraded upholstery that has more in common with the Camry and Avalon sedans. Regular Cab, Access Cab, and Double Cab editions of the Tacoma are offered, with standard or long-bed (LB) lengths, with four- or six-cylinder engines.

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The 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder that’s standard on some models of the Tacoma somehow manages quite well—provided you’re not trying to move too quickly or take too much of a load. It comes with a five-speed manual transmission, which shifts smoothly but has long throws; both the four-speed automatic that’s optional with the four-cylinder and the five-speed automatic that’s standard on V-6 models are responsive. The 4.0-liter V-6 that’s offered on the rest of the lineup provides a completely different personality, as it produces 236 horsepower and an even more noteworthy 266 pound-feet of torque—enough to move the Tacoma quickly even when you have a heavy load. With the four-cylinder engine, the Tacoma is a reasonably fuel-efficient choice, rated as high as 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, while the V-6, 4WD models rate at just 16/20 mpg. Ride and handling are a low point for the 2010 Toyota Tacoma; it handles like a truck—which is to say that the steering is good and communicative, but the ride is hard and bumpy. Push a little too hard over bumps and the tires simply lose contact. Maneuverability is another disappointment; the mid-size proportions of the newer Tacoma don't allow it to turn around any easier than a full-size truck.

Inside, the 2010 Toyota Tacoma isn’t as spacious as a full-size truck, and though there’s plenty of space in Double Cab versions for four adults (two kids in back for Access Cabs), the front seats are a little short and flat. All the fundamentals are here, though; the Tacoma’s payload is well into the 3/4-ton category, depending on the model. The Tacoma’s cargo bed is a composite material, a sheet-molded compound purported to be more durable and, at the same time, 10 percent lighter than steel. Refinement might be slightly disappointing to some; both engines are louder than we would have hoped.

With top five-star results in frontal and side tests from the federal government and top "good" ratings from the IIHS, the 2010 Tacoma gets very respectable ratings—a "marginal" rating from the IIHS in the rear-impact test being the only blemish. Anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and electronic stability control are now included across the model line, as are active front headrests, front seat-mounted side airbags, and curtain side airbags, as well as an Automatic Limited-slip Differential (Auto-LSD); TRD Off-Road packages are equipped with a separate locking rear differential.

The 2010 Tacoma model line covers a wide range of needs in base form, especially if you're willing to add a few options, but two specialized models, the PreRunner and X-Runner, are focused for tough terrain and look the part. The PreRunner adds a higher-riding suspension, locking rear differential, and other appearance cues. The X-Runner gets wider wheels and tires; a lowered, sport-tuned suspension; and an X-braced frame (hence the name), along with extra interior conveniences. Also available is a TRD Off-Road Package that brings special badging, plus an off-road suspension with Bilstein dampers, fog lamps, and a transfer-case skid plate. The options list on the 2009 Toyota Tacoma is expansive, with plenty of heavy-duty upgrades and appearance add-ons, but one item that many people have come to expect, a navigation system, isn’t offered. Anti-lock brakes are standard, as are variable wipers, a composite pickup bed, an AM/FM/CD player, and a tilt/telescope wheel. Tire pressure monitors, curtain airbags, and stability control are among the included safety gear on all models. The base tires are 15-inchers, while 16-inchers are available on PreRunner and 4WD models.

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