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. Reviewers tend to like the base four-cylinder, a trusty, torquey workhorse of an engine. Car and Driver says they'd choose “to power a backup generator for a field hospital,” but it’s not going to win any races. Edmunds.com advises, “owners planning on frequent hauling or towing will certainly want to choose the V6.”
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 a noteworthy 266 pound-feet of torque—enough to move the Tacoma quickly even when you have a heavy load. To back up their subjective impressions, The Auto Channel posts a fleet 7.8-second run to 60 mph with a heavily optioned 4WD, long-bed Double Cab V-6, and describes the engine as yielding a “smooth and usable broad spread of power.” ConsumerGuide praises the aural quality of the 4.0-liter V-6, particularly its “refined growl under acceleration.”
Both the four-speed (four-cylinder) and five-speed (V-6) automatic transmissions are generally praised for smooth and seamless operation, Cars.com finds the six-speed manual a bit notchy and claims it “makes shifting gears more difficult than in some other trucks.” Nonetheless, Car and Driver celebrates the number of ratios in both transmissions paired with the V-6, contending “there's a reason the big rigs have dozens of gears, and laden with payload, the Tacoma's extra ratios, both manual and automatic, will be celebrated.”
One very useful feature that aids performance and safety on steep, slippery slopes is Downhill Assist Control—a feature usually reserved for luxury vehicles from manufacturers such as BMW and Range Rover. Motor Trend says that the optional feature “automatically pulses the brakes to maintain a steady five-mph speed while descending steep trails and tracks.” With the Off-Road package, there's a differential lock, while non-off-road Tacomas use an electronic system, employing the anti-lock brakes.
Provided you choose the four-cylinder engine, the Tacoma is quite fuel-efficient. Ratings go as high as 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, while the V-6, 2WD or 4WD models with the automatic rate at just 16/20 mpg. Car and Driver editors averaged 18 mpg over 3,964 miles of Alaskan terrain in a V-6 model.
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. Driving the street-oriented X-Runner, Autoblog reinforces others’ impressions of a bouncy ride and numb steering, lamenting that “even though the X-Runner adds another brace to boost steering feel, the truck still comes up short.”
But if you intend to take the Tacoma off-road, you won't be disappointed. The Auto Channel finds the Tacoma “excels in off-road situations and is reasonably comfortable on the street. But depending on how it's equipped and whether it's carrying a load or not, the Tacoma can seem skittish or bouncy at times.”