Pickup trucks are tough styling exercises, in more than one sense. They can be rugged exaggerations, like a Ram or an F-150. Or merely a challenge, like the Toyota Tacoma, which matches up a plain bed with a busy front end for a whole that's not as attractive as the rival Nissan Frontier.
Last year, Toyota gave the Tacoma a sharper, more defined look in front, with headlamps wrapped into the grille in a new way, and with higher turn signals that stretch the shape of the grille out at the lower corners. It beefs up the Tacoma somewhat, but it doesn't take much to look beyond the nose graft to see the compact proportions peeking out from behind that bulging front end. The offset, flared wheel wells and flared fender sheetmetal adds a hint of aggression or sportiness—brought out, especially, in its off-road trims—and the front end still bears a clear family resemblance with that of the full-size Tundra and Land Cruiser. Also, models with the TRD Sport Package get new side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
Otherwise, at least on the outside, the Tacoma continues its relatively traditional compact-truck design, with a little added flair, paired with the chunky, down-to-business look that nearly all Toyota trucks have had in recent years. Its fundamental design and styling are carried through mostly unchanged since this larger, nearly mid-size version of the Tacoma was introduced, for 2005.Inside, Toyota has toned down the matte-metallic onslaught of the outgoing model and blacked out the center-stack area, around audio and climate controls, leaving brightwork around the steering wheel and vents. Likewise, it's thrown out the orange-red lighting and replaced it with a cool-blue backlit look, in line with what's been introduced in new models like the 2012 Camry. And on Access Cabs there's a new rear-console storage box. The plastic trim's been upgraded and in truth the Tacoma dash now has a better feel than the Frontier's cockpit does, if not by a huge margin.
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, and they all have the same styling, albeit with different levels of stretch for the cab and bed.