2020 Jeep Gladiator vs. 2020 Toyota Tacoma: Compare Trucks

January 27, 2020
2020 Jeep Gladiator leaked via Jeep Gladiator Forum

2020 Jeep Gladiator leaked via Jeep Gladiator Forum

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma and 2020 Jeep Gladiator are closely rated mid-size pickups. The Tacoma is the established rival and the longest continuous mid-size pickup on sale stretching back to the 1980s—before it was called a Tacoma. The Gladiator, by contrast, is the newest mid-size pickup on sale, even though Jeep is hardly a newcomer. 

The Tacoma and Gladiator serve broad, and growing (older) audiences. Aging Millenials or Zillenials like us may want a truck to haul their surfboard to the airport, or a truck to carry sound equipment to the next garage. Or just a truck to pick up the kids from school. The good news: We have options. 

By the numbers, the Gladiator wins out narrowly: The newbie earns a TCC Rating of 5.2 to 5.0. But the race is even closer than the numbers would indicate.

READ MORE: Read our 2020 Jeep Gladiator and 2020 Toyota Tacoma full reviews

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Launch Edition

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Launch Edition

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Style and performance

Both pickups draw on heritage for inspiration, albeit from very different decades. The new Tacoma looks like a distant relative to the Toyota hardbodies from two or more decades ago but the familial resemblance is there, complete with a familiar “TOYOTA” badge in the snout. 

The Tacoma has grown since the 1980s, although it still looks compact next to full-sizers like the Tundra and others. The new-look Tacoma grows tougher with more money; TRD Pro variants look ready to tackle the desert, a snowstorm, or both. The only letdown is its interior, which looks hastily put together compared to the Gladiator. 

Strictly speaking, the Gladiator draws on inspiration from the 1950s. The brick-in-the-wind look hasn’t evolved from the related Wrangler—for better, not worse. Compared to the Wrangler, the Gladiator is much longer between the wheels; from the front, the two are virtually indistinguishable. Inside, the Gladiator draws even closer: If you’ve been in a Wrangler, you’ve been in a Gladiator. That’s probably a good thing. 

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

We favor the Gladiator’s heritage cues and comfortable interior. 

Under the hood, both Gladiator and Tacoma rely on V-6 propulsion, mostly. The Gladiator uses a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 285 horsepower mated to a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. It’s the same base powertrain in the Wrangler, and it’s a good one. There’s plenty of pull off the line, and properly equipped, the Gladiator can tow up to 7,650 pounds in certain configurations. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 promises more tug in the Gladiator, but we haven’t yet driven those versions. 

The Tacoma uses a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 278 hp under the hood of most pickups, although a 2.7-liter anemic inline-4 is available in base versions. Like the Gladiator, the Tacoma uses a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic to drive the rear or all four wheels. It’s enough power, although it still feels a little breathless up hills—a lot like the old Tacomas, too. 

Both have the available hardware to go off-road: lockers, low-range gearboxes, and skid plates. Tacoma TRD Pro and Wrangler Rubicons push past $45,000, but also go anywhere owners dare. Performance pick? It’s a wash. 

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Comfort, safety, and features

The Tacoma is available in extended- and crew-cab configurations, although the latter is far more common. Even with four full-size doors, the Tacoma struggles to fit four adults aboard and the seats are largely uncomfortable and flat. The roofline cuts into the available head room and the Tacoma’s black headliner can make the cabin feel more cramped than it already is. 

By contrast, the Gladiator’s soft top and removable doors mean that the available head room is mostly limited to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The Gladiator rides atop a wheelbase stretched by 19 inches compared to the Wrangler, and the Gladiator has more leg room compared to the four-door Wrangler. The Jeep pickup’s only concession is smaller rear doors than the Wrangler, which may be tricky for rear-seat riders. 

The Tacoma offers a 5- or 6-foot bed, depending on cab configuration. The Gladiator offers only a 5-foot bed. 

Crash-test scores for both pickups are incomplete, although the Tacoma offers standard automatic emergency braking on all trucks that the Gladiator lacks—it’s an extra-cost option on the Jeep. 

The Gladiator starts at about $35,000 and goes up considerably from there. The base Gladiator Sport is spartan, as in, power windows aren’t even included. 

We’d opt instead for a Gladiator Rubicon that costs about $45,000 and adds chunky off-road tires, disconnecting sway bars, lockers, and wider axles. It’s hardly cheap, but it’s also what Jeep does best. 

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

For that money, the 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro is available and has similar hardware but has a buckboard ride thanks to Fox shocks that are very stiff. The Tacoma starts for far less than the Gladiator, and we’d spring for a TRD Off Road that includes Bilstein shocks, lockers, and creature comforts for about $35,000 to start. 

Regardless of trim level, both pickups indulge our off-roading fantasies without sacrificing the space we need. 

We’d be happy with either, but the Gladiator gets our nod based on its rough-and-tumble looks Jeep DNA. 

Summary

5.2
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator pairs everything we love and hate about the Wrangler with a useful pickup bed.
5.0
Expert Rating
Myriad detail upgrades keep the 2020 Toyota Tacoma competitive in the increasingly competitive mid-size pickup truck market.

Styling

8.0
Expert Rating
If you like the Wrangler’s looks, you’re probably on board with the 2020 Jeep Gladiator.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma checks many of the right boxes in the tough truck styling department.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator excels off-road, but it comes up short on pavement.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma offers competitive performance but ride quality leaves something to be desired.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is spacious, but it’s a big step to climb aboard.
Read More
4.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma leaves lots to be desired in the passenger-hauling department.
Read More

Safety

We’d like to see more active safety gear standard, but the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is par for the course.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
While updated results haven’t been released, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma manages average crash test scores but includes great standard active safety technology.
Read More

Features

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator range stretches from basic to less basic.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma gets some much-needed technology and features updates with its refresh.
Read More

Fuel Economy

3.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is rated at 19 mpg regardless of configuration.
Read More
3.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is middle of the road when it comes to its fuel economy.
Read More

MSRP

from $33,545
from $26,050

Invoice

from $32,972
from $24,422

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

19
21 (2019)

Engine

Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.6 L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.7 L

Drivetrain

Four Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Rear Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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