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2020 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2020 Toyota 4Runner: Compare Utility Vehicles

January 30, 2020
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Get lost. And we mean that in the nicest way possible. 

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma and 2020 Toyota 4Runner are some of the best vehicles on the planet for escaping the day and heading for the hills. Both utility vehicles share the same automaker’s name on the front, and also many of the same buyers. 

It would make sense that both vehicles earn the same 5.0 TCC Rating, after all. The Tacoma mid-size pickup and 4Runner SUV arrive at the same conclusion via different methods, however. So, which one is right for you?

MORE: Read our 2020 Toyota Tacoma and 2020 Toyota 4Runner full reviews 

Style and performance

The Tacoma and 4Runner share many similar styling cues, albeit with one big exception. 

The Tacoma was updated this year with a nose job; the small pickup gets a bigger, upright grille with different badging depending on trim level. The nose is almost universally bigger on all models and is set forward ahead of the headlights and LED daytime running lights on most models. The headlights reach back into the fenders, which look like broad shoulders that set the new truck apart from its predecessors. The inside is still a mishmash of durable materials that lack any luxury touches.  

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

By contrast, the 4Runner’s front incorporates vertical elements that make the boxy off-roader look taller. The front fenders are just as wide, but there’s more to look at in the 4Runner’s bodysides than the Tacoma. Inside, the 4Runner is very dated—it’s one of Toyota’s oldest designs in the fleet, and it uses chunky knobs and dials like the full-size Tundra and Sequoia. 

It’s a wash on our style scale, but the Tacoma’s open bed may have its appeal to some buyers. 

Under the hoods of most Tacomas and all 4Runners is a V-6 that’s relatively bulletproof, although not very efficient in either truck. The Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V-6 makes 278 horsepower and pairs to a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. The 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 in the 4Runner is ancient, but also bulletproof. It deserves a spot on Toyota's ring of fame when it's finally retired, but it's inefficient and paired with a 5-speed that's outdated and outgunned in almost every respect. Both trucks offer rear-wheel drive, although four-wheel drive is a popular upgrade. 

Both the 4Runner and Tacoma are available in trims that lean luxury and trims that lead toward hardcore off-roading: low-range gearboxes, locking differentials, and chunky tires on TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models. Toyota offers both trucks in luxury-adjacent Limited trim levels, although neither feels luxurious inside.

Like style, performance in both is a wash—both can be a little sluggish uphill, but only the Tacoma can manage more than 20 mpg combined, according to the EPA. 

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Comfort, safety, and features

The two vehicles diverge in comfort, based on the Tacoma’s open bed. Toyota doesn’t gift its most comfortable interiors to the Tacoma and 4Runner—the Tacoma’s seats are a little on the firm side, rear-seat leg room isn’t great, and head room is lacking. The 4Runner’s seats are comfier and there’s good interior space, but no open bed in the back. With the second row in place, the 4Runner holds 48 cubic feet of cargo. An optional third row can be added for just $305, but it’ll be back-of-the-bus rough back there, and cramped. The Tacoma? Bed space is limited to clearance at your nearest parking garage or bridge. 

The 4Runner edges the Tacoma on comfier seats, but we recognize the utility of a pickup. 

Both trucks fare well in official crash tests, though there are demerits. The Tacoma earned a four-star score for front crash safety and the 4Runner earned a “Marginal” rating by the IIHS for driver-side protection in a simulated crash with a tree or light pole. 

The good news: Both trucks offer automatic emergency braking on all models that many competitors still lack. 

The Tacoma and 4Runner are sold in SR5, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro editions, although the 4Runner’s lineup is sprinkled with special editions and premium packages that add more. The Tacoma adds a base work-truck SR trim, and a TRD Sport trims to its lineup. 

Both offer touchscreens with smartphone-compatibility software; the Tacoma has a 7.0-inch screen and the 4Runner has an 8.0-inch screen. 

The Tacoma can be had for about $27,000, but those versions are bare and have a small 159-hp inline-4 engine. We recommend a TRD Off-Road that costs about $37,000 and adds off-road hardware that’s more in line with the truck’s mission. 

The same goes for the 4Runner; we recommend the TRD Off-Road there too. It comes with the same rear differential and low-range gearbox but can add a leather interior or better suspension for more money. They cost $40,000 or more. 

In the end, both trucks get the same rating and buyers would do well to consider what is most important in their new vehicle. If consistent hauling isn’t in the forecast, a 4Runner is a better choice although it’s more expensive to buy and run. The Tacoma’s interior space is comparatively compromised, but it offers a lower price and more open space in the bed.


Summary

5.3
Expert Rating
Myriad detail upgrades keep the 2020 Toyota Tacoma competitive in the increasingly competitive mid-size pickup truck market.
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota 4Runner is a solid choice for weekend warriors made better this year thanks to more safety gear, but pavement-pounders should look elsewhere.

Styling

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma checks many of the right boxes in the tough truck styling department.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota 4Runner has old-school styling that has aged well.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma offers competitive performance but ride quality leaves something to be desired.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota 4Runner won’t make you yearn for a curvy road, but it can be reasonably polished in certain configurations.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma leaves lots to be desired in the passenger-hauling department.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota 4Runner is spacious, but not all that comfortable inside.
Read More

Safety

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma manages average crash test scores but includes great standard active safety technology.
Read More
4.0
Expert Rating
Newly standard active safety tech addresses a major deficit for the 2020 Toyota 4Runner.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma gets some much-needed technology and features updates with its refresh.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota 4Runner is expensive, but few rivals can match its off-road gear.
Read More

Fuel Economy

3.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is middle of the road when it comes to its fuel economy.
Read More
3.0
Expert Rating
You didn’t expect a boxy SUV like the 2020 Toyota 4Runner to be thrifty, did you?
Read More

MSRP

from $26,050
from $36,120

Invoice

from $24,422
from $33,230

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

21
17

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.7 L
Regular Unleaded V-6, 4.0 L

Drivetrain

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