2020 Toyota Tacoma Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

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April 4, 2019

Buying tip

Look to the Tacoma SR5 for the best balance between features and value, but the TRD versions are compelling off-roaders.

Myriad detail upgrades keep the 2020 Toyota Tacoma competitive in the increasingly competitive mid-size pickup truck market.

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is updated this year, but that may not be enough to fend off pickup truck competitors that have sprung up in recent years.

With a standard active safety tech, muscular good looks, and excellent off-road ability the Tacoma stays right in the thick of it, but a bouncy ride and tight interior may be off-putting to potential buyers. We rate it 5.0 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the Tacoma finally gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability along with Amazon Alexa integration on an updated audio and infotainment system. Other updates include a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat replacing the old manual seat on SR5 trims and higher, a surround-view camera system on top-tier models and under-vehicle camera for TRD Off-Road and Pro trucks, and styling tweaks like new wheels and LED daytime running lights on most models. The off-road ready TRD Pro model also gets revised suspension, which we hope will improve the bouncy ride quality over last year.

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Available in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, TRD Pro, and Limited trims, there’s a Tacoma for nearly every buyer, from tradesfolks to trail-bashers. The Tacoma is also available in extended- or crew-cab configurations, either with a 6-foot bed on both models and a 5-foot bed on the crew cab.

The Tacoma is still one of the best-looking midsize trucks to our eyes, especially in extreme TRD Pro form, and features a no-nonsense interior that emphasizes material durability over luxury. It’s somewhat cramped inside, however, with even crew cab models providing less-than-average passenger space.

Power comes from a 2.7-liter inline-4 rated at 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque as standard as well as rear-wheel-drive, but most buyers will opt for four-wheel-drive and the uprated 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft. Buyers can have either a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission across the range with the V-6, though the base engine is available only with the automatic. For 2020, a trailer package with a Class IV hitch and upgraded cooling comes standard, increasing towing capacity to 6,800 pounds for V-6 models.

Stellar resale values and an active safety technology suite as standard that includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and more make the Tacoma a compelling option, but the competition is stronger than ever.

 
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2020 Toyota Tacoma

Styling

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma checks many of the right boxes in the tough truck styling department.

There’s no mistaking a “Taco” for any other truck, and the 2020 Toyota Tacoma checks the right pickup styling boxes after a small visual update this year. It’s more evolutionary than revolutionary, however, warranting an 6 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With a big, upright grille, new LED daytime running lights on most models, flared fenders, and that signature upward kick in the rear window, the 2020 Tacoma is a handsome truck by almost any measure. TRD Pro models turn the toughness up to 11 with meaty tires, blacked-out trim, and an old school “TOYOTA” badge front-and-center. The rear end is conventionally-styled, but the stamped tailgate is a more modern touch, and the high ride height and short bed give this truck more classic pickup proportions than other competitors.

Inside, the Tacoma is as upright as its exterior, with a new 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment front and center for easy access. The rest of the dashboard is all business, with large controls for climate and media functions and storage throughout the cabin.

Material quality is somewhat more rough-and-tumble than competitors even on high-priced trims, and though crew cab models offer space for five occupants, the cabin can be tight and claustrophobic thanks to a black headliner.

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2020 Toyota Tacoma

Performance

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma offers competitive performance but ride quality leaves something to be desired.

Though the base engine and ride quality leaves us cold, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is right in the mix performance-wise without necessarily standing out. We give it 4 out of 10 in this category, with a point above average for its off-road tech and two dialed back for a stiff ride on most versions and underwhelming acceleration. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As standard, the 2.7-liter inline-4 makes 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, but almost every Tacoma on the road is built with a reasonably-strong 3.5-liter V-6, making 278 hp and 265 lb-ft. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and part-time four-wheel-drive is optional, and the V-6 model can be had with either a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission, though the four-cylinder is restricted to only the automatic.

Like most trucks in its class minus the Honda Ridgeline, the Tacoma rides on a ladder frame with a leaf-sprung solid rear axle and independent front suspension. This makes for a bouncy ride for most models, and with Fox shocks on the TRD Pro trim, the ride is unusually stiff. This suspension has been updated for 2020, so we’ll report back if it’s any improvement.

All Tacomas sit very high off the ground, and four-wheel-drive is operated via a simple knob, though there’s no full-time system for use on dry pavement. TRD Off-Road and Pro models get a push-button locking rear differential, a crawl control system, hill-descent control, and five unique off-road traction control settings.

For 2020, all V-6-equipped trucks come standard with the previously optional towing package, increasing capacity to 6,800 pounds with a Class IV hitch and improved cooling hardware for the engine.

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2020 Toyota Tacoma

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma leaves lots to be desired in the passenger-hauling department.

Midsize pickups aren’t the best people-carriers, but the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is behind the curve even for its competitive set. A low roofline and high floor make for a cramped cabin and a rating of just 4 out of 10 in this category, with points back from average for its uncomfortable front and rear seats but one added back for its cargo utility. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Front seats in the 2020 Tacoma are comfortable enough, and with new 10-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat on SR5 and higher trims, much-needed height adjustment has been added. Material quality is more rough-and-tumble than soft-and-smooth, but that’s just fine for a pickup truck.

Head room leaves a lot to be desired, especially with a power moonroof, and with a black headliner on top trims, the Tacoma’s cabin can feel even more cramped than it is. In crew-cab form, the rear seats are upright and leg room is limited. Extended Cab models should only be used for more than two occupants on a very seldom basis.

However, the Tacoma deserves credit for its pickup practicality, available either with a 5-foot bed on Crew Cab models or 6-foot bed on either Extended or Crew Cab.

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2020 Toyota Tacoma

Safety

While updated results haven’t been released, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma manages average crash test scores but includes great standard active safety technology.

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma hasn’t been crash tested since its update, but the 2019 model left room for improvement. However, standard active safety technology is unique among midsize pickups, but we’re unable to give it a score just yet. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

According to the federal government, last year’s Tacoma received four stars overall, with four stars in both frontal and rollover crash tests and five stars for side crash tests. These ratings are just for the Crew Cab model, as Extended Cab models weren’t fully tested.

The 2019 model also received decent scores from the independent IIHS, which awarded “Good” ratings in every category except for “Acceptable” in the small overlap front passenger side test and a “Marginal” for headlights. While updated data for the 2020 model isn’t yet available, new headlights on the top trim may help improve that lackluster score.

Fortunately, the 2020 Tacoma is one of the few midsize pickups that includes a full suite of active safety technology as standard, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.

We’ll wait for full 2020 crash tests to give it an updated score.

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2020 Toyota Tacoma

Features

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma gets some much-needed technology and features updates with its refresh.

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma gets some enticing updates in the tech and features department for this year. That’s not quite enough to edge out competitors, however, so we give it 7 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the refreshed Tacoma adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as Amazon Alexa, to go along with a new standard 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment. That’s a welcome addition and may help win over some buyers in a very competitive segment.

Throughout the rest of the range, the 2020 Tacoma gets credit for its many trim levels and configurations, ranging from work-ready SR to trail-tested TRD Pro, though the best value lies somewhere in between.

SR models get some updates for 2020 including a new grille and taillight design, an optional LED bed lamp, and the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

The mid-tier SR5 represents the best value and gets a new 16-inch wheel design to go along with updated styling and interior fabric. LED daytime running lights and bed lights are optional.

TRD Sport models get 17-inch wheels and available LED headlights as well as an optional panoramic camera system.

The TRD Off Road trim offers all the off-road prowess most buyers will need with Bilstein shocks, a locking rear differential, hill-descent control, and several terrain traction control modes, and adds LED fog lights, keyless entry, and optional LED headlights for 2020. The Tacoma TRD Off Road is the trim we’d buy for its balance between value and four-wheeling ability.

Those looking for a more luxury-oriented Tacoma will want the Limited model, which features 18-inch wheels, standard LED headlamps, and a surround-view camera system.

Finally, the TRD Pro is the most hardcore Tacoma, featuring special black 16-inch wheels and blacked-out trim pieces, a new Army Green color, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The TRD Pro also gets the new surround-view camera system with an additional camera underneath the truck to help avoid unseen obstacles on the trail.

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2020 Toyota Tacoma

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is middle of the road when it comes to its fuel economy.

Some mid-size truck competitors use less fuel than the 2020 Toyota Tacoma, so we rate it at 3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Naturally, the base, rear-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder 2020 Tacoma is the most efficient, managing 20 mpg city, 23 highway, and 21 combined with the 6-speed automatic transmission. Adding four-wheel-drive drops those numbers slightly to 19/22/20 mpg with the same transmission.

Surprisingly, the two-wheel-drive V-6 model does better than the four-wheel-drive 4-cylinder at 19/24/21 mpg with the 6-speed automatic.

From then on up the range, the four-wheel-drive V-6 model, which is easily the most popular, manages middling fuel economy, specifically 18/22/20 mpg for non-TRD automatic models, and 17/21/18 mpg for those with a 6-speed.

Thanks to its beefed-up suspension and other off-road components, the TRD Off-Road model manages 17/20/18 mpg with the 6-speed manual.

Finally TRD Pro models are the most extreme but don’t come with much of a fuel economy penalty, ringing in at 18/22/20 mpg for the automatic and 17/20/18 for the manual.

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5.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety 5
Features 7
Fuel Economy 3
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