The Toyota Tacoma has been with us for more than 20 years. The first generation was genuinely compact.
The second (2005 intro.) grew up and by the time the third came along in 2015, the Tacoma had acquired significant heft, and in some quarters might be considered a full-size pickup.
Except that role has been assumed by its big brother — the Tundra. The two have been designed and developed for North America, and are built in a massive plant in Texas, where Toyota relocated its North American headquarters.
The 2018 Tacoma is available in a variety of trim levels with four-cylinder or V6 engines, manual or automatic transmissions, two cab sizes and two box lengths. Prices range from $30,900 for the base two-wheel-drive model in Access cab and four-cylinder configuration, to the test vehicle — the Tacoma 4x4 Double Cab V6 Limited, starting at $47,625.
The Limited in short-box configuration is a newcomer for the 2018 model year. As the range-topper, it has practically everything from the biggest engine and a 120-volt outlet in the cargo bed to back-up sonar and wireless charging for personal electronic devices.
From the big, bold grill to the Toyota name embossed on the easy lift and lower tailgate, there is no doubt this is a Toyota. There is a strong resemblance to the Tundra, 4Runner, and even the Highlander. That tailgate can be locked or removed to protect cargo or accept longer loads.
Typical Toyota attention to detail is evident throughout the interior. Secondary controls are big enough they can be used while wearing gloves and there is provision for mounting a GoPro camera alongside the rear view mirror.
The driver faces a traditional instrument panel, which includes a 10-cm colour screen capable of displaying a variety of information. Atop the centre stack is a 20-cm screen for infotainment and navigation purposes.
There is plenty of space up front and ample room in back for two large adults or three who are familiar with each other. The rear seats flip up, revealing a small storage area.
Fire it up and you are greeted with silence. The silky-smooth V6 makes itself known aurally only when pressed hard. Otherwise it becomes party to the silent treatment. You’d hardly know you are in a big, boxy truck that punches a significant hole in the air. The lack of wind and road noise is testament to some thorough attention to air management and sound insulation.
There is plenty of technology involved throughout. The V6 operates on the fuel-saving Atkinson cycle under light load and features both direct and port injection. It does have its work cut out for it propelling this big and heavy truck. As a result, it can be pretty thirsty. I witnessed 13.5 l/100km overall.
Depending on model, the Tacoma can carry up to 1,620 lbs. and tow up to 6,500 lbs. The ride is pleasant thanks to the ability of the tall sidewalls to absorb big and abrupt surface changes. Pushed hard, the Taco will lean and plow. But it will rarely be driven in that manner.
The Tacoma can be expensive compared to some, but makes up for that at the other end of the ownership experience. Like most Toyotas, it boasts exceptionally high residual values.
Model: 2018 Toyota Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab V6 Limited SB
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 180 horsepower, 265 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: six-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 13.8 / 11.7
Length: 5,393 mm
Width: 1,910 mm
Wheelbase: 1,274 mm
Weight: 2,032 kg
Price: $47,625 base, $49,537 as tested, including freight & PDI
Competition: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Nissan Frontier.
Standard equipment: tilt & telescope steering wheel, 18-in alloy wheels, dual zone automatic climate control, seven-speaker JBL Audio system, navigation system with 17-cm colour touchscreen and voice-recognition, back-up camera, integrated GoPro windshield mount, power windows and locks, garage door opener, remote keyless entry, heated leather seats, power sliding rear window, power heated and folding mirrors, power sunroof, 120-volt outlet in cargo bed
Safety equipment: blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and dynamic radar cruise control
Options on test vehicle: none