By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Pickup trucks have never been more popular, and the Toyota Tacoma is one we think is a nice right-size alternative to the full-size variety. Of course, if your truck is used for pulling or hauling, you’ll need the big one. For all others with new truck aspirations, the 2018 Toyota Tacoma is a good choice.
Smaller is Better?
Dimensionally the Tacoma is about 7 or 8 percent smaller than Toyota’s full-size Tundra. That might not seem like much, but we think it’s so much more agile and drivable, especially in parking lots and other crowded spaces. Plus, it fits nicely in most garages allowing space to walk around it.
Design Help from Consumers
The Tacoma has been around for 33 years, and the 2018 model represents the third generation of the mid-size pickup. The latest version debuted in September 2015. It didn’t get a typical clean-sheet redesign, rather Toyota designers played to the wishes of Tacoma enthusiasts with a new cabin structure, power plants, a tuned suspension and making it significantly less noisy. The changes seem to be working, too. As of June 2018, the Tacoma is the fourth best-selling Toyota vehicle making up about 10 percent of the company’s total sale volume and selling double the full-size Tundra numbers.
Two Cab Sizes
The size has stayed the same, but the design features are evolutionary. It has a more assertive demeanor and some styling cues from the full-size Tundra. Buyers have a choice of short and long bed (roughly 5 and 6 feet long) and either a Double Cab or Access Cab. The double cab has four doors and generous (three-passenger) rear seat. The access cab has small fold-out seats behind the front seats, but it’s a space better used for cargo, although it’s nice to have room for a couple of passengers in a pinch. The standard cab version has been retired.
Two Engine Choices
Available engines include a 159-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, but the 278-hp 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 is the standard engine in all but a couple of lower-level trims. The four-cylinder engine comes with a choice of five-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic. The V-6 gets a standard six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic. All the rear-wheel drive Tacomas are available with 4WDemand part-time four-wheel drive.
Towing Capacity of 6,800-Pounds
Our V6 powered Tacoma SR5 test vehicle with a double cab and long bed, automatic transmission and four-wheel drive had an EPA fuel economy rating of 18 mpg city, 22 mpg, highway and 20 mpg combined. We averaged 18.8 mpg during a week of testing. The buff magazines list a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 7.7 seconds. When equipped with the available V6 Tow Package the Tacoma has a 6,800-pound towing capacity. That’s enough to handle a ski boat or small camping trailer.
All Tacoma 4×4 models are equipped with 4WDemand part-time 4WD with an electronically controlled transfer case and Automatic Limited Slip Differential. Tacoma TRD Sport models are equipped with sport-tuned shocks. TRD Off-Road models include an off-road tuned suspension that features Bilstein shocks.
A Full Complement of 4WD Assists
Four-wheel drive models come with a Locking Rear Differential, Hill Start Assist Control, clutch Start Cancel (manual transmission only), Active Traction Control, and CRAWL Control. CRAWL Control automatically modulates the throttle and brakes on five low-speed settings acting like off-road cruise control for better driver control in challenging situations.
Refined and Comfortable
The truck has a typical Toyota feel which means good acceleration, quick shifting, smooth ride – in short, it’s refined, responsive and comfortable.
Double Wishbone Suspension Up Front
The Tacoma has a reputation for being a tough durable truck much of which comes from the extensive use of high-strength steel in the frame and the hot-stamped ultra-high strength steel in the body construction. The suspension is a double wishbone coil-spring system in the front and a leaf spring rear suspension with staggered outboard-mounted gas shocks in the rear.
Priced from $26,395
There are 31 available models of the 2018 Tacoma offered when tallied with the cab, bed, trim level, engine and transmission variables. The basic models include SR, SR5, TRD Off-Road, TRD Sport, Limited and TRD Pro. Prices start at $26,395, including the destination charge, for the SR with V-6 engine, two-wheel drive, automatic transmission and long bed. The top-of-the line Tacoma TRD Pro with automatic transmission has a base price of $42,715. Our 2018 SR5 4WD double cab test truck had a base price of $35,335, and included navigation, parking sonar, premium audio and a couple of other accessories to make the total price $36,453.
Toyota’s Star Safety System
The Tacoma uses Toyota’s Star Safety System which includes Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, an Anti-lock Braking System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop brake override technology.
Top Selling Mid-Size Pickup
The 2018 Toyota Tacoma is a very impressive midsize truck with nearly everything a truck owner could want, except the larger cargo and towing capacities. We think the Tacoma makes sense for someone who wants to drive a truck but doesn’t need the size. Customers seem to be loving it; the Tacoma has been the top selling mid-size pickup for the last 10 consecutive years.