By William Maley
Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
February 8, 2013
At one time in the U.S. auto market, you had a wide variety of compact pickups to choose from. You could get a Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, Nissan Hardbody, or a number of other pickups. But now there isn’t such a thing as a compact pickup. The last compact pickup truck, the Ford Ranger, said farewell in 2011. Other compact pickups have grown into what we now call the midsize class.
That brings us to the current crop of midsize pickups; the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. These two models make up the current selection of midsize pickups. But is that a good thing? Why are there only two models in the midsize pickups class? I recently had a 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab to find out.
Variety is the Spice of Life
The 2013 Tacoma comes in a variety of configurations to suit your needs. Whether you need a single cab with a four-cylinder engine or a crew cab with a V6 and off-road package, Toyota probably has a Tacoma for you. Our test Tacoma was a SR5 Access Cab, Toyota’s name for extended cab.
Toyota has made some tweaks the Tacoma’s exterior in 2012, mostly in the front. There is a new grille, headlights, and bumper that help make the Tacoma’s 2005 design look somewhat newer. The Tacoma’s standard truck bed measures out at 73.5 inches long, which means the truck can handle a run to the hardware store to pick up supplies with no problem.
Stepping inside the Tacoma Access Cab, you do notice that it hasn’t aged very well. Despite Toyota’s best efforts to spruce it up by installing a new steering wheel, revising the graphics on the gauges, and changing the colors on the center stack, the interior feels like it has just rolled off the assembly line back in 2005. Materials are what you would usually find in most mid-size trucks, hard plastics in the usual places.
However, the Tacoma’s interior does have some positive points. For starters, the dash layout is simple and the controls are within easy reach. The front seats are very comfortable with a good amount of adjustments and bolstering. Then there is the Access Cab which increases interior space and provides additional space. You can fit two people in the back in the jump seats, but only if they are small kids.
Power? Yes. Fuel Economy and Ride? Umm..
The Tacoma can be equipped with either a 2.7L four-cylinder or what our test Tacoma was equipped with, a 4.0L V6. I should explain Toyota uses two variations of the 4.0L in their Trucks and SUVs. For the Tundra and 4Runner, Toyota employs a 4.0L producing 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. In the Tacoma, Toyota uses the same 4.0L producing less power at 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet torque. Transmission choices for the Tacoma include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
The 4.0L V6 feels faster than what is indicated on the speedometer thanks to the bulk of torque being on the low-end and the automatic’s gearing spaced out to provide more performance. With an empty bed and dry payment, you can easily get a squeal from the rear tires. On the expressway, the V6 was able get up to speed very quickly and make passes with no sweat. I never thought that I needed the higher performing 4.0L in the week I had the Tacoma.
One item Toyota does need to address with the Tacoma’s 4.0L V6 is fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2013 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 4WD at 16 City/21 Highway/18 Combined, which is similar to full-size pickups equipped V8 engines. During my time with the Tacoma, I averaged about 17.6 MPG.
The Tacoma’s suspension uses a double wishbone with gas-filled shocks in the front and leaf springs in the back. This setup provided a soft, yet very bouncy ride. I kept wondering if I was riding a mechanical bull and not a truck. I’m sure if the bed had a load, the bounciness would subside a bit.
One surprise of the Tacoma was its steering. Toyota uses a variable assist rack and pinion system and it provided an excellent amount of feel and weight. Combine it with smaller dimensions of the Tacoma and it is a breeze to maneuver around tight spaces.
There’s A Good Truck Here, But Needs Some Drastic Changes
The 2013 Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 has left me torn. On one hand, the Tacoma has a comfortable and straightforward interior layout, a punchy V6, and good maneuverability. On the other hand, the Tacoma gets about the same fuel economy as full-size trucks, an interior that feels very old, and the bouncy ride.
There’s another nail in the Tacoma’s coffin and that is the price. As tested, the Tacoma Access Cab SR5 V6 stickers at $30,580.00. At a glance, this seems somewhat reasonable. However with that same amount of cash, you could head down to your local Chevrolet, Ford, Ram dealer and get a full-size truck that is equipped similar to the Tacoma.
Toyota is now at a point with the Tacoma where it has two options; either leave the Tacoma as-is or begin making some changes to full unleash the potential of this truck. Those changes include swapping the five-speed automatic for a six-speed automatic and seeing if they can squeeze some more fuel economy out of the 4.0L V6. I hope Toyota goes with the latter option since the midsize truck market could use a kick in the pants.
Disclaimer: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Year - 2013
Make – Toyota
Model – Tacoma Access Cab
Trim – SR5 V6
Engine – 4.0L DOHC 24V VVT-i V6
Driveline – Part Time Four-Wheel Drive, Five-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM – 236 @ 5,200 RPM
Torque @ RPM – 266 @ 4,000 RPM
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/21/18
Curb Weight – 4,100 lbs
Location of Manufacture – San Antonio, TX
Base Price - $26,185.00
As Tested Price - $30,580.00 (Includes $895.00 destination charge)
SR5 Value Package - $2,335.00
V6 Tow Package - $650.00
Running Boards - $376.00
Six-Speaker, AM/FM/SirusXM/CD/MP3/WMA/Bluetooth/Aux/iPod Sound System - $300.00
Floor Mats and Door Sill Protector -$195.00
Exhaust Tip - $85.00
Daytime Running Lights - $40.00
First Aid Kit - $39.00