2014 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 Double Cab SR5 TRD Sport Premium, engine bay. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Haney Louka
The mid-sized pickup truck market is a small one. The Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma combined currently make up but five percent of light truck sales in Canada. While the venerable Tacoma owns about two-thirds of that market, it won’t be getting any easier for this incumbent: later this year we’ll see the reintroduction of the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins which promise to be thoroughly modern interpretations of what a mid-sized truck should be. So how well equipped is Toyota to take on these promising new entries?
But it’s not only other mid-sizers that Toyota needs to worry about: full-size trucks dominate the market and for good reason. There’s plenty of overlap in purchase price and fuel consumption between, say, this $38,465 Tacoma and a decently equipped Ford F-150.
Tacoma pricing starts at $22,450 for the homely 4X2 Access Cab. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering, six-speaker audio with USB input and Bluetooth, power locks and windows, 15-inch steel wheels, a 2.7L four-banger and five-speed stick. The $1,000 convenience package adds cruise, keyless entry, power mirrors, and a sliding rear window.
The least expensive four-by-four in the lineup is the $27,445 Access Cab, which looks a little better than its rear-drive counterpart thanks to bigger wheels and more ground clearance. But you’re still stuck with the four-cylinder engine and five-speed stick.
The model that will really compete with the full-sizers is the 4X4 Double Cab V6 5A. With four doors, a more robust six-cylinder engine, and a five-speed automatic transmission, it starts the bidding at $31,150. But this is still a basic truck. If Toyota wants to compete with the big boys, and appeal to an increasing number of customers that are trading in their minivans for pickups as their primary family vehicles, the creature comforts need to be there.
$33,845 buys the SR5 power package, with trailer tow prep, chrome grille and bumper, alloy wheels, rear-view camera, LED brake lights, upgraded cloth on the seats, and a few other goodies. Now we’re getting somewhere. But wait – there’s more. Fork over another $2,515 and you get the letters “TRD” plastered on the side of the six-foot box. For some reason, those of my friends who are less mature always snicker when they see that. If they knew anything about Toyota, they’d know that it stands for Toyota Racing Development. But why do I bother?
Let’s give credit where it’s due: TRD-equipped trucks get colour-keyed bumpers and grille, a 120V power outlet in the box, fog lamps, heated front seats, Bilstein shocks all around, and 17-inch alloys.
Our tester went one step further and wore the TRD Sport Premium package. At $38,465, we’re talking serious cash that’s accompanied by some serious equipment headlined by navigation and leather for the seats. There is but one step above our tester, the $39,195 Limited, which adds 18-inch chrome wheels, premium audio, and some other goodies.
And this is where the Toyota starts playing in the big kids’ playground: a Ford F-150 XLT Super Crew 4X4 starts at $35,649 when you consider the piles of cash sitting on the hood. At the time of this writing, Toyota has a $1,000 cash discount on the Tacoma; Ford is stacking $8,500 on the hood of this F-150.
Those are some pretty big toes the Tacoma is stepping on.
2014 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 SR5 TRD Sport Premium 120V outlet, dashboard, centre stack. Click image to enlarge
Pricing for the forthcoming GM mid-sized trucks has not yet been announced, but they will be competitive to be sure. And they’ll be brand-new.
In the full-size market, five years is about as long as manufacturers can go before redesigning; such is the competitive nature of that segment. The Tacoma, however, is only in its second generation since being introduced back in the last millennium. 2014 marks the tenth year of this current generation and its age certainly shows. There’s an honesty about this truck’s no-nonsense way of doing business, but somehow that concept and the thought of spending forty grand to get it just doesn’t compute.
The other big item working against the Tacoma is fuel consumption. Using the new five-cycle test methodology, this model is rated at 14.7 L/100 km in the city and 11.5 on the highway; I achieved a number very close to the new city rating during my week with the truck. Have a look at that F-150 though: with the EcoBoost V-6, it achieves 15.4 and 11.0 according to the new ratings. That’s just too close to sway a buying decision one way or the other.