2019 Toyota Tacoma Review

2019 Toyota Tacoma - A true pickup, Tacoma doesn't pretend to be a replacement for the family hauler.


The Tacoma is a body-on-frame pickup truck that's offered in extended cab and crew cab form. The extended cab, called Access Cab, comes with a 6.1-foot bed and the crew cab, called Double Cab, comes with a 5-foot bed. Both seat 5 passengers on twin front bucket seats and a 3-place rear bench. Affectionately dubbed "taco" by loyalists, the Tacoma competes with other midsize trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator and Nissan Frontier. The current Tacoma was most recently restyled in 2016. For 2019, changes are minimal and include updates to the TRD Pro trim package, additional off-road equipment and two additional USB charging ports.

Tacoma is offered in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited and TRD Pro trim. All save the Limited and TRD Pro are offered with both cab types. The Limited and TRD Pro are offered only with the Double Cab. SR and SR5 come standard with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. All other models come with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. The 4-cylinder is available only with a 6-speed automatic, while the V6 is offered with either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. Tacoma is offered with either rear- or part-time 4-wheel-drive. Maximum towing with the 4-cylinder is 3,500 pounds, while the V6 has a max. rating of 6,800 pounds.

All Tacoma models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes pre-collision warning, lane-departure alert and adaptive cruise control. Also standard are 16-inch steel wheels, sliding rear window, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 4.2-inch driver display screen, composite bed, movable cleat tie-down system, and backup camera fitted in the tailgate release handle,  and Entune infotainment system, which supports Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free voice control. Prices start at $26,000 and climb to more than $44,000.

Tacoma's base 4-cylinder engine is underpowered and best avoided unless you are looking at all urban driving or perhaps dedicated off-road use. Thankfully the V6 is standard in most trim offerings. It provides acceptable performance and significantly greater towing and payload capacity -- plus, it's available with a manual transmission! Though the engine isn't particularly smooth or powerful, but gets the job done with a minimum of fuss.

Toyota boasts about the Taco's off-road ability, and in this case, it's not an empty boast. In TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro trim it would be hard to find a more capable pickup, save the Gladiator. However, at $34,000 for the TRD Off-Road, it is significantly less expensive than the $43,740 Gladiator Rubicon. Tacoma has all the right off-road hardware and it loved for its durability and reputation for reliability. Keep in mind though, Tacoma's 4WD system is a part-time system that's not designed to be used on dry pavement.

EPA numbers for the Tacoma with the V6 are 18 MPG city and 22 MPG highway. The city number matches most competitors, but the highway number falls a few MPGs short. In routine suburban commuting, expect to average close to 20 MPG overall, perhaps just 18 MPG if you spend all day in the city. Like most midsize pickups, the Tacoma runs fine on regular-grade gasoline.

Tacoma is a truck through and through and that comes out most in it's on-road demeanor. In SR5 and Limited trim the ride is mostly comfortable and nicely controlled -- for a pickup. Opting into one of the TRD packages brings quite a bit more ride harshness and bouncing and on-road. Either way, Tacoma isn't a sport truck, rather it is well suited for the typical truck duties of hauling and towing. Steering response is somewhat milquetoast and vague and the brake pedal can be touchy with an empty bed.

Interior noise levels are typical for a midsize truck. Expect some wind and tire noise on the highway. Both engines growl a bit under acceleration -- especially from a stop -- but cruise quietly. There's also noticeable first-gear whine at startup. Thankfully it mellows once the gearbox oil is up to temp.

Tacoma's basic design hasn't changed much in a decade and that forces some compromises. While other midsize trucks have large and well-appointed interiors, the Tacoma is really a slightly scaled up compact pickup -- so, it never feels spacious. At the same time, the interior, boasts a control layout that can best be described as haphazard. Materials are sturdy and functional, but lack the polish found in some newer designs.

The dashboard design seems logical enough. Driver's face a traditional, and quite commonplace, twin dial setup flanking a center information screen. Gauges are legible and nicely lit at night. The center stack is dominated by either a small or large touch screen (depending on option) for the infotainment system -- both of which have separate volume and tuning knobs. Directly below are dials for the climate control system. All good, right? Things get a little complicated from here. The 4WD control switchgear is located in three different locations, including the headliner. There are small, somewhat cryptically marked, buttons below the climate controls, to the left of the steering wheel and that again in the headliner. In all, it takes some familiarization before you comfortable.

The cab is a high step up for a midsize truck and isn't nearly as roomy as most competitors. The design forces a low seating position that has driver and front passenger in a "legs out" posture. The front seats are surprisingly comfortable and well cushioned, but the awkward seating position gets tiring on longer trips. The rear seats in Double Cab models can't match the comfort or roominess found in newer competitors.

Tacoma's 5- and 6-foot beds are pretty much industry standard. (If you are looking for maximum cargo capacity, Ranger has the largest bed in the class.) There's no underbed or floor storage, but the rear seats do fold up to allow for some locked cargo stowage. Interior storage is decent, with a few open and covered bins throughout. The standard composite cargo bed is a nice touch in the class and eliminates the need for a bedliner.

Bottom Line -- Tacoma is a solid pickup in the traditional mold. Strengths include exceptional towing and payload capacities, rugged interior design, forget-about-it reliability, and strong resale value. The tight cabin and uninspired interior are certainly drawbacks. Prices are reasonable and the reputation for quality is unmatched.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.