As the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado proves, there is room in the midsize pickup segment. The Toyota Tacoma was refreshed for 2014 to remain competitive in a class that also includes the Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.
Unlike the Ridgeline, there’s no mistaking the Tacoma for anything but a truck. It comes with a choice of two truck-specific engines, rear- or four-wheel drive and a utilitarian interior. It is available as a two-seater Regular Cab — no longer an option on the Frontier — or a four-seat Access Cab or Double Cab. It also tows up to 6,500 pounds.
And with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 5,500 lbs., the Tacoma can carry plenty of sheetrock in its 6-foot, 1-inch bed; a 5-foot bed is standard on the Double Cab.
The new lineup is powered by a base 2.7-liter four-banger that’s good for 159 horsepower (hp) and 180 pound-feet (lbs.-ft.) of torque. An available 4.0-liter V-6 delivers 236 hp at 266 lbs.-ft. Any configuration can be equipped with four-wheel drive, which adds height to the ride as well as front mudguards and a skid plate.
The X-Runner and T/X models have been discontinued, but the PreRunner returns as a 4x2 with the 4x4 attributes listed above. Regular Cab buyers can choose from a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic; Access and Double Cabs are equipped with a six-speed stick or five-speed auto.
At first glance, the exterior appears largely unchanged. On the front end, the Regular Cab is fitted with a black front bumper and matching fenders; a new, body-color bumper and body-color-framed or chrome-framed grille decorate the Access and Double Cabs.
An available backup camera — installed in the tailgate handle — is among the list of new safety features that also includes braking assistance and six air bags.
The cabin remains an exercise in accommodating heavily gloved hands. The buttons and dials are big, plain and simple. A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard on all models. It can be upgraded to accommodate navigation and mobile apps in the four-seaters.
Further standard equipment includes A/C, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity and a four-speaker CD stereo. Option packages add features such as power windows, locks and mirrors, cruise control and upgraded cloth upholstery — but no leather.
The 2014 Tacoma is in showrooms for a starting MSRP of $21,475.