KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Toyota Tacoma may be the Japanese automaker's smallest pickup, but it has long since left the realm of the compact courier. The Tacoma is the best selling pickup in its segment and dwarfs the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado in every area that counts. Its closest competitors are now the Dodge Dakota and Nissan Frontier and, while worthy opponents, neither can match the Tacoma's long history of reliability and high resale value. Wrapped in muscular, aggressive sheetmetal and touting the most powerful V6 engine ever to grace a small Toyota, the Tacoma has much to offer those who take their pickup trucks seriously.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a capable pickup larger than a Ford Ranger, but not as massive as a Dodge Ram, look into the 2009 Toyota Tacoma. When it comes to reliability in this segment, many organizations rank it at the top of its class.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you've driven the Honda Ridgeline or Nissan Frontier and were impressed by their car-like ride and handling, you might be disappointed that the Tacoma still drives very much like a truck.
What's New for 2009
All Tacoma trucks are now fitted with Toyota's STAR Safety System that adds anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic traction and stability control. Also standard are front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A new Automatic Limited-slip Differential (Auto-LSD) replaces last year's mechanical model and is standard on all trims except for TRD Off-Road Package-equipped vehicles. Access Cab models receive standard power windows and door locks as well as redesigned rear seat.
The Tacoma we tested was a Double Cab, long-bed model equipped with a V6, four-wheel drive, five-speed automatic transmission and the SR5 package that includes an automatic limited-slip differential. Put the pedal to the floor and you can feel and hear the powerful V6 working, conveying a refined sort of ruggedness. On the highway, our Tacoma rode rather nicely, but it almost seemed out of its element negotiating city streets. In general, the Tacoma always felt like it'd be happier hauling or towing something or negotiating rocks in a river. On one hand, that's exactly the attitude many buyers will require for a truck. On the other hand, the Tacoma's competition includes some other very capable trucks that offer a more "car-like" daily driving experience – namely the Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier.
The Tacoma's six-speed manual transmission helps take full advantage of the available 236-horsepower V6.
All Tacomas feature a composite inner bed with built-in storage compartments and four rail-mounted sliding tie-down cleats.
Getting into and out of the 2009 Toyota Tacoma is easy, and the firm seats are designed with pleasant bolstering and adjustability to fit most body types and sizes. Access and Double Cab models now feature active headrests which move up and forward in the event of an accident. A recessed, three-ring instrument cluster looks handsome and is in clear view. Most, if not all of the controls are easy to reach and adjust, and steering wheel-mounted controls for the radio are available. Overall, the mid-size Tacoma feels very roomy. On the Double Cab, the big back doors open up to a back seat as roomy as that in many small sedans.
The 2009 Toyota Tacoma succeeds by blending classic Toyota truck styling with design features of some larger domestic models. Oversized headlamps and a wide trapezoidal grille dominate the Tacoma's assertive-looking exterior and, at a glance, the Tacoma might be mistaken for a domestic truck. The overall exterior of the Tacoma is well done, and an impeccable level of fit and finish is a known characteristic of Toyota products. Double Cab models offer a class-first roof-rack system that attaches to the roof rails. Integrated deck rails found in the bed can be used to secure optional accessories, such as the fork-mounted bike rack and diamond-plate storage boxes. The Tacoma's bed features a protective composite bed liner that is both durable and light.
Notable Standard Equipment
The two-wheel-drive Tacoma's base four-cylinder engine displaces 2.7 liters. Other standard equipment includes an AM/FM CD satellite-ready sound system, auxiliary audio input jack, anti-lock brakes (ABS), front side-impact and side curtain airbags, traction and stability control, tachometer, two instrument panel powerpoints and rear mudguards. Access Cab X-Runner and Double Cab models include bucket seats with center console, power mirrors, power windows and power door locks.
Notable Optional Equipment
Options include the 4.0-liter V6, four-wheel drive, JBL audio with Bluetooth connectivity, the SR5 Packages, which adds color-keyed overfenders and front bumper, chrome grille surround and a chrome rear bumper and the TRD Off-Road Package. Double and Access Cabs can be fit with a new rear backup camera while transmission upgrades from the base five-speed manual include a four-speed automatic, five-speed automatic and six-speed manual. Optional body configurations include Access Cab and Double Cab models, plus a long bed. Hill-start Assist (HAC) is available on V6 models with automatic transmissions. There are also a myriad of TRD parts available including the Big Brake Package and a supercharger.
Under the Hood
Both of the Tacoma's engines, the four-cylinder and the V6, feature Toyota's VVT-i technology (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) that minimizes the compromise between low-end torque and peak horsepower. Combined with a choice of four available transmissions, two- or four-wheel drive, three cab styles and more, Toyota makes it easy to get exactly the pickup you want. Maximum towing and payload capacities are 6,500 pounds and 1,535 pounds, respectively.
2.7-liter in-line 4
159 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
180 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 (2WD, manual), 19/25 (2WD, automatic),
17/22 (4WD, manual)
236 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
266 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/19 (2WD, manual), 17/21 (2WD, automatic), 14/19 (4WD, manual), 16/20 (4WD, automatic)
The 2009 Toyota Tacoma is available in 18 distinct model configurations with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) that ranges from a low of about $16,000 for a two-wheel-drive Regular Cab to more than $30,000 for a nicely-equipped four-wheel-drive long-bed Double Cab model. The Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado cost less, but don't offer as much power or interior room. The Dodge Dakota can match the Tacoma's size and even offers the option of a V8 engine, but its resale values don't come close to the Tacoma's. A look at the Fair Purchase Price will show you the typical transaction price paid for the Tacoma in your area, so be sure to check it out before you begin negotiations. Toyotas are known for their legendary ability to retain value, and the Tacoma is no exception. Kelley Blue Book expects the four-cylinder base models to retain better-than-average residual values, while the V6 Access Cab and Double Cab models should do even better.