Although the recent arrival of competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline have definitely made their presence known, the Toyota Tacoma remains the dominant player in the midsize pickup market, status it has enjoyed for decades. With a comprehensive makeover for the 2016 model year, the Tacoma further enhanced its appeal by introducing a bolder look, more power and new technology to complement its robust structure, great reliability and outstanding resale value.

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While the return of the TRD Pro model heads up the changes for 2017, we recently checked out a more street-savvy version of the Tacoma and spent a week in a 4x2 Limited Double Cab V6 during which we transported a new desk back from the world’s largest IKEA store which recently opened in Burbank. Our Tacoma time quickly highlighted both positive and negative aspects of this versatile Toyota hauler.

Solid performer

On the upside, the Tacoma Limited continues to impress us with its relatively smooth, comfortable on-road ride. The steering has a positive overall feel with good centering action while the mandatory front-disc/rear-drum brakes provide more than adequate stopping power. Although not the most potent V6 in the segment, the Tacoma’s optional 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, backed by the optional 6-speed automatic, has sufficient poke to let it cope with in-town traffic and freeway passing duties with relative ease. Better still, with its efficiency-tweaking Atkinson Cycle technology, the high-tech six rivals MPG ratings of the Tacoma’s base 2.7-liter 4-cylinder in rear-drive automatic models despite having 119 more horses and 85 lb-ft of extra torque.

Feast and famine of features

Inside, the Tacoma’s cabin merits solid marks for fit, finish and materials as well as being far quieter than in its previous iteration. That said, the Ridgeline does outpoint it with respect to absolute space and comfort. The Tacoma also boasts a new version of Toyota’s Entune touchscreen infotainment, Qi wireless phone charging and available Premium JBL sound system–however, there’s still no support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Also missing, even at leather-lined Limited level, are things like power seats, which can be had in its rivals from GM and Honda as well as the Nissan Frontier or even a manual height adjuster for the driver’s perch. These shortcomings could be legitimate deal-breakers for some potential buyers. While no Ridgeline in scale, the Tacoma’s 60/40 rear seat can accept adults. But like most mid-sizers, it’s better suited to hauling kids. Flip-up lower cushions do allow the Tacoma’s split backs to fold completely flat and there’s hidden stow space below that adds even more utility.

The Tacoma Double Cab is available in a long (73.7-inch) or short (60.5-inch) bed configuration. Our Limited happened to be the latter, which made it far easier to park and maneuver in tight spaces. That said, the box didn’t measure up to the 62.0-inch unit on the Colorado/Canyon (nor the 74.0-inch “long” alternative offered on those trucks) or the Ridgeline’s 64.0-inch bed. Thankfully, we were still able it to get our 59.5-inch desk in with the tailgate closed. But the fit was snug to say the least.

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The 2017 Toyota Tacoma opens at $27,595 for a base 4-cylinder 4x2 SR5 Access Cab, while our Double Cab Limited tester starts at $37,135 and bottom-lined at $37,785. The price includes a $650 V6 Tow Package that ups trailering capability to 6,700 pounds -- better than the Ridgeline’s 5,500-pound max but well short of the 7,700-pound best of a turbodiesel-powered Colorado or Canyon. Although it might not be the perfect answer for everyone, the Tacoma continues to take half of the midsize pickup market. That in itself is an indication Toyota is doing a pretty fair job of keeping its customers satisfied.

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