By Allyson Harwood
KBB Expert Rating: 9.0
Toyota practically owns the midsize truck segment – half the midsize trucks sold in the U.S. are Tacomas. It's no wonder why. The Tacoma has a solid reputation based on excellent capability, reliability and an inherent tough-as-nails demeanor. Yet new rivals have been introduced in this once-stagnant segment, and now the Tacoma faces tough competition from the refined Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, as well as the Nissan Frontier. For 2016, Toyota has built upon what Tacoma fans like about the truck, while improving key features like fuel efficiency, noise levels in the cab, and overall refinement. It all comes to market wrapped in bold, attractive new styling.
The Toyota Tacoma is highly versatile, with proven off-road capability and the best payload capacity in its class. Buyers can choose from two engines, two cabs, two bed lengths and 2- or 4-wheel drive, plus the new Tacoma is much easier to park in a garage than a full-size truck.
The Tacoma is not the most fuel-efficient truck in its class, nor does it offer the best towing capacity. Also, for those who need to tow more or carry heavy equipment in the truck bed than a midsize can handle, a full-size truck makes more sense.
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Toyota's midsize truck is essentially all new, with new styling, a new V6 engine and transmission, a more refined and quieter interior, more capability, and new features, including Crawl Control to make off-roading even easier.
We drove a 2016 Toyota Tacoma V6 Double Cab, backed by the all-new 6-speed automatic transmission. The new drivetrain offers more power while also improving fuel economy. Acceleration is strong...
... and steady, and while mashing the throttle won't snap your head back, there is a clear improvement in power over the 2015 model. Changes to the suspension plus tweaks to the frame make the 2016 Tacoma feel more planted and more stable on-road. Handling feels better, and the ride is comfortable and compliant. The brakes, still discs in front and drums in the rear, feel confident and linear. The cabin is much quieter, and has a fresh new look. However, whether you opt for the SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road or Limited, you will not be getting power seats – they are unavailable. Off-road, the new Tacoma is tough and highly capable, and the optional Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select make trail adventures a snap.
With Crawl Control, with the truck in low range, you set the system's speed, and it manages acceleration and braking. All you need to focus on is steering. Multi-Terrain Select automatically matches the type of ground you want to cover (snow, ruts, etc.) to the proper transmission, throttle and brake settings.
Hidden spots underneath the back seats serve as good places to stow small items you'd rather keep out of view. If you want a flat cargo area in the cabin, fold down the rear seats. The seatbacks are flat and covered in plastic, creating a handy shelf.
The Tacoma gets an all-new modern refined interior for 2016, with new, high-quality materials, new seats (and a new seating position) and a bevy of cool available features. Items like push-button start and a moonroof option are segment firsts. There's also a handy multi-information display, where you can look at fuel economy, outside temperature, and even off-road info, such as the trail mode the Tacoma is in and the angle the Tacoma is at when on a steep hill. The new Tacoma also comes with a new version of Entune, the connectivity and entertainment control center, and Qi wireless charging.
While you can tell this is still a Tacoma, new styling cues like LED daytime running lights and an exterior design inspired by Toyota's off-road race history set it apart from past trucks. There are five trim levels – SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited – each of which gets different front-end styling. The bed is still composite-lined and contains two useful storage bins, but is now deeper so it can carry more cargo. The tailgate is damped for easier opening and locks for added security. A 3-piece hard tonneau cover is available for the first time.
Standard equipment includes a rearview camera, a basic version of Entune connectivity, an automatic limited-slip differential, eight airbags, a lockable tailgate, adjustable tie-down cleats in the bed, 16-inch wheels, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. All new Tacomas come with rear drum brakes (rear disc brakes are not offered on any trim level) and manually adjusted seats (no Tacoma is available with power seats). One exclusive on all 2016 Tacoma trucks, however, is a mount for a GoPro camera.
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma is available with equipment that adds to the truck's off-road prowess, as well as features that highlight the higher level of refinement of the truck for 2016. On the tough-truck side of the list are Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control, a hard tonneau cover, and helpful items like rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Creature comforts include push-button start with Smart Key, Qi wireless charging, a tilt-and-slide moonroof, leather seats, Entune with a full App suite, a JBL sound system, and heated seats.
The Tacoma comes with either an inline-4 or a V6. The 4-cylinder is the same as it was last year, and is less expensive than the V6, but the V6 has significantly more power (and more towing capacity) while also having fuel economy that's similar to – or in one case, better than – that of the 4-cylinder. You can get either engine with the Access Cab (extended cab) or Double Cab (4-door) models, but if you want a manual transmission, that's only offered in the 4-wheel-drive trucks.
159 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
180 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy (estimated): 19/23 mpg (2-wheel drive automatic), 19/22 mpg (4-wheel drive, automatic), 19/21 mpg (4-wheel drive, manual)
278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
265 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy (estimated): 19/24 mpg (2-wheel drive automatic), 18/23 mpg (4-wheel drive, automatic), 17/21 mpg (4-wheel drive, manual)
Pricing for the 2016 Toyota Tacoma starts just over $24,200 for the SR Access Cab with the 4-cylinder engine. For a 4-wheel-drive Limited Double Cab with the V6, the price starts at about $38,800. While the base price is higher than that of the Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the new Tacoma comes with a lot of impressive standard equipment. Pricing of its higher trim levels falls in line with the price of competitors' trucks. And Toyotas are the gold standard when it comes to resale value.