2020 Toyota Tacoma Review
  • Car Review

2020 Toyota Tacoma Review

By Autolist Staff | May 11, 2020

Pros:

  • A wide range of trims and drivetrains appeal to many buyers.
  • TRD trims have serious off-road capability.
  • Reliability and resale value are among the best-in-class.

Cons:

  • Jarring ride quality can turn some buyers off.
  • Fuel efficiency struggles to keep up with the pack.
  • Powertrain refinement and performance are lacking compared to competitors.

Summary

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck that has been available in the United States since 1995. For the 2020 model year, Toyota gave the Tacoma a slight refresh and some added features previously unavailable such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, added power seat adjustment options, and additional optional off-road cameras on certain trim levels. The Tacoma is currently in its third generation of production.

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While it's a midsize model, some consider the Tacoma to be a compact truck; however, it is much better equipped and larger compared to the truly small trucks for sale in the 1980s, '90s, and early 2000s. Full-size trucks like the Toyota Tundra, Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado are larger and more popular, but the Tacoma and its competitors have upped their game to tighten the gap and size differential between their larger pickup truck siblings.

The Tacoma competes against the Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline, and Jeep Gladiator. The midsize truck segment continues to be a highly competitive one, but the Tacoma has remained at the top of the sales leaderboard.

Thanks to a redesign in 2016, the Tacoma offers buyers a wide range of trims, improved standard and optional features for the 2020 model year, slightly refreshed styling, and its stellar reputation for quality and resale value.

There are others in the segment that can tow more, offer more space, and perform better, but the Tacoma’s excellent overall packaging is enticing to truck buyers who do not need the space and price tag that a full-size truck brings to the table.

Exterior

TLDR: The lack of “swoopy” lines give the Tacoma a serious look while TRD models benefit from enhanced exterior and off-road-focused components.

Some people feel the Tacoma is not the most attractive vehicle on the market, but most buyers looking for a midsize truck will likely appreciate its hardy style. Its overall boxy shape gives it a mature and more rugged look compared to the smoother and softer lines of competitors like the Ford Ranger and Honda Ridgeline.

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Its front fascia is upright with a very high approach angle. The large grille may look overpowering and out of place on a smaller vehicle, but on the Tacoma, it makes the truck look firmly in charge. Higher off-road-focused trim levels have the word “Toyota” spelled out across the grille, and a skid plate gives the Tacoma a true off-road-ready look. Lower trim models have an air dam that hangs from the bumper, providing a slightly more civilized look.

The rear of the truck is nothing more than average with a no-frills side exit exhaust and everything else one might expect to see in the back of a pickup truck.

The side profile is also fairly uninteresting with straight lines, boxy wheel wells, and an upright cabin. TRD off-road models with beefier tires and components make the truck look almost Jeep-like, not a bad thing considering its off-road ability. The Tacoma also has high ground clearance, which clearly shows from the side.

Interior Quality and Comfort

TLDR: Interior quality and comfort are both improved from previous generations but still fall behind the segment leaders.

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Reviewers note that high-quality materials, well-built and well-fitted parts, and a simple, clean design all contribute to a much better interior feel than in previous years. The Tacoma has always focused more on utility than design, but with the addition of an updated infotainment system and several other features for 2020, reviewers agree that it is much more competitive than it has been.

Being a truck, reviewers are unsurprised that the overall ride quality is fairly harsh. The seats are noted to be supportive and reasonably comfortable considering the suspension setup, particularly in the off-road-focused models. The back seats are more cramped than competitors with a little less than 33 inches of legroom.

Cabin ergonomics and layout are said to be good. Its simplicity and easily-manipulated controls are straightforward and usable, according to testers.

One particular complaint of the past has been the strange seating position for a truck, but almost every tester agrees that the addition of the updated power seating option allows for more flexibility and support, which improves this less than ideal aspect of the Tacoma.

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Utility & Practicality

TLDR: Towing capacity, interior space, and hauling fall behind the competition but true all-around capability leads the pack.

The Tacoma’s overall packaging makes it one of the most utilitarian and practical pickup truck in its class. Its various trim levels and options further improve its capability and what it can provide to buyers.

Available with both four-cylinder and six-cylinder engine options, the larger V6 engine offers better towing and hauling capability (it's also much more common). The Tacoma can tow a maximum of 6700 pounds and can haul a maximum of just over 1600 pounds, both of which fall behind several competitors.

Ground clearance is good for the class at 9.4 inches. This, coupled with the off-road features that come with some trim levels, means the Tacoma stays competitive against its rivals in terms of its true capability. The Nissan Frontier Pro-4X offers similar off-road capability but can’t compete with the Tacoma’s higher-quality interior, towing capacity, hauling capacity, or ground clearance.

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Though the Tacoma offers a quad-cab four-door layout for better access and adequate space for a family of four, its high ground clearance proves difficult for some passengers’ entry, according to testers. Rear legroom is also tight for the class with the Honda Ridgeline and Chevrolet Colorado offering more.

Even though towing and hauling capacity is lower than some competitors, the Tacoma is available in both long – 6 feet –and short bed – 5 feet – versions for more versatility. Four-wheel-drive is offered on most trim levels, a feature that is expected for the class and very useful for more serious off-roading.

Technology & Infotainment

TLDR: The Tacoma benefits from an updated infotainment system and a good set of standard technology equipment.

Toyota’s refresh of the Tacoma has helped its image. It now has added interior features which give it more creature comforts than before, and its newly updated Entune infotainment system with a standard 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa has been sorely missed by reviewers and customers until this 2020 model year.

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Other standard technologies and infotainment features include daytime running lights, air conditioning, two USB ports, a six-speaker audio system, voice recognition, and Bluetooth, and a rearview camera.

Additional features on higher trim levels and various package options include an 8-inch touchscreen, remote keyless entry, JBL premium audio system, a navigation system, satellite radio, HD radio, rear parking sensors, moonroof, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a locking rear differential, multi-terrain management system, craw control, LED headlights, LED foglights, and a multi-view monitor for off-road use.

Safety & Driving Assistance

TLDR: Safety is rated highly among midsize pickup trucks, and driver assistance is ahead of many competitors.

The Tacoma comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, which includes lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, and automatic high beam headlights. Other standard safety features include stability control, traction control, advanced airbags, side airbags, brake assist, ABS, and active head restraints.

Other safety features on higher trim levels and option packages include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sonar, and active traction control.

The NHTSA gave the 2020 Toyota Tacoma a safety rating of four stars out of five stars overall while the IIHS gives the Tacoma a 'Good' overall rating. The four-door crew cab earns a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS award when equipped with LED headlights. According to the IIHS, the 2020 Tacoma is only the third pickup truck to earn a Top Safety Pick.

Driving Experience

TLDR: Driving experience can be a weakness of the Tacoma, yet many pickup truck buyers will prioritize utility, practicality, and reliability.

Though many truck buyers may not care as much about driving experience as car buyers, trucks such as the Honda Ridgeline, GMC Canyon, and Ford Ranger offer a more car-like ride. Reviewers do agree that the Tacoma feels slightly more planted around corners than other competitors because of the stiffer ride but that the engine options Toyota offers feel dated and sluggish compared to others in the class.

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The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is offered with two different engine options, two transmission options, and either rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel drive.

The first of two engine choices is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes standard on the two lowest Tacoma trims.

The second engine option offered on the Tacoma is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. This engine is optional on the two lowest Tacoma trims and standard on the rest of the trim levels.

Rear-wheel-drive is standard on trims that also come standard with the four-cylinder engine while four-wheel-drive is standard on all other trim levels.

All TRD trim levels come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and the two lowest trim levels plus the Limited come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Reviewers’ most common complaint about the Tacoma driving experience is its performance. Most agree that the four-cylinder’s engine output is barely adequate. The V6 option adds much-needed acceleration, but the dated six-speed transmission lets down whatever power might be there for either engine choice. Testers much prefer the six-speed manual transmission, not only for its better overall functionality but also for its added fun factor.

Braking is adequate, according to testers.

A high point for reviewers is the surprisingly responsive steering and the feedback it gives. Though it does not make up for the lack of overall performance, reviewers agree that the suspension and steering combination allows the Tacoma to feel quite nimble for a truck.

For general use, the Tacoma does just fine, like many other Toyotas. Some reviewers note that normal around-town driving may be unpleasant for some due to the harsh ride, but that this should not necessarily be unexpected for a pickup truck. Many rivals provide a better ride and better overall performance.

Fuel Efficiency

TLDR: The Tacoma falls to rivals because of its outdated V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission combination.

Though many people do not buy a pickup truck for its stellar fuel economy, the Tacoma falls behind rivals in its fuel efficiency. Many reviewers cite the unrefined transmission and older engine design as the main reason for this.

When equipped with the four-cylinder engine, rear-wheel-drive, and the six-speed automatic transmission, the Tacoma returns EPA estimates of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway. Adding four-wheel-drive bumps both of those figures down by one mile per gallon.

The base Tacoma with the V6 engine actually returns similar fuel economy numbers when equipped with rear-wheel drive and the automatic transmission: 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.

Opting for four-wheel-drive while keeping the automatic transmission brings those numbers down to 18 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on the highway.

The manual transmission and four-wheel drive option reduce these figures by one mile per gallon, and moving to the heavier double cab reduces highway efficiency further by one mile per gallon.

For comparison, the Ford Ranger, not available with a V6 engine, is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 miles per gallon on the highway. The Honda Ridgeline, equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and all-wheel-drive, returns 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 miles per gallon on the highway.

Trim Levels & Pricing

TLDR: Extensive trim levels and option packages allow the Tacoma to be extremely versatile and hit nearly any price point.

The Toyota Tacoma offers buyers a very diverse range of cab, bed, and powertrain options along with a large number of trim levels compared to other vehicles.

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The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive, and six-speed automatic transmission are standard on the bottom two trim levels of the Tacoma. The larger V6 engine and four-wheel drive are optional for the lowest trim model Tacomas, but the manual transmission is not available.

The V6 engine, along with four-wheel-drive, comes standard on the remaining four trim levels. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard on all but the Limited trim – the second-highest offered by Toyota. A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard on the Limited trim, and the remaining three trim levels are more rugged TRD trims.

All trim levels are available as a four-door double cab. All trims with the exception of the top-level Limited and TRD Pro trims are also available as a two-door access cab. The same can be said about the bed options. All trim levels are available with a 5-foot long short bed. The Limited and TRD Pro trims are only available with the short bed option while the remaining trim levels come with the 6-foot long bed.

All Tacomas come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, which includes lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and automatic high beam headlights.

The Toyota Tacoma is available in six different trim levels:

Toyota Tacoma SR: The base model Tacoma SR access cab starts at an MSRP of $26,050. A destination fee of $1120 brings the total starting price to $27,170. Changing from the access cab to the double cab without engine upgrades adds just over $850 to the MSRP. Upgrading to the V6 engine to the access cab adds just over $2260 to the MSRP. Adding four-wheel-drive to the access cab adds about $3000 to the MSRP.

In total, a base Tacoma SR equipped with four-wheel-drive, a double cab, and the V6 engine raises the price to $33,435 with the destination fee included. The SR trim is only available with the short bed option when equipped with the V6 engine, four-wheel-drive, and double cab.

Standard equipment on the SR trim includes a six-speaker audio system, Entune infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, three USB ports, 16-inch wheels, cargo bed tie-downs, lockable tailgate, sliding rear window glass, front skid plates, manually-adjustable driver’s seats, and hill assist control.

Package options available on the SR include the SR Convenience Package, which features remote keyless entry and the Utility Package, only available on the four-cylinder access cab. Adding this package removes the rear seats and sliding rear window and adds black door handles, mirror caps, and bumpers. Additionally, the SX Package includes the black door handles, mirrors, and bumpers from the Utility Package and adds black wheels. A tonneau bed cover is available as a standalone option.

Toyota Tacoma SR5: The access cab Tacoma SR5 with rear-wheel-drive and four-cylinder engine starts at $28,945 with the destination fee included. Tacoma SR5 models equipped with the V6 engine upgrade, four-wheel-drive, double cab, and long bed come to $36,810 with the destination fee included. Unlike the SR trim, which does not come with a long bed-double cab option, a short bed double cab SR5 can be equipped for $500 less.

Standard equipment on the SR5 includes an upgraded 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and remote keyless entry. An automatically-dimming rearview mirror comes standard on V6 models as well.

Option packages include the SR5 Appearance Package. It features gray alloy wheels and color-matching wheel arches. A tonneau bed cover also remains optional in addition to front and rear mudguards for four-cylinder models that have the appearance package. A premium audio system with navigation and HD radio is also optional.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport: The Tacoma TRD Sport is the lowest TRD trim and the lowest trim level to offer the V6 engine as standard. It has a starting price of $33,865 with the destination fee included. Adding four-wheel-drive also adds the ability to get the six-speed manual transmission. This brings the total starting price to $35,840, including the destination fee.

Standard features on the TRD Sport include LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 120-volt bed power outlet, wireless device charging, 10-way power driver’s seat, and TRD sport-tuned suspension.
Optional equipment includes LED headlights and fog lights, Premium audio systems with Dynamic Navigation, the Premium Sport Package, TRD Premium Package, and the Technology Package.

The Premium Package is only available on the access cab and includes heated front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control. The TRD Premium Sport Package is also only available on the access cab and includes everything from the Premium Package along with the premium audio and dynamic navigation option. The Technology Package includes additional safety features such as rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and Parking Sonar.

Premium Packages added to automatic transmission Tacomas with the double cab option also add a moonroof and JBL premium audio system. TRD Premium Sport Packages add leather-trimmed seats in addition to the Premium Package options. Manual transmission Tacomas with the Premium Package also adds leather seats to the dual-zone climate control and premium audio.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road: The lowest Tacoma TRD Off-Road trim comes with rear-wheel-drive and a double cab and starts at $35,200 with destination included.

It includes 16-inch machined alloy wheels, power-sliding rear window, Smart Key system, automatic-dimming rearview mirror, locking rear differential, and Bilstein shocks with TRD off-road suspension.

The Premium and Technology Packages remain optional, as well as a power moonroof. Four-wheel-drive Tacomas also comes with a multi-terrain camera monitor as well as the JBL premium sound system as optional equipment. The Advanced Technology Package is available on four-wheel-drive double cab Tacomas which automatically adds the multi-terrain camera system and rear parking sonar system.

Toyota Tacoma Limited: The lowest-priced Tacoma Limited also comes in rear-wheel drive and a double cab but is also the most comfortable and luxurious Tacoma offered. It starts a $39,910 and offers a V6 engine, automatic transmission, and double cab option only.

Standard features on the Tacoma Limited include LED headlights and fog lights, power moonroof, 360-degree top-down camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, JBL premium audio with dynamic navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and rear parking sonar.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is the top trim level Tacoma available but is not as comfortable or luxurious as the Tacoma Limited. Like the Limited, it is only available as a double cab but is also available with a six-speed manual transmission, unlike the Limited. It starts at $45,080 with the destination fee included.

Special TRD Pro black alloy wheels, upgraded skid plate, multi-terrain camera system, TRD pro-specific leather seating and other TRD Pro-specific interior touches, active traction control, special TRD Pro cat-back exhaust, crawl control, and TRD Pro-tuned suspension with Fox coil-over shocks come standard.

Optional Desert Intake Package and special TRD Pro graphics are optional extras.

Fully-loaded, the most costly TRD Tacoma models will cost around $59,000.

Value

TLDR: The Tacoma’s best-in-class resale value, many trim options, and extensive options allow it to be a high-value proposition for buyers.
For a midsize pickup truck with such a stellar reputation as the Tacoma, it offers good value for the money. Even though its driving dynamics, towing capacity, hauling capacity, fuel economy and interior are not the best-in-class, its combination of all these elements, as well as its extensive list of features, trims, and bed options, allows it to be the best-selling pickup truck in the midsize pickup truck segment.

Reviewers give it subpar ratings for its ride quality, worse-than-average fuel economy numbers, and lackluster performance, but the Tacoma does well enough for itself in every day driving situations to remain relevant in the highly-competitive segment in which it lives. Its recent refresh for 2020 helps bring its styling, interior and features score up to par with some competitors.

Compared to the dated Nissan Frontier, the Tacoma is much more modern and offers many more features. When compared to the Honda Ridgeline, Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, and GMC Canyon, the Toyota Tacoma offers a better truck-like experience while being nearly as practical. This is ultimately why the Tacoma continues to succeed.

Even though reviewers are generally pleased with just about everything the Tacoma brings to the table, it still has its downfalls, just like every other vehicle on the market. Despite this, it still brings good value to the table with its plentiful standard features and abundant options.

More Photos

See more 2020 Toyota Tacoma Photos.