The Toyota Tacoma has long been an enduring benchmark in the mid-size pickup ranks thanks to its value, capability, and quality. Its grip on the throne has been unchallenged. Still, these days even the king of mid-size pickups is facing dissent from a resurgent pool of entries like the radically updated Nissan Frontier, an expanding Ford Ranger family, and the updated Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Can the Toyota Tacoma maintain its hold on the throne?
Lightly Updated Styling Retains Core Tacoma DNA
The Tacoma’s exterior styling was updated back in 2020. As a result, the changes in this regard are mostly limited to color selection and minor mechanical upgrades with Off-Road Editions like our tester getting access to Lunar Rock (a TRD Pro exclusive color.) Our example wasn’t ready to go to space, but it did wear the battle-ready Army Green paint scheme, which went well with its chunky all-terrain tires and handsome 16-inch alloy wheels.
Off-Road Editions benefit from a slight suspension lift that improves ground clearance. However, it’s still a noticeable boundary between it and the all-out TRD Pro model, which received a trim exclusive Electric Lime paint scheme for 2022. That said, the Off-Road Edition still retains a firm foundation with the front fascia featuring LED DRLs, a prominent chrome front grille, and chunky angles to further promote its brawny undertones. The side profile leads out to the 5.0 ft bed where a graphics package and sporty-looking taillights attempt to inject some fun into the Taco’s utilitarian clothes.
Overall, it allows the Tacoma to be a noticeable presence still. Still, the net is getting tighter with the Nissan Frontier’s styling doing a better job of preparing it for the future. At the same time, the next-generation Colorado promises to be a more athletically focused offering that could step on the Tacoma’s shoes.
Utilitarian Interior Lags Behind Rivals
The Toyota Tacoma originally started life as a utilitarian offering, and while we will respect Toyota for sticking to its roots, the truck market has evolved, and some of our tester’s interior quirks came back to haunt it during its time with us. The cabin’s design itself is very functional; cheap plastics and questionable material choices serve as reminders of a bygone era.
A bigger problem is storage, with our tester having very few places for interior storage beyond the center bin and glovebox. Some of its rivals incorporate more cubbies and nooks for passengers to store their things, but none of those things are to be found here in the Toyota. That restrictiveness also bleeds over into passenger space, with the cramped rear seats of the Double Cab (crew cab in Toyota speak) being an uncomfortable place for passengers to spend time in. That said, Toyota finally gave the truck a power-adjustable driver’s seat, which is a nod to making the truck more premium. However, passengers will still have to work with a fully manual throne to dial in their preferred seating setup.
With that aside, we’ll give the Tacoma points for offering a touchscreen infotainment system across the entire trim lineup. Lower trims get a 7.0-inch unit, but higher trims like the Off-Road Edition get a bigger 8.0-inch unit with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa functions. The Tacoma also gets several USB ports and a wireless phone charging pad, but unlike the Colorado, the Tacoma still does not have a mobile wireless hotspot which prevents it from having true on-the-go WiFi capability. A 360-degree backup camera is also included for good measure.
V6 Performance Defines Tacoma Driving Experience
The Tacoma offers two engines, but in the Off-Road Edition, motivation comes exclusively from a 3.5 liter naturally aspirated V6, which is good for 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is more powerful than the base four-cylinder. Still, buyers sacrifice hauling capability to achieve this power with our truck’s 1,395 payload capacity being less than the four cylinder’s 1,685 lb rating.
A six-speed automatic is the lone transmission available on the Off-Road Edition, and not only did it deliver smooth shifts out on the trail, but it also helped our tester achieve 24 mpg on the freeway. That’s a smidge lower than some of its rivals, but the Tacoma is still in a competitive slice of the market with these numbers. Handling is meant for the trail and when the Taco is unleashed on pavement, the pitchy body roll and lost in thought steering do little to inspire confidence when taking the occasional sharp corner.
Braking in our tester was stable with minimal nose dive. Toyota spared no expense when it came to safety equipment. Our tester came equipped with a comprehensive safety package that includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automated emergency braking, and even forward collision warning. This level of safety is a welcome addition and makes the Tacoma an excellent first choice for a new driver while also delivering peace of mind to other buyers.
Pricing for the 2022 Toyota Tacoma lineup covers a wide range of buyers and their budget needs, but buyers looking to secure an Off-Road Edition model will be greeted with a base price of $37,855. Choosing the Double Cab and 5.0 ft bed combination like our truck pushes that up to $39,140. Mixing in various options helped push our rig’s final sticker to just over $42,000, roughly equivalent to a similarly equipped Nissan Frontier and GMC Canyon.
It also shines a spotlight on some of the aging hardware that’s still prevalent in the Tacoma and the fact that the truck’s design has not radically shifted in the face of evolving competition. Toyota’s banking on the notion that the Tacoma’s familiarity will serve as a potent buying point for consumers in the near future. However, it’s only a short-term solution, and Toyota engineers will have to eventually take a more aggressive approach towards updating it to help it keep its spot as the benchmark of the mid-size pickup segment.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.