- Powerful and fuel-efficient engines
- Wide variety of body styles and trims
- Impressive build quality
- Full-size truck utility in a smaller package
- Low seating position
- Spongy brake feel
- V6 gets noisy
If you're looking for a truck that's not quite full-size but not a compact pool cleaner's special either, the 2013 Toyota Tacoma could work out well. As former owners of fuel-thirsty full-size trucks look to downsize without sacrificing utility, the Tacoma not only calms the dread of filling the tank, but also offers smaller dimensions that ease everyday tasks like threading tight parking lots or crowded traffic lanes.
The Tacoma offers multiple body styles, engines, drivetrains, suspensions and trim levels that broaden its appeal from no-frills work truck to comfortable family hauler. What it lacks in full-size work truck capabilities -- ask yourself how often you're going to tow 9,000 pounds -- the Tacoma makes up for with rugged build quality, excellent reliability and modern electronic conveniences like iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and Web-based app integration through Toyota's Entune system.
Buyers can outfit the Tacoma from the most basic single bench seat regular cab to the new well-appointed Limited edition off-road V6 workhorse. For 2013, the Limited edition offers luxuries like premium upholstery and heated front seats, perfect for those who need a midsize truck in colder weather. Those who want a more hard-core off-road machine -- or at least the look of one -- can opt for a Tacoma with the T/X package, while the X-Runner fills the bill for those who simply want a sharp-looking city truck.
The 2013 Toyota Tacoma is a top pick in a rapidly dwindling midsize segment. The cleverly designed 2013 Honda Ridgeline is a good truck for daily light-duty use, but its carlike frame lacks the sturdiness that most truck buyers want. Ford and GM have temporarily left the segment, leaving only the Nissan Frontier as the Tacoma's only serious competition. The Frontier is equally muscular, but its interior isn't as nice or refined.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2013
The 2013 Toyota Tacoma receives a new Limited package but otherwise carries over unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2013 Toyota Tacoma is a midsize pickup truck available with four-cylinder and V6 engines and with rear- and four-wheel-drive drivetrains. The Tacoma is offered with three cab types: Regular Cab, Access Cab (an extended cab with small rear-hinged doors) and four-door Double Cab. Regular and Access Cabs feature a 6-foot bed, while Double Cab models offer a standard 5-foot bed and an optional 6-foot bed.
Standard features on Tacoma Regular Cab base models include 15-inch steel wheels, a limited-slip differential, air-conditioning, a composite bedliner, a bed utility rail system, a cloth bench seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a four-speaker sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, CD player, USB/iPod port and an auxiliary audio jack. Regular Cab 4x4 models add 16-inch wheels, black fenders, an engine skid plate and front and rear mud guards. A sliding rear window is optional on all Regular Cabs.
The base model Access Cab gains upgraded cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, fold-up rear seats with under-seat storage, power locks and windows, a center console and a six-speaker sound system. The entry-level Tacoma Double Cab adds power mirrors, driver seat lumbar adjustment, a 60/40-split rear bench seat and rear seat vents.
Most options are grouped into packages, which can vary by region and drivetrain choices. The Convenience package adds a tinted sliding rear window, keyless entry, cruise control and steering-wheel audio controls to Access Cabs and Double Cabs (Access Cabs also get power mirrors). Several variations of the SR5 package (available on all but Regular Cabs and X-Runner Access Cab) combine items from the Convenience package with features like a chrome grille and rear bumper, foglights, variable-speed wipers, upgraded cloth upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a rearview camera.
The new Limited package includes most of the Convenience and SR5 features and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, upgraded upholstery, heated front seats and a four-way-adjustable driver seat.
Rear-wheel-drive PreRunner versions adopt a rugged off-road look without the increased traction, additional weight or reduced fuel economy of the four-wheel-drive models. The rear-wheel-drive X-Runner adopts a more street-oriented stance with a body kit, hood scoop, 18-inch alloy wheels, lowered sport-tuned suspension and standard V6, plus foglights and an upgraded sound system.
The TRD Off-Road and TRD Sport packages are only available for 4x4 V6 Access and Double Cabs. The Off-Road package includes 16-inch alloy wheels, fender flares, a heavy-duty suspension, a locking rear differential, hill start assist and hill descent control on automatic transmission models, skid plates, sport seats and most items from the SR5 and Convenience packages. The street-oriented Sport package includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a hood scoop, a sport suspension, hill start assist and hill descent control on automatic transmission models, sport seats and most items from the SR5 and Convenience packages.
The T/X and T/X Pro packages infuse V6 Access and short-bed Double Cabs with an even more aggressive off-road look, adding unique black alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, black tube steps and a stainless-steel exhaust tip. The T/X Pro adds to those items a cat-back exhaust and special side graphics.
Double Cabs with V6 engines can also be ordered with an upgraded seven-speaker audio and navigation system that includes HD radio, satellite radio, voice recognition, a rearview camera and Toyota's Entune smartphone integration.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2013 Toyota Tacoma interior isn't fancy and there's a fair amount of hard plastic throughout, but the big cabin is still one of the nicest in this workhouse utility segment. Front bucket seats offer good comfort and support, though some may find them mounted too low to the floor. While the Access Cab's rear jump seats are only fit for small children (and then only in a pinch), the Double Cab's backseat is surprisingly adult-friendly, especially compared to the squished confines of the Nissan Frontier.
In both cases, rear seats flip up or fold down to create protected storage for items you'd rather not leave rolling around in the bed. Enhancing the Tacoma's utility readiness, the bedliner's composite material makes dents and dings a non-issue when hauling furniture, bikes or other materials with hard or pointed edges. The available bed-mounted household-style 115-volt AC outlet should also prove invaluable on camping trips and at tailgate parties.
Standard safety equipment on the 2013 Toyota Tacoma includes antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum) with brake assist, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front active head restraints. Hill-start assist and downhill assist are available on four-wheel-drive models equipped with the automatic transmission.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Tacoma Double Cab came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 126 feet.
In government crash testing, the 2013 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab received an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with three stars for frontal crashes and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tacoma its top rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side crash tests, but a second-to-worst rating of "Marginal" in the roof strength test.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2013 Toyota Tacoma is available with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder or 4.0-liter V6 engine, and a choice of rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Most models come standard with the four-cylinder producing 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on Regular and Access Cab models, while the PreRunner Access and Double Cabs get a four-speed automatic (also available as an option on the two other body styles).
A two-wheel-drive Tacoma with the four-cylinder and five-speed manual returns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. Adding the automatic transmission drops those to 19/24/21. Four-wheel-drive models yield 18 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined regardless of transmission.
A 4.0-liter V6 comes standard with the 4x4 Double Cab and X-Runner, and is optional on the Access Cab and PreRunner Double Cab. The V6 makes 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque and pairs with a standard six-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic.
A two-wheel-drive Tacoma with the V6 and automatic transmission returns an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 19 combined. Four-wheel-drive models yield 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 combined. The manual numbers are slightly worse.
In Edmunds performance testing, a V6 Tacoma Double Cab covered zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds -- suitably quick for a midsize truck. Properly equipped, the Tacoma can tow 6,500 pounds.
Buyers who don't plan to tow heavy loads, or those who just want to save some money out the door, will find the 2.7-liter four-cylinder perfectly acceptable. It isn't especially more fuel-efficient than the brawnier V6, however, which is a better choice for work and play thanks to an abundance of low-range pull.
On pavement, the 2013 Toyota Tacoma's ride quality and handling are decent enough, although models fitted with firmer suspensions can feel jittery pulling an empty bed. Off-road, the four-wheel-drive Tacoma is an exceptional performer. Braking is the only area where the Tacoma comes up merely average. Its stopping power is acceptable, but the soft pedal feel doesn't inspire much confidence.
With multiple configurations and ample ability on- and off-road, the 2013 Toyota Tacoma remains one of the top choices among midsize trucks.