Toyota trucks have been known worldwide for years as being indestructible. If you’ve ever seen the BBC TV show Top Gear, then you’ll know how much abuse the Toyota can take and still live to drive home. They’ve sunk it in a lake, set it on fire and put it on top of a building and then blew up the building – and it still runs!!!!
We know that Toyota build dependable cars and trucks – that’s a given. You just have to look at the news to see how many rebel forces use Toyota trucks to overthrow the government. It doesn’t matter what continent they are on – Toyota is the truck of choice.
I had no intentions of overthrowing a government, but I did have to take some stuff to the dump. It was mostly old kitchen cabinets that I had to sledgehammer down to size, so there was no need to get a full-size pickup truck. I’d already road-tested the Dodge Dakota so I didn’t want to get that again.
The Mazda B-series and Ford Ranger are as old as dinosaurs – I’d driven them back in ’91 and they haven’t been updated since then – so they were out. Nissan’s are butt-ugly so that ruled them out. Toyota redesigned the Tacoma three or four years ago, so I thought I’d better grab one of those before a new model comes out soon. It fit the bill perfectly. Fortunately I didn’t need a 4×4, because Toyota didn’t have one available. They didn’t have a V-6 either, so I got stuck with a bare-bones 4-cylinder Access Cab. Oh dear, this ain’t gonna be good.
But wait! It turns out that the base model not only exceeded my expectations, it was perfect in every way – well almost.
Pulling into the parking lot – there it was – boring silver. Ugh. Then I got to see the whole truck – not very attractive I must say. Painted steel wheels. Dinky little tires. Discount-Black bumpers and grill. It got worse. After getting the key I open the door – with…a… key!!! What the….. no key fob? This is a big come-down from the BMW I’ve got to drop off in 10 minutes. So I let my wife drive the Tacoma. Once I’d handed the keys (with a fob) back to BMW, I see my wife with a grin on her face. It turns out she likes the Toyota a LOT better than the over-priced BMW!!
She tells me it feels like the steering is completely disconnected from the front wheels, but otherwise she really likes the truck. The seat is comfortable and even though it’s a 4-banger it goes pretty good. “Surely you jest,” I say to her as I get behind the school bus-sized steering wheel. Hmm the seat is comfy.
The cloth seats are comfortable but could use a little more padding in the lumbar area. Fortunately, they aren’t so bad that they actually induce back pain (something I can’t say about the BMW X5 – previously tested). Over the course of the week we had the Tacoma, neither of us mentioned the seats being the slightest bit uncomfortable. That’s a very rare occurrence, so that goes to prove how comfortable these seats are.
The beltline is quite low, offering a panorama view of the road, but the steering does feel weird. The engine is extremely quiet and its response, although not sluggish – it certainly isn’t going to flatten your eyeballs. I was more than a little surprised to see that the steering wheel tilts and telescopes – that’s something you don’t get in basic vehicles. I was not surprised to see that controls such as audio or climate control buttons on the wheel were completely absent.
Glancing around the interior I noticed that the quality of the plastics used throughout the interior was far better than one would expect in a truck of this caliber. There was even a sunglass holder and garage door opener compartment in the ceiling. Although the glove box could have been bigger, it’s definitely bigger than many other substantially larger trucks.
Out on the roads, the Tacoma behaves more like a luxury SUV than a pickup truck. Visibility is exceptional and Toyota has done a fantastic job of controlling road and wind noise. Cruising at 80 mph (130 km/h), we could only hear a little bit of wind noise coming from the outside mirrors. The 2.7 litre engine is so quiet it was hard to imagine it was a 4-cylinder.
The power steering is over-boosted, resulting in a feeling of being disconnected with the road. The huge steering wheel felt strange at first, but after a couple of days it wasn’t an issue. The suspension is firm-ish but also very forgiving with potholes and road imperfections.
Some pickup trucks have a habit of being bouncy, but the Tacoma is very civilized and smooth, regardless of whether the roads are smooth or bumpy. Because it was a 4×2, the Tacoma was very user-friendly for loading and unloading with the sides of the truck bed being low enough that it made it unnecessary to climb into the bed to retrieve items.
The gauges in the Tacoma are pleasant to look at, with an almost Lexus look to them. You get a nice large speedometer in the middle and a tachometer to the left. The binnacle to the right has the water temperature, fuel gauge and gear selector information.
The audio system sits high on the dash and is nice and easy to operate. If you’re considering this or any other Tacoma, make sure you’re happy with the stereo system or upgrade via the dealership because there’s no way you’ll fit an after-market unit into this truck! The sound system consists of a six-speaker single in-dash CD/MP3 player with AM/FM radio and an auxiliary jack. The sound quality is quite good – much better than expected.
Climbing into the back is actually quite easy, thanks to the rear-hinged mini doors. Obviously, it’s easy to get in and out when the truck is so low to the ground, a 4×4 may be a little bit of a challenge – not sure though. What is a challenge however – is sitting on those tiny little rear seats! My shoulders rested on the upper part of the “seat” while my bum just barely fit on the seat “cushion.”
Bolt-upright would be the best way to describe it, with no room what-so-ever for legs, feet or knees. There are actually two places in the rear for owners to anchor baby seats – good luck with that. Fortunately, the Access Cab isn’t necessarily going to be used to transport humans in the rear – in fact it’s more than likely that it’ll be used for briefcases or gym bags. For that purpose the rear compartment is perfect.
The seat cushions lift up to reveal additional storage compartments for small items. Rear passengers get a couple of drink holders that are clearly marked as “closed container bottle holders.” Front passengers get two drink holders in the center console as well as in each door.
I was quite surprised to see that the Tacoma has a tire pressure monitoring system as standard equipment, along with an engine immobilizer. Standard features also include a six-foot double-walled cargo bed with tie-down cleats and a removable tailgate – it isn’t lockable though.
Obviously you can add such luxuries as air conditioning, power windows/locks and cruise control. There are seven models to choose from, so the possibilities are endless. All Tacoma trucks come with side airbags, roll-sensing curtain airbags, active front head restraints, stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and Brake Assist.
As an everyday vehicle, the Tacoma is hard to beat. It has the big advantages that only a pickup truck can offer, but it had mediocre to very disappointing gas mileage – something that more and more people are becoming concerned about as the cost of gasoline heads into the hemisphere. I previously tested a V-8 Dodge Dakota and would you believe both trucks got the exact same fuel mileage?
The Tacoma is very comfortable to drive in a convenient size – driving in suburbia and parking at Wal-Mart doesn’t become a problem – not like the big Dodge Ram that we saw struggling for several minutes trying to wiggle into a regular parking spot.
So, would I consider buying a Tacoma? You bet! Even though it didn’t have luxuries like power door locks or windows, (you can always add them) we really enjoyed having the Tacoma for the week we had it. The price is good, and if we get the urge to overthrow the government – you know what I’ll be driving ;>)
Toyota’s usual outstanding build quality
Mickey Mouse back seat
Deplorable fuel economy – on-par with a full-size truck
Back Seat Driver Test: 4 out of 10
“Get me outta here!!”
Dodge Dakota Ext. Cab, Ford Ranger SuperCab, Mazda B-Series Cab Plus
By The Numbers…
Pricing for the 2009 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
Powertrain: 2.7L 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder VVTi; 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive; RWD
Horsepower (Kw): 118 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque (N.m.): 244 @ 3,800 rpm
0-100 kph: Didn’t bother testing
Curb Weight: 1,592 kg
Cargo Capacity: N/A
Towing capacity: 1,587 kg
City: 10.5 L/100 kms // Highway: 7.8 L/100 kms
I averaged 14.6 L/100 kms during combined driving.
Copyright © 2009 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published at: Automobilsports.com