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2012 Toyota Tacoma preview: Price is (mostly) right, seating is not

The 2012 Tacoma, with a new front face, should do well in a market emptying itself of rivals. And if you’re planning on working this truck, get the V6.

Published October 28, 2011
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QUEBEC CITY—Canadians love trucks. The top-selling vehicle each year is a pickup and the segment is a fiercely fought one, with manufacturers crowing almost ridiculous torque and towing numbers in an effort to be top dog.

That said, that’s for the full-size variety. The compact truck segment is shrinking, which is why Toyota put a few writers into the 2012 Tacoma alongside a larger press launch for its new Prius V. The Tacoma hasn’t changed all that much; the company was primarily reminding us that it’s now among the last trucks standing.

Ford’s Ranger is gone for 2012, hanging in longer than its sister Mazda B-Series did, and Dodge’s mid-size Dakota has also retired. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon stick around for 2012 but will disappear in favour of a “global” truck that will hit numerous world markets before we get it. About the only current compacts soldiering on are Nissan’s Frontier (the Equator, a Suzuki-badged version of it, never got off the ground) and Honda’s front-wheel-biased, unibody Ridgeline.

Changes to the 2012 Tacoma are in trim. A new front face gives it a 4 Runner-style look, and there are two additional cargo tie-downs in the box. The interior is updated with a new steering wheel and door panels, upgraded stereo, revised centre stack, and on the 44 models, standard USB port, Bluetooth, satellite radio, cruise control and keyless entry.

There are no changes to the driveline or configuration. All models have four doors: the Access Cab has two small rear ones that hinge at the back and can only be operated when the front doors are open, while the Double Cab’s rear doors are hinged at the front and open independently. Engine choices are a 2.7 L four-cylinder that comes with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, or a 4.0 L V6 with six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Both engines come in two- or four-wheel drive, with 44 models offering two bed lengths.

Base prices run from $22,100 to $29,900. The cheapest model is $200 more than in 2011, but prices fall substantially on the upper lines. At $27,900, the 44 Access Cab with V6 and automatic has dropped $2,745 from the 2011 equivalent, while the $29,900 Double Cab is $3,340 less.

The truck still seems pricey, though, especially in its lower levels. The four-cylinder Access Cab 42 I drove would have felt far more satisfying had it been around $18,000, but it was outfitted to $25,000. Even so, it’s at the lower end of the competition. The GM models run $24,045 to $36,670, the Frontier from $24,478 to $40,278, and the Ridgeline from $34,990 to $43,690. That’s much of the battle compact trucks face: in many cases you can get into a full-size for less money.

Tacoma’s base price includes a/c, power locks and windows, cloth seats, six airbags, active front head restraints and electronic stability control.

If you’re planning on working this truck, get the V6. The 159-horsepower four-cylinder is geared for fuel economy and it revs high on hills and the highway. Making 236 horses and 266 lb-ft of torque, the V6 isn’t the most powerful of the pack — the Frontier’s V6 makes 261 horsepower, and GM offers a top-line 300-horse V8 — but it’s a gutsy little power plant nevertheless, going about its business efficiently and quietly.

Towing capacity is 1,587 kg. The V6 can be optioned with a Power Package that increases it to 2,948 kg, but it’s costly: $2,300 for the Access Cab and $2,500 for the Double Cab. It includes a Class IV hitch, trailer sway control, rearview camera, upgraded alternator and better cooling, but also throws in such things as alloy wheels, chrome grille and bumpers, leather-wrapped steering wheel and fancier interior. Why can’t I get just a plain little work truck that can haul more than the base model? And why do auto companies — and they’re pretty much all guilty of this, on both big and small trucks — offer towing packages that don’t add big, extendable towing mirrors? Tow packages should include tow mirrors, period.

The seats are comfortable but the seating position isn’t, due to a high floor and low-set chairs. The standard telescopic steering wheel helped somewhat, but my leg was still too straight and went numb during the day’s drive. (My much taller co-driver had the same complaint, so it wasn’t just my short stature.) The ride is smooth, but there’s too much play in the steering wheel on the highway. These are updated looks on an old-school truck.

Still, Toyota expects to sell about 9,000 of them for 2012. It should do it easily: the upper-line models are priced aggressively, key players have left the market, and those left haven’t been substantially updated in a while either.


Transportation for freelance writer Jil McIntosh was provided by the automaker. Reach her at: jil@ca.inter.net


2012 TOYOTA TACOMA

PRICE: $22,100 — $29,900

ENGINE: 2.7 L four-cylinder, 4.0 L V6

POWER: 159 hp, 180 torque (I4); 236 hp, 266 torque (V6)

FUEL CONSUMPTION: City 11.5, hwy. 8.7 (I4 A/T); City 13.1, hwy 9.8 (V6 A/T)

COMPETITION: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier

WHAT’S BEST: Nice ride, gutsy V6, improved interior

WHAT’S WORST: Seating position, base models seem too pricey

WHAT’S INTERESTING: It’s built in California and Texas

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