Toyota teased the 2020 Tacoma on Twitter ahead of its 2019 Chicago Auto Show reveal. Normally, Toyota would not change much. The Tacoma is a charming, capable off-roader. New Tacomas sell like crazy. Used Tacomas have absurd resale values. The company has owned the midsize truck segment. With sales up 24 percent in 2018, Toyota’s major Tacoma issue was producing enough of them to meet demand. Why take any risks?
Moving forward, however, that paradigm for Toyota may change. Big Three automakers are coming after the Tacoma’s market share. Chevy has a well-regarded competitor with the Colorado ZR2. Ford plans to resurrect the Ranger this year. Jeep is launching the Gladiator as well. The off-road-oriented midsize truck segment will get much more competitive.
The Tacoma is charming. But, it’s far from perfect. Here are a few weaknesses Toyota should address if changes move beyond what appear to be new headlights.
The Automatic Transmission
Most new trucks have modern, intuitive automatic transmissions. The Tacoma’s six-speed automatic is dated and brutal. It exacerbates the mediocre V6 powertrain, which is the bigger engine. The Tacoma accelerates and climbs with the verve of a just woken teenager. Highway passing is an unpredictable adventure. The persistent low rev upshifting for fuel economy does not improve fuel economy that much. Thankfully, Toyota has kept the six-speed manual as an option.
Lack of Luxury
Toyota builds trucks to be durable. Tacomas in their natural offroad habitat must be easy to clean. Still, the Tacoma veers too hard toward the utilitarian, airport terminal end of the spectrum. There’s a lot of cheap plastic. Even cheaper materials could look smarter with a bit of styling. Toyota could raise the luxury a bit at the top end to match the competition. If a Volkswagen feels like an Audi inside, the Tacoma feels like what should be a much older Toyota. Power seats are something to get excited about.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Toyota has been futzing around with its proprietary Entune infotainment app suite through multiple generations. Like every proprietary automaker system, the setup is wonky and the functionality is minimal. The device in every potential buyer’s pocket will always be simpler and more capable. Toyota has been a notable laggard about adding Apple Carplay and Android Auto when that is all customers want or need.
Confined space can charm in your impeccably restored British roadster. It should not be an endearing quirk of your brand new truck. The dual cab gets crowded quickly with multiple adults and an infant car seat. A Tacoma does not need to be cavernous, but it could be more comfortable. And, hey, a little extra storage wouldn’t hurt either.