Toyota's minitruck has been such an icon and strong seller it's ironic that it took until 1995 for it to get a popular name. This sixth-generation minitruck continued a trend started in 1964 for Toyota reliability and durability, with an added twist: The Tacoma is now built in Fremont, California, which absolutely qualifies as an American factory.

The new Tacoma received significant refinements, including a revised chassis--now with rack-and-pinion steering in place of the old recirculating-ball setup--whose aggressively styled body was a tad longer. Wheelbases remained the same, however, at 121.9 inches for extended-cab versions and 103.3 inches for the shorties. Initially, two cabs were offered: the two-lads-only regular cab and a still two-door (but five-belt) Xtracab. In 2001, Toyota introduced a four-door version called the Double Cab, which rode on the same wheelbase as the long models, meaning it comes with an extremely short bed.

A front-end rework in 1997 gave the two-wheel-drive trucks a face similar to the T100's; the next year, the 4WD models got the same treatment. In 1998, it received a new 4WD package, developed by TRD, Toyota's racing arm; at the same time, a 2WD truck with many of the TRD underpinnings arrived as the PreRunner. A sport version of the 2WD/V-6 combo called the S-Runner arrived in 2001. (And this is just the tip of the iceberg for the possible combinations of engine, driveline, and options.)

Throughout its run, the Tacoma came with three engine choices. The base 2.4-liter inline-four is for only two-wheel-drive versions, and offers 142 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel-drive versions get a 2.7-liter four (also a DOHC design) with 150 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Optional on either driveline is a 3.4-liter DOHC V-6 with 190 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque--a lot more punch for a minimal ding in fuel economy. All three engines can be backed by a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

Toyota's reputation for quality has made the Tacoma more valuable in the used market than comparable minitrucks; that, and the Tacoma's higher initial price. Good thing the maintenance outlook is cheery, with little of the widespread kvetching you hear from, say, Dakota owners, though prices for replacement items reflect Toyota's gold-plated reputation. At any rate, you're not just paying for the name--you can get a solid truck, to boot.

1994-2004 Toyota Tacoma
Body type 2- or 4-door pickup
Drivetrain Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Driver, passenger
Base engine 2.4L/142-hp DOHC I-4
Optional engines 2.7L/150-hp DOHC I-4;3.4L/190-hp DOHC V-6
Brakes, f/r Disc/drum, optionalall-wheel ABS (std in 2003)
Price range, wholesale/retail $2746/$5033 (1995 regular cab 2WD)(per IntelliChoice)
$16,202/$21.971 (2003 Double Cab 4WD)
Recalls96V129000 cracking front suspension support; 95V195001 defective original-equipment battery; 96E001000 cranky cruise control; 98V188000 add airbag defeat switch warning to owner's manual; 01E041000 defective dealer-installed trailer wiring harness; 03V189000 damaged fuel-inlet hose
NHTSA frontal impactBest: 4 stars/4 stars (1999) rating, driver/pass Worst: 1 star/3 stars (1997)
What's Hot
Superior build quality and reliability
Great V-6 engine always available with a manual
Aggressive but not outlandish styling

What's Not
High prices compared with other minitrucks
Rough ride on base models
No extra doors on extended-cab models
  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • View Full Article