The people who buy and drive trucks are quite possibly the most demanding of their vehicles. As the ones most other people call to help move large and bulky items, or owners of businesses that require vehicles to handle situations such as moving, landscaping, and other high-use industries, they need something that’ll get the job done with little downtime and as few problems as possible.
Which is exactly the kind of truck the current (2005-2011) Toyota Tacoma is. Despite being classified as a small truck, it is more than capable of getting the job done and is surprisingly versatile, especially when you choose the crew cab + long bed combination. It has seating for 5 people with a 5.5 foot bed behind the cab, so you won’t be left wanting for space. As for payload, the 2005 model with the available V6 has a 1,150lb rating for the bed and a 6,500lb rating for trailers.
Such a vehicle, however, is surprisingly large for an offering in the ‘small’ truck market. At 221.3 inches long, it matches the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche exactly when it comes to length, which can be a major downside for people searching this particular segment. On the plus side, the added length does give better stability while towing or hauling large, heavy loads.
The backseat, while roomier than others in the segment, can be a bit claustrophobic on lengthier trips. The angle of the backrest can cause soreness, and the lack of headroom leaves much to be desired. However, unlike the crew cab configurations of Nissan’s Frontier or GM’s Colorado/Canyon, there is ample legroom. If the middle seat on the back bench is left open, there is more than enough room (and seat cushioning) to keep your bum from falling asleep. Fitting three adults in the back is an uncomfortably tight situation.
Gas mileage, while not great, is decent for it’s size. With a dry weight of 5,450lbs, it’s not the world’s lightest small truck, but it regularly hits the EPA estimate of 17mpg in mixed driving. Without any weight in the back, I’ve seen it get up to 25mpg while driving long distances on the highway, which is unheard of in a large 4×4 truck.
Unless you need the payload of an F-Series or other full-sized truck, your best bet would be to get a Tacoma. Most weekend warriors would be perfectly OK getting one over a larger truck. The payload is high enough to be able to handle a mulch run; and while the bed height might be prohibitive for shorter people, it isn’t nearly as inaccessible as in the Tundra.