2024 Toyota Tacoma First Drive Review: A Comfy, Capable Midsize Tundra

Redesigning a best-seller can be a daunting job. That’s especially true if you’re talking about a best-seller in a segment as crucial as the midsize truck category. Screw it up and you can kiss that sweet, sweet market share goodbye; get it right, though, and you can gain even more. I’m nearly positive the latter will be the case with the 2024 Toyota Tacoma.

Fresh out of the box, the new Taco aims to defend its title by offering customers more of what they’ve always loved while ushering in new features to put rivals on their back foot. It has long set the bar for midsize trucks, meaning when the Tacoma does something, the competition listens. And while much of the traditional pickup formula stays the same, Toyota has gone to great lengths to roll out a truck with the best trends and technologies available.

It’s too early to say without getting more seat time, but the 2024 Tacoma surely seems like a winner.

2024 Toyota Tacoma Specs
Base Price (As Tested)$32,995 ($43,650)
Powertrain2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | available hybrid assist | six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive
Horsepower228 (base SR trim) | 270 (equipped with six-speed manual) | 278 (equipped with eight-speed automatic) | 326 (equipped with available hybrid assist)
Torque243 lb-ft (base SR trim) | 310 lb-ft (equipped with six-speed manual) 317 lb-ft (equipped with eight-speed automatic) | 465 lb-ft (equipped with available hybrid assist)
Max Payload1,709 pounds
Max Towing6,500 pounds
Off-Road Angles32.2˚ approach | 24.7˚ breakover | 22.2˚ departure (TRD Off-Road)
Ground Clearance (4WD)10.7 inches
EPA Fuel EconomyTBA
Quick TakeReal improvements inside and out make the new Tacoma a compelling buy over its competitors once again.
Score8.5/10

The Basics

The Toyota Tacoma has been the best-selling midsize truck for years, besting its rivals from Ford, GM, and Nissan. Really, it hasn’t been close, even as the previous generation grew old and outdated. Toyota’s smaller truck is finally new for 2024, however, and now it’s built on the same TNGA-F platform as the full-size Tundra as well as the Sequoia and Land Cruiser SUVs.

A complete exterior and interior redesign are the headlining changes for the pickup, along with a new optional hybrid power plant. There’s also a new hardcore off-road trim called the Trailhunter. The front fascia is styled in a way that makes the Tacoma look taller than it actually is, and there’s also a huge air dam under the front bumper that looks a bit silly. Toyota says the uptick in fuel economy is enough to justify it. The front lighting elements are quite stylish, making the grille and headlight ensemble look like something from the Lexus side of the company. The profile and rear of the truck scream “Mini Tundra,” which is ultimately what the Tacoma feels like. More on this later.

The cabin has been completely redone with modern comfort in mind. Even the base SR trim feels surprisingly nice and well-appointed with a 7-inch digital gauge cluster and an 8-inch center touchscreen. The chunky controls feel good to the touch and are easy to operate. Buyers can opt for a 14-inch touchscreen as they climb the lineup ladder, and they can also spec a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Lastly, the seats have been redesigned and are considerably more ergonomic than before, while Toyota claims there’s now three times more under-seat storage space in the rear, at least for non-hybrid models. Tacomas come in two cab configurations: XtraCab, which offers two opening doors with more room behind the seats, and the traditional Double Cab with four opening doors.

All Tacomas are powered by a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though there are a couple of different versions. Boasting 228 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, the engine in base-model SR trucks can be had in rear-wheel- or four-wheel-drive configuration but can only be paired with the eight-speed automatic transmission. SR5 trucks and up can be equipped with this engine in both automatic and six-speed manual configurations, as well as with rear- and four-wheel drive. Power output jumps to 270 hp for the manual and 278 for the automatic. Limited trim trucks can be equipped with the hybrid engine that adds a 1.87-kilowatt-hour battery and a transmission-mounted electric motor to make 326 hp and 465 lb-ft. Maximum towing capacity is rated at 6,500 pounds.

Driving Experience

If you asked me to share my experience with older Tacomas, chances are you wouldn’t feel too excited about buying one. I’ve always found the cabin cramped, the visibility poor, and the seats hard and lacking proper height adjustment. I felt like I was sitting on top of the truck with my knees pressed up against me rather than inside the truck. Thankfully, the new Tacoma’s cabin is better in all of those areas. The floor still seems a bit high in relation to the seat bottom, but it’s considerably better than before.

Apart from the more aggressive and modern looks, it’s the engine that shines as the new truck’s key attribute. The turbo-four is smooth, strong, and a perfect fit for a rig this size. It’s true that 278 hp doesn’t sound like much in this day and age, but it really makes the machine come alive and move about with ease. In twisty mountain roads outside of Los Angeles, both the manual and automatic trucks hurried up narrow passes with a sense of urgency, putting down the power phenomenally coming out of corners.

Steering feel is what it should be for a truck like this, doing a solid job at relaying surface quality and keeping control of the vehicle and its load. I enjoyed the fact that it’s well insulated from other components, meaning that I didn’t encounter any vibrations that could get annoying during a long drive or even while off-roading. And while it won’t disappoint you when driving like a hooligan, don’t get carried away—it definitely isn’t dialed in for canyon carving.

A quick drive through an obstacle course proved that four-wheeling capability is still one of the Tacoma’s core attributes. The TRD Off-Road model boasts 11.5 inches of ground clearance and 34.4 degrees of approach, 26.1 degrees of breakover, and 26.1 degrees of departure. In all fairness, the course was extremely mild and didn’t really put the truck to the test, though some offset whoops highlighted just how much articulation the new truck has to offer thanks to the new electronically disconnecting sway bars.

Overall, the new Tacoma with the non-hybrid engine is a primo package that was long overdue. (I didn’t get to test a Platinum trim with the hybrid engine due to availability.) The old 2.7-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter V6 engines feel like dinosaurs—slow ones at that—compared to this new engine. It likes to rev, it’s torquey, and it’s just a great match for the new Tacoma. Whether you choose the trucky six-speed manual or the smooth automatic, you’ll find that Toyota really did a phenomenal job tuning each drivetrain component to the chassis, suspension, and more.

Price and Competition

The Tacoma’s position as sales leader was earned by offering a solid product with the promise of legendary Japanese reliability, not by being the cheapest in the segment. That formula continues with a new starting price of $32,995. The two trucks I drove, an SR5 XtraCab 4WD with the auto and a TRD Off-Road Double Cab 4WD with the manual had respective MSRPs of $41,250 and $43,650.

The Tacoma now faces stiffer competition from other major automakers, and each has been redesigned in the past year or two. For example, the 2024 Ford Ranger starts at $34,160 and comes equipped with a 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder making 270 hp. Spec one that’s similar to the Tacoma Double Cab above and you’ll spend around $42,450. Or you could look at the 2024 Chevy Colorado, which starts at $30,695 and is powered by a 2.7-liter turbo-four. A similarly equipped Colorado Trail Boss would come in right around the $40,000 mark. Lastly, a base-model 2024 Nissan Frontier with a 3.8-liter V6 starts at $31,265 while a version similar to the Tacoma in question would set you back around $41,300. It’s important to note that comparing four trucks side by side is always tricky given the long list of optional equipment available, including cab sizes, axles, off-road parts, etc.

Value and Verdict

While capable and reliable throughout the years, the Tacoma went unchallenged for so long that it became stagnant. Consider this new truck the Tacoma’s awakening; its renaissance as a mini Tundra of sorts. It’s what a midsize pickup should be in the present time, and that means it’s bigger, more capable, and more efficient. In turn, it’s also more expensive—go figure.

While my seat time in different trims was extremely limited, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the new truck capture even more buyers than in the past. Yes, there’s serious competition for the Tacoma now, but Toyota has really stepped it up by designing a truck so complete that its competitors are left playing catch-up. It isn’t perfect, and surely we’ll catch some demerits during a longer road test, but from where I’m at, it’s hard to see the Tacoma losing its crown anytime soon.

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