Generally, if you want a pickup truck then you should buy American. However, there is one exception to that rule––the Toyota Tacoma. Closely related to the legendary Toyota Hilux, the Toyota Tacoma has long been one of the most successful midsize pickups on the market. And with the latest model year, it has just gotten even better, for the 2020 Toyota Tacoma marks the five-year refresh of the third generation Tacoma. While the heart of this truck remains the same rugged and reliable vehicle that it has always been, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma brings several changes to the style and comfort of this popular pickup.
While it may take a Tacoma aficionado to notice the exterior changes to the 2020 model year without an older Tacoma to compare it to, every trim has received new looks. These changes are mostly restricted to new grilles and wheels, although the higher trims have also received LED headlights for the first time. This particular change is not purely aesthetic, as the new lights not only provide superior illumination over the older halogen projector lights, they also last longer and burn less energy (which puts less drain on the battery when the engine is off and provides a small increase in fuel economy). But overall, the exterior changes have not resulted in any meaningful change to the dimensions or performance of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma, although somehow Toyota did manage to shave 65 pounds off the truck.
Configurations and Powertrain of the 2020 Tacoma
Like most pickups, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma comes in a somewhat bewildering variety of configurations. The two main variants are a two-door four-seat access cab with a 6’ bed or a four-door five-seat crew cab with a 5’ bed are available. However, on the base trim, it is possible to save money by choosing the access cab Utility Package, which will remove the rear seats.
No fewer than six different trims are available, but the two highest trims are only available with the crew cab. The full range of trims includes the SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro. The starting MSRP for the base SR trim is $26,050, while the top TRD Pro trim begins at $43,960. But adding packages and upgrading to 4WD or a more powerful engine will, of course, increase those numbers substantially. Overall, the MSRP for the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is right in the ballpark with those of its competitors.
The powertrain of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma has remained entirely untouched. The engine choices are still either a 2.7L four-cylinder that gets up to 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5-liter V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. Incredibly, both engine options get the same combined fuel economy (21 MPG for RWD or 20 MPG for 4WD), with the four-cylinder scoring slightly better in the city and the V6 scoring slightly better on the highway.
Most trims of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma are only offered with a somewhat dated six-speed automatic transmission. This is likely because Toyota wanted to prioritize reliability with their trucks, but it is falling behind the competition, some of which now have up to ten-speed transmissions. Another somewhat disappointing choice is the continued use of an “auto limited slip differential” (traction control) rather than a true mechanical limited slip differential. However, the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims do have an electronically locking rear differential, and all three of the TRD trims are available with a six-speed manual for those who prefer to have complete control over their vehicle––an option that many competitors lack.
New, Top of the Line Infotainment for 2020
The single largest upgrade with the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is its infotainment system. Where the older Tacoma only had a 6.1” touchscreen standard and a 7” touchscreen on the highest trim, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma has upgraded to a 7” touchscreen on the base trim and an 8” touchscreen on all other trims. However, Toyota knew that screen size alone is only a small part of what makes a good infotainment system and also added entirely new software as well.
For the first time, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is now fully compatible with the whole range of third-party apps, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. This finally brings the truck’s infotainment in line with its competition and makes it possible to easily use your phone for calls, music streaming, and navigation. However, infotainment improvements do not stop there, and SiriusXM satellite radio, as well as a 4G LTE wireless hotspot, are also now standard on all trims of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma.
Interior improvements are not restricted to the infotainment upgrades. The single most noticeable difference is the introduction of a brand new ten-way power-adjustable driver’s seat on nearly every trim level. This is a welcome change from last year’s Tacoma, where even the TRD Pro still only had a four-way manually adjustable driver’s seat. While the two lowest trims still have to make do without the power-adjustable driver’s seat, they are a little more livable with an LED bed light and variable-speed windshield wipers. Finally, the top trims have also received a panoramic view monitor and have had their keyless entry system extended to function on the passenger side door.
One of the Safest Pickups Available
The advanced safety features on the 2020 Toyota Tacoma are also top of its class. First introduced in the 2018 model year, the Toyota Safety Sense P equipment suite is standard on all trim levels of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma and includes all the vital modern safety features such as forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams. Somewhat unusually, the standard equipment on all trims also includes adaptive cruise control, making the 2020 Toyota Tacoma an excellent choice for highway driving. Unfortunately, blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are not available on the lowest trims, and are only available as part of a Technology Package on the middle trims.
However, if you are looking at the middle trims, then this Technology Package is an option you should consider as it also includes LED headlights, LED running lights, and LED fog lights as well as rear park assist. Indeed, by not having to replace light bulbs and by potentially avoiding a parking lot accident, this package will mostly pay for itself over the life of the truck. And while it is unfortunate that all the safety systems are not available on all the trims of the 2020 Toyota Tacoma, it is still a very safe vehicle overall and was even chosen by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as one of their Top Safety Picks.
In the end, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma is a typical Toyota product. It does not have the flashy exterior changes or the latest and greatest engineering that some of its competitors offer, but it is built from entirely proven components and will likely still be running when most other trucks its age are long gone. And with the major updates to the infotainment and the addition of some other modern comforts, the 2020 Toyota Tacoma has become an even better choice among the midsize pickups currently on the market.