2022 Toyota Tacoma lives off reputation

Something smells in the Toyota showroom, and it’s the moldy cheese that is the Tacoma pickup.

Despite getting a redesign in 2016–which was timid at best–at this point in history the Toyota Tacoma’s well past its sell-by date, and maintains its strong appeal because of its stellar reputation for reliability and resale. That aside, it’s not the easiest truck to live with—because of a number of half-measure fixes that I recently became familiar with in a week of road-tripping, towing, hauling, and living with a 2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5.

With a TCC Rating of 5.0 out of 10, the 2022 Toyota Tacoma offers a just-right size and clean, traditional design, easy-to-use controls, and a factory lift kit. And bronze wheels. But its powertrain is outdated, the seats are barely tolerable, and the packaging is compromised as Toyota attempts to keep up with the competition.

Things don’t get any better for the carryover 2023 Toyota Tacoma, which has a TCC Rating of 4.8 out of 10, because unlike Toyota’s small pickup time marches forward and the Tacoma’s fuel economy hasn’t gotten any better.

Here’s where the iconic pickup truck still hits and misses.

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Hit: Buttons, knobs, and handles, oh my

In an era in which everything must be touch sensitive or digital, the Tacoma fights back. The gauge cluster is a refreshingly simple set of quad analog gauges (a speedometer, a tachometer, a fuel economy gauge, and a coolant temperature gauge). Sure, there’s a tiny color LCD trip computer in the gauge cluster, but it might as well be 20 years old. The climate control system features buttons and knobs with an LCD readout that could’ve come from a parts bin in the ‘80s, making me feel right at home. The 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system does feature Apple CarPlay, but its interface and resolution both feel dated. At least there’s a volume knob. Perhaps my favorite piece of kit inside the Tacoma is the manual handbrake. How very old school.

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Miss: Penalty box seating

The front seats can be considered tolerable, but after a nearly 4-hour road trip my body was ready to get out of the cab. The seats are flat and unsupportive. The rear seat is an uncomfortable penalty box with an odd combination of a high seat bottom and knees-up seating position. Worse, the rear headrests are angled extremely far forward. At 5’10” the headrests hit me right at the base of the neck, which would make me extremely nervous in the event of a crash. The NHTSA gave the Tacoma four stars while the IIHS gave the pickup a score of just “Marginal” on the right-side small-overlap test.

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Hit: Ideal size and design

Despite being nearly 2 inches longer than the Ford Ranger and having a more blunt front end the Tacoma feels more approachable and usable. The reason? The low bed sides and tailgate. I can actually reach over the bedside and grab stuff from inside the bed with ease. The liftover height to put things in the bed itself via the tailgate is lower too. It’s never a handful in a parking lot, fits in my garage, and feels like “enough” truck for everyday use for many consumers in terms of size.

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Miss: Outdated powertrain

Most Tacomas, including my SR5 tester, are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque hooked to an antiquated 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s outgunned by the Ford Ranger’s turbo-4 in power delivery and by its 10-speed automatic transmission. Toyota attempted a half-measure fix for fuel economy with tall gearing for the highway, which makes the transmission act like a 4-speed with two tall overdrive gears added. This causes the engine to have little power while turning just over 2,000 rpm at 70-plus mph, requiring constant downshifts to 4th and 5th gear then upshifts to 6th gear. The system repeats the process over and over again during a road trip. It’s exhausting. While the Tacoma shrugged off hauling nearly 4,000 pounds of deck boat and trailer out of the lake, the transmission’s tall gearing issues were only exacerbated with the load attached to its receiver at highway speeds. The $799 TRD Performance Exhaust system is buzzy and loud at all speeds becoming worse over 60 mph. The EPA fuel economy ratings of 18/22/20 won’t win any awards as they are, but they seem optimistic next to real-world observations. Over the course of 70 miles of mixed suburban driving the truck averaged a sad 14.3 mpg according to the onboard trip computer. On a 200-mile highway road trip the truck averaged a barely more acceptable 19.3 mpg. Full-size pickups are more efficient at this point.

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Hit: Trail Edition bits

At $3,765 the Trail Edition option is a value. The 16-inch bronze wheels with Toyota center caps look terrific with the just-fine Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT 265/70R16 tires. A 1.1-inch front suspension lift thanks to taller coil springs combined with the removal of the front air dam improves approach angle to 34 degrees. The rear suspension gets lifted half an inch courtesy of a spacer between the rear axle housing and leaf spring, which feels like a cheater move, but it does work to level the truck’s profile and increase the departure angle to 23.6 degrees. A locking rear differential is added along with a front skid plate, lockable bed storage containers, black fabric seats, a 120-volt outlet in the bed, and all-weather floor mats. Owners would be hard-pressed to add all this, let alone the wheels, tires, and suspension modifications, for the asking price. The heritage grille with TOYOTA stamped into it is just icing on the cake.

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Miss: Laughable storage containers

Those Trail Edition’s bed-side storage containers run nearly the entire length of the bed. Despite their rubber seals, water pooled in them during a car wash. Each container has a drain plug, as they are billed as being capable of being used as a cooler, but the way the bottoms are designed all the water won’t fully drain. Hilariously, and frustratingly, they cover the front tie-down hooks. The containers themselves are oddly shaped, can’t hold much, and take up a ton of space in the bed making a lot of the bed useless wasted space. These feel, and look, like an afterthought screwed into the bed.

The Tacoma’s probably coming to the end of its lifecycle and will finally be replaced, possibly for the 2024 model year. The truck’s known reliability and resale reputation are hard to argue with, but those two things don’t actually make it a better, more comfortable, or modern, truck to live with and use. Half measure fixes don’t cut it in the truck segment.

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2022 Toyota Tacoma SR5 Trail Edition

Base price: $26,650 including $1,215 destination
Price as tested: $45,437
Powertrain: 278-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic transmission, part-time four-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 18/22/20 mpg
The hits: Approachable size and bed sides, easy-to-use controls, Trail Edition arguably a value
The misses: Outdated and annoying powertrain, uncomfortable seats, sad bed-storage packaging

Kitty Gochal

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