Quick Drive: 2012 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab V-6 4X4

By Brandon Turkus

September 21, 2012

—Ypsilanti, Michigan
While the full-size, luxury truck segment is burgeoning, the small pickup segment is, as a whole, floundering. The Ford Ranger has been discontinued, as has the Ram/Dodge Dakota. Meanwhile, GM’s small trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, haven’t really mattered, well, ever.
Toyota, meanwhile, seems to be committed to this dying segment, as evidenced by the recently refreshed 2012 Tacoma. The mechanicals are mainly carryovers with a 4.0-liter V-6 that produces a respectable 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic distributes power to a part-time four-wheel-drive system. It’s not a groundbreaking setup, but this is a combination that works.
[Click here to read our review of the 2013 Ram 1500]
There’s enough power for everyday driving. Even with the backend loaded, we had no issues with freeway merging or around-town acceleration. It’s not the sweetest-sounding powerplant, but it’s not overly harsh in its acoustic note. The five-speed autobox manages the power well, offering up reasonably fast upshifts. Downshifts don’t require much hunting through the gears, with the overall result being a powertrain that feels eager to get up and go when asked to.
The ride is classically truck-like, with a fair amount of vertical motion and body roll. Fore and aft damping is appropriately soft, but has the effect of squatting and diving too much. On the highway, it felt reasonably composed and stable. It tracks well, and isn’t pulled one way or the other based on grooves or road wear.
The steering, like the ride, is pretty standard for a truck. It doesn’t offer a lot of feedback, which frankly, is just fine. It’s a truck—we’re not supposed to be drowning in feedback. What’s important is that it feels natural in its weight, and linear in the way in which that heft builds. The Tacoma is just a nice steer, not requiring a great deal of corrections in either a straight line or around a corner.
In the past, the Tacomas we’ve driven have not been super cheap. Prices usually sat around $25,000 to $30,000 per truck. While the driving experience of those 2010s and 2011s had been perfectly acceptable for the price point, their interiors just weren’t up to snuff. Both old and new trucks feature a good deal of plastic, but it’s the general execution that differs.
The center stack on our refreshed Tacoma is finished in a glossy piano black that surrounds the new radio head unit. Featuring the same design found in newer Toyotas, its graphical presentation of info is much cleaner than the dot-matrix-like quality of the old radio. The upper dash is finished in a darker shade of gray that gives the plastic a deeper look, and in turn doesn’t look as cheap. The interior is rounded out by a thick-rimmed, four-spoke steering wheel. Wrapped in leather, it looks great and feels great.
Now, our praise for the Tacoma so far has been rather limited. Dynamically, it’s a very middle-of-the-pack vehicle. Still, there’s an innate fun about driving a two-door pickup that really makes this Toyota appealing. It’s rather tossable, and feels like it’d take any kind of abuse we could throw at it. Its character is just very willing to be driven harder than perhaps is advisable. It’s tough and rugged, but at the same time we’d have no qualms picking up a date in it. If you need a small truck (and we sincerely believe people would be better served by one of these than their Mega Cab, DuraCummins HD 3500 StumpPuller Edition pickups), then you ought to check out Toyota’s revised Tacoma.
2012 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab V-6 4X4
Engine: V-6, 3.5 liters, 24v
Output: 236 hp/266 lb-ft
Weight: 4070 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 16/21 mpg
Towing Capacity: 6500 lb
Base Price: $26,185