A capable compact pickup with a variety of body styles and a strong reputation for reliability. Value is in question, however, as a short standard equipment list makes it easy to spend a bundle on options.
All 2004 Toyota Tacoma models get standard Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, and V6 models can now be equipped with Vehicle Stability Control. Four-wheel-drive V6 models come with Active TRAC, a traction control system intended for off-road use, while 4x2 PreRunner models have traction control, plus a limited-slip rear differential.
Tacoma. Toyota says the name is supposed to suggest the rugged outdoors, as well as strength and adventure, but a friend of ours once quipped, "Obviously, nobody from Toyota has actually been to Tacoma."
Making pickups for the U.S. market since 1964 (remember the Stout, anyone?), Toyota introduced its sixth-generation truck and the Tacoma nameplate in 1995. Designed and built in America, the Tacoma line has been well received. Since '95, Toyota has been steadily increasing the number of Tacoma variations. There are now 17 different versions, meaning the odds are good that you'll be able to find a truck to fit your needs.
Toyota hopes to attract buyers with the handsome styling and rugged image of its Tacoma as well as its reputation for quality and reliability. We give the truck high marks, but often question the value it represents. Most of these Toyota trucks don't come cheap. Guess that's the price you pay for the peace of mind a Toyota provides.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2004 Toyota Tacoma comes in three body styles: Regular Cab, Xtracab and Double Cab. Each is available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive. Toyota also offers Tacomas with a "PreRunner" designation. PreRunners are 2WD trucks that have the looks and heavy-duty suspension of 4WD models. The Double Cab is a compact crew cab that offers four full-size doors and a longer passenger compartment for people who want a pickup and an SUV but can't afford both. In order to keep overall length reasonable for on- and off-road maneuverability, the Double Cab's bed length is shortened to 61.5 inches. Toyota also offers a special 2WD S-Runner Xtracab sport truck equipped with the V6, a five-speed manual transmission and a sport-tuned suspension. Standard features are few and far between. On most Tacomas, items like air conditioning, cruise control, bucket seats and power windows and locks are all optional. Toyota does offer two optional packages -- SR5 and Limited -- that bundle the most desired features. A TRD off-road package is also available that includes an upgraded suspension, meaty 16-inch tires and a locking rear differential.
Powertrains and Performance
You'll find one of three engines underneath the hood of a Tacoma. Two-wheel-drive Tacomas get a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder base engine, rated at 142 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. Tacoma 4WDs and 2WD PreRunners are upgraded with 2.7-liter four with 150 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Standard on Double Cab and optional on Xtracab models is a 3.4-liter V6 that whips out 190 horses and 220 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. When it comes to towing power, four-cylinder models can handle up to 3,500 pounds, while the V6 is capable of handling up to 5,000 pounds.
Antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are standard on all Tacomas. Traction control is standard on V6 models (V6 PreRunners also have a limited-slip differential), and stability control is optional. In government crash testing, the 2004 Toyota Tacoma earned three stars (out of a possible five) for driver safety in frontal impacts and four stars for the passenger. In side-impact testing, it received three stars for front-occupant safety, with a high likelihood of pelvic injury. The IIHS gave the Tacoma an "Acceptable" rating for frontal offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Tacoma's interiors are industrial in design and look dated, but are constructed of high-quality materials. Switchgear is logically placed and easy to use. The seats are generally comfortable, but larger drivers might find them short on room.
Driving the 2004 Toyota Tacoma is easy enough thanks to its compact dimensions. Both four-cylinder engines offer adequate acceleration, while the V6 has a broad power band and is well suited for towing and off-roading. Ride quality can suffer if the TRD off-road package is ordered, but the payoff in terms of enhanced off-road ability is well worth it. Handling is competent on pavement, and the brakes are strong.