- The original Tacoma was smaller than you think.
- Small, efficient trucks are coming back.
Throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s, Toyota's pickup truck offered versatility and capability in a compact size. Known in the U.S. as simply the Toyota Pickup (it was renamed the Tacoma in 1995), it became the standard bearer for the compact pickup truck and proved to be durable and versatile. Over time the Tacoma has grown out of the compact segment. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is a midsize truck focused on off-road capability. Of course, more creature comforts and capability have been added, but we think plenty of buyers still want a basic compact truck.
The Tacoma wasn't anywhere near the size it is now back when it was introduced in 1995. In fact, the regular-cab version was shorter than the current Corolla. You still had a choice of a regular cab, Xtracab (still a two-door but with rear jump seats) and Double Cab, three engines, and the option of two- or four-wheel drive. It could tow between 3,500 and 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.
By contrast, a current Tacoma TRD Off-Road Double Cab is about 3 feet longer, 8 inches wider and 10 inches taller than an original regular-cab Tacoma. While those extra inches, and feet, add some capability and comfort, they can make the Tacoma comparatively more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces or load and unload cargo into the bed.
The new Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz have generated a lot of interest from potential buyers. It seems the idea of a compact, capable and easy-to-drive pickup truck is an attractive one — never mind that they can't tow a giant boat or a threshing machine. Throw in the extra efficiency of a hybrid powertrain (it's the standard engine on the Maverick) and these small trucks could certainly gain more momentum as gas prices continue to rise.
While we can appreciate the Tacoma's rugged capabilities, we think now is the perfect time for Toyota to re-enter the compact pickup truck fray with a throwback version of its popular truck. Make it the size of a Camry and fit it with the hybrid powertrain out of the RAV4 — then there'd be an intriguing Toyota option for small pickup shoppers once more.