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2021 Toyota Tacoma Review

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma finishes in the middle of our compact pickup truck rankings. It has great off-road prowess and plenty of standard safety and infotainment features, but it isn’t a top pick because its engine power and everyday ride quality leave something to be desired.

Pros & Cons

  • Outstanding off-road capability
  • Lengthy standard features list
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Firm ride
  • Weak base engine
  • Limited rear-seat space

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma's #3 ranking is based on its score within the Compact Pickup Trucks category. Currently the Toyota Tacoma has a score of 7.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 38 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.2

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.5
Performance: 6.7
Interior: 6.1
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.2 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Toyota Tacoma a Good Truck?

The Toyota Tacoma is a decent compact pickup truck. It has lots of available off-road performance features in TRD models, as well as excellent hauling capability. This Toyota also has a user-friendly infotainment system that comes standard with smartphone integration technology like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa. However, this truck could benefit from more engine power, a smoother ride, and additional rear-seat space.

2021 Toyota Tacoma Dimensions and Weight

  • Length: 17 feet, 8.3 inches
  • Height: 5 feet, 10.6 inches to 5 feet, 11.5 inches
  • Curb weight: 4,040 to 4,550 pounds
  • Gross vehicle weight: 5,600 pounds
Why You Can Trust Us: 38 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 38 Toyota Tacoma reviews, as well as performance specs, interior dimensions, fuel economy ratings, and more, to give you all the information you need to make a smart car-buying decision.

This 2021 Tacoma review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2016.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Toyota Tacoma?

You should consider purchasing the Tacoma if you're interested in a well-equipped truck that can handle rough terrain. That said, there are some higher-ranked contenders that you should also consider. For example, the Ford Ranger delivers class-leading towing capacity, while the Honda Ridgeline offers nicer cabin materials.

Find a 2021 Toyota Tacoma for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Toyota Tacoma: What's the Difference?

Toyota adds Trail and Nightshade Special Edition packages to the 2021 Tacoma. Otherwise, there are no major differences between the 2020 and 2021 models.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Tacoma »

Here are the key changes for the Toyota Tacoma since it was redesigned for 2016:

  • 2017: TRD Pro trim introduced
  • 2018: several driver assistance features became standard
  • 2019: no major changes
  • 2020: added Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and a 7-inch touch screen to standard features list; gained available surround-view monitor, multiterrain monitor, and 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat
  • 2021: two special edition packages debut

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Tacoma, 2019 Tacoma, and 2020 Tacoma reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Toyota Tacoma Cost?

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma starts at $26,150, which is above average for the class. The top-of-the-line Tacoma TRD Pro starts at $44,075.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota Tacoma Versus the Competition

Toyota Tacoma vs. Ford Ranger

The Ford Ranger comes standard with a strong turbo-four engine that feels more potent than each of the Tacoma's engines. The Ford also has a lower starting price than the Toyota, a higher towing capacity (7,500 versus 6,800 pounds), and better fuel economy.

Advantages for the Tacoma include better off-road capability and a longer list of standard features. These vehicles are neck and neck in our compact pickup truck rankings, so choosing between them comes down to what matters more to you. If off-road prowess is a top priority, go for the Toyota. Those more concerned with on-road performance will likely prefer the Ford.

Compare the Tacoma and Ranger »

Toyota Tacoma vs. Honda Ridgeline

The Honda Ridgeline isn't a typical compact pickup truck because it focuses more on comfort and refinement than capability. The Ridgeline comes standard with a V6 engine and drives like a car thanks to its unibody construction. Inside, the Ridgeline benefits from adult-friendly seating and upscale materials. These attributes make the Ridgeline a more well-rounded pick than the Tacoma.

That said, the Tacoma is a more suitable option for shoppers who favor capability above all else. The Toyota has a higher towing capacity (6,800 pounds versus 5,000 in the Honda), a robust available four-wheel-drive system (versus the Ridgeline's AWD system), and better off-road chops. Additionally, the Tacoma's starting price is several thousand dollars less than the Ridgeline's, though it is not as well-equipped.

Compare the Tacoma and Ridgeline »

Compare the Tacoma, Ranger, and Ridgeline »

Tacoma Performance: Excellent Off-Roader but Harsh on Pavement

Tacoma Engine

The SR and SR5 trims come with an underpowered 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 159 horsepower. Most shoppers will prefer the 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. It's not exactly impressive, but it's stronger than the four-cylinder, and it delivers quicker acceleration. The V6 is available in the two lower trims and standard in all others.

The Tacoma comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Most reviewers say the automatic does neither engine any favors, as it struggles to find the right gear.

Tacoma Gas Mileage

Tacoma models with the base engine deliver up to 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. These figures are below average for the compact pickup truck class. Models with the V6 engine get up to 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

Tacoma Ride and Handling

With responsive steering and composed handling, the Tacoma is a tad sporty. However, several critics say that the Tacoma's ride quality is uncomfortable on anything other than smooth pavement because of its firmly tuned suspension.

Tacoma Off-Road Performance

The Toyota Tacoma is known for its outstanding off-road capability. The TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trims are especially good for hitting the trails, as they offer things such as unique suspension tuning and shock absorbers, a locking rear differential, and skid plates.

Tacoma Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds. That's roughly average for a compact pickup truck. It has a maximum payload of 1,685 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Tacoma Interior: Abundant Features, but Rear-Seat Space Is Limited

Tacoma Cargo Space

The Tacoma is available with either a 6-foot-1-inch or 5-foot bed. Both feature inner bed walls made of a composite material, which eliminates the need for a bedliner. A bed rail system with adjustable tie-downs is standard. You'll find only a few in-cabin storage compartments, including hidden storage underneath the rear seats.

How Many People Does the Tacoma Seat?

Access Cab Tacomas seat four people, while Double Cab models seat five. The front seats are positioned low to the floor, but the available power-adjustable driver's seat helps make it easier to find a comfortable driving position.

Headroom is lacking throughout the cabin, and this truck could use some additional passenger space in the back row. Access Cabs only have tiny rear jump seats, and the space in Double Cab models is only marginally better.

Tacoma and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats, and Double Cab models have a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The upper tethers are hard to find and easy to confuse for other hardware.

Tacoma Interior Quality

The Tacoma's overall cabin construction is good. High-quality materials are found on places like the seats and doors, but the cabin features lots of hard plastics as well.

Tacoma Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Tacoma's standard infotainment system comes with a user-friendly touch screen. There are also physical controls on the center stack, which makes it easy for the driver to control climate and audio settings while driving. Standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa make it easy to integrate your smartphone with the touch-screen system.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, three USB ports, satellite radio, and voice recognition
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, wireless device charging, and a six-speaker JBL premium stereo
  • Other available features: remote keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a moonroof

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay?, What Is Android Auto?, and What Is Amazon Alexa Auto?

Read more about interior »

Tacoma Reliability

Is the Toyota Tacoma Reliable?

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Toyota Tacoma Warranty

The 2021 Tacoma comes with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Tacoma Safety

Tacoma Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Toyota Tacoma an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, with four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Tacoma. However, the similar 2020 Tacoma earned the highest rating of Good in five IIHS crash safety tests.

Tacoma Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Forward automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Lane departure warning
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Adaptive cruise control

Available advanced safety features:

  • Rear parking sensors
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert

Read more about safety »

Where Is the 2021 Toyota Tacoma Built?

Toyota builds the 2021 Tacoma in Texas and Mexico.

Which Toyota Tacoma Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma comes in six main trims: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro. It's also available in two cab styles: Access Cab with seating for four and Double Cab with seating for five. The SR and SR5 trims come standard with a four-cylinder engine. A V6 engine is available in these two trims and standard in the others. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and a six-speed manual is available in TRD trims.

The base SR trim is a good pick for many shoppers. It comes with lots of features, including smartphone integration technology like Apple CarPlay and driver assistance tech like forward collision warning.

However, the SR5 trim offers more configurations, equipment, and colors. If you're interested in a manual transmission, you'll have to opt for one of the TRD trims, and off-roaders should consider the TRD Off-Road and Pro trims.

Toyota Tacoma Powertrain Options:

  • Base engine: 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 159 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque; starts at $26,150 (available in SR and SR5)
  • Available engine: 3.5-liter V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque; starts at $28,410 (available in all trims)
  • Drivetrain: standard rear-wheel drive; available four-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed automatic; available six-speed manual (in TRD trims)

Toyota Tacoma Appearance Packages:

  • Utility package (this package lowers the total price by $1,715; available in SR): removes the rear speakers and rear seats and adds black door handles, black mirror caps, black rear bumpers, and a fixed rear window
  • SX package (prices start at $840; available in SR): black 16-inch alloy wheels, fenders, mirror caps, and door handles
  • SR5 Appearance package (prices start at $685; available in SR5): fenders and black 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Nightshade Special Edition package (prices start at $1,000; available in Limited): dark 18-inch wheels and black badging, door handles, and grille

Toyota Tacoma Work and Performance Packages/Options:

  • Hard Tri-Fold Tonneau cover (prices vary by trim; available in SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited): a weather-resistant, lockable tonneau cover
  • Trail Special Edition package (prices start at $1,775; available in SR5): unique styling, all-terrain tires, and all-weather floor liners
Toyota Tacoma SR

The Tacoma SR starts at $26,150. It comes with cloth upholstery, a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, three USB ports, satellite radio, and voice recognition. Standard active safety features include forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control.

Remote keyless entry is available.

Toyota Tacoma SR5

The SR5 trim (MSRP: $27,940) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry, an 8-inch touch screen, and fog lights.

Navigation and rear parking sensors are available.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport

In addition to the V6 engine, the TRD Sport (MSRP: $33,060) gains push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped shift knob, wireless device charging, and a sport-tuned suspension.

A package with navigation and heated front seats is available in Access Cab models. Double Cab variants are available with a package that bundles leather-trimmed seats and a moonroof with the heated front seats and navigation.

A Technology package is also available. It adds rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

The TRD Off-Road starts at $34,315. It features an off-road suspension, Bilstein shocks, and a locking rear differential. Models with the manual transmission get active traction control, while four-wheel-drive models with the automatic transmission get crawl control and multiterrain select. 

The same Technology package offered in the previous trim is available.

Toyota Tacoma Limited

The Limited trim (MSRP: $38,905) adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, a moonroof, a six-speaker JBL premium stereo, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a surround-view monitor. This trim is only offered with an automatic transmission and the Double Cab body style.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

The top-of-the-line TRD Pro trim has a starting price of $44,075. It adds trim-specific styling, a TRD-tuned suspension and exhaust, a front skid plate, LED fog lights, and a multiterrain monitor. It's only available in a Double Cab/short bed configuration.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Which Tacoma Cab Style Is Right for Me?

The Tacoma comes in two cab styles. The Access Cab seats four people, and the Double Cab seats five.

If you don’t plan to frequently carry rear passengers, the Access Cab should be fine. Its small rear seats are OK for the occasional short trip, but folks won't want to sit back there for long. Additionally, its rear-hinged doors are small, making it difficult to climb into the back seats.

Those in need of additional passenger space will be better off with the Double Cab, which comes with a more spacious back row and full-size doors. Even though this is the roomiest Tacoma, the back seat is still a little cramped. Some class rivals offer more space for rear-seat passengers.

Which Tacoma Bed Length Is Right for Me?

The Access Cab comes with a long 6-foot-1-inch bed, while the Double Cab comes with either the aforementioned long bed or a short 5-foot bed. The Tacoma also comes with a removable tailgate, composite inner-bed walls, and a bed rail system with adjustable tie-downs.

Which Tacoma Model Is Best for Towing and Hauling?

To get the Tacoma's maximum towing capacity of 6,800 pounds, you'll need the SR, SR5, or TRD Sport trim with an Access Cab, the V6 engine, rear-wheel drive, and the Tow package.

Models with the four-cylinder engine can tow around 3,500 pounds, while Tacomas with the V6 can tow between 6,400 and 6,700 pounds. Opting for the four-cylinder and rear-wheel drive will get you the lowest towing capacity, but these models come with the highest payload capacity of 1,685 pounds.

For the greatest all-around capability, the Access Cab SR model with the V6 engine, rear-wheel drive, and the Tow package is likely your best bet. It offers the truck's maximum towing capacity and a respectable 1,525-pound payload capacity.

Which Tacoma Model Is Best for Off-Roading?

With a starting price of $44,075, the Tacoma TRD Pro is the most expensive Tacoma trim you can buy. However, it's also the most capable off-roading trim. In addition to standard four-wheel drive, it comes with a TRD-tuned suspension and exhaust, Bilstein shocks, a front skid plate, a locking rear differential, a multiterrain monitor, and trim-specific styling. Models with the automatic transmission also come with multiterrain select and crawl control.

If you don't want to pay the TRD Pro's price, you should consider the TRD Off-Road trim. It starts at $34,315 and includes a locking rear differential, an off-road suspension, and Bilstein shocks. Opting for the manual transmission gets you active traction control, while four-wheel-drive models with the automatic transmission come with crawl control and multiterrain select.

See 2021 Toyota Tacoma specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is a good compact pickup truck, especially if you're looking for one to hit the trails with. Additionally, this Toyota comes with plenty of user-friendly infotainment features and safety tech. However, it suffers from a stiff ride, feeble acceleration, and cramped rear seats, regardless of cab style.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize truck available, and has been for the past 15 years. There are good reasons for this, namely the Tacoma’s reputation for high quality, high resale value, and a vast variety of engine/cab/bed choices. … The Tacoma isn’t quite as fresh as its competitors, but it’s still the go-to recommendation for the majority of midsize truck buyers." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Tacoma lacks the refinement of top rivals, but it remains a popular option for both off-road enthusiasts and the truck's long-time fans." -- Car and Driver
  • "We've always admired the Tacoma. But it missed out on our highest ranking because daily-driving factors such as its driving position, entertainment system, engine power, and transmission calibration weren't where they needed to be. The 2020 Toyota Tacoma doesn't have a more powerful engine, but it has been noticeably improved in the other areas. It may not be enough to climb into the top spot, but the refreshed Tacoma is now much easier to recommend." -- Edmunds (2020)
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