The 2021 Toyota Tacoma Is Efficient at an Annoying Cost

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is here. The good news? The rugged truck, affectionately called the “taco,” is still the same off-road warrior everyone loves, boasting an impressive list of standard safety features and a great user-friendly infotainment system. It’s also fuel-efficient. Bad news? The latest Tacoma offers that fuel economy at a price you might not like.

The new Toyota Tacoma is fuel-efficient

A dark green 2021 Toyota Tacoma sitting on top of a brown rocky terrain with a cloud covered background.
2021 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

We often consider the potential of hybrid models or EVs when you think of a good fuel economy. But fuel economy is on the minds of all vehicle owners whether their vehicles run on an electric motor, a combustion engine, or both.

New technology and design have aided vehicles in getting better gas mileage. Where robust diesel engines once powered many pickup trucks, you’ll now find smaller turbo versions of the same engine.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma made it onto the U.S. News list of trucks with the best gas mileage in 2021 with an EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined with 23 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in the city with its base engine. The numbers are actually below average for a compact pickup truck, but they’re decent.

But it has underwhelming power

The new Taco may offer better gas mileage, but its base engine is disappointingly weak. It’s a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out just 159 hp. 

Fortunately, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma has some athleticism to it despite its lack of power. Its handling is capable, and steering very responsive. The ride offered is firm thanks to its suspension, but it isn’t altogether uncomfortable.

The Taco can tow as much as 6,800 pounds with a maximum payload of 1,685 pounds when equipped properly. Its numbers are on par with other compact pickup trucks.

The latest Tacoma still offers impressive off-roading capability. With the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models, you’ll be able to tackle almost any terrain. The models offer skid plates and a locking rear differential along with distinct shock absorbers and suspension tuning.

The Toyota Tacoma’s powertrain options

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma offers the base engine in its SR and SR5 models. Many will likely choose the 3.5-liter V6 engine with its 278-hp output. The stronger engine is available on the two lower trims and standard for all other models.

You get a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Many reviewers dislike the transmission because it’s slow to pick gears and doesn’t really help either engine.

The Car and Driver team recommends avoiding the automatic transmission if at all possible. They prefer the V6 engine with the manual transmission for best results. They claim that when you combine the V6 with the automatic transmission, the engine really struggles at odd times.

Aside from the off-road models, there are the TRD Sport and Limited models, which are better suited toward city driving. Regardless of the model you select, the Taco isn’t particularly fast, and the ride quality isn’t the best unless you’re on the road less traveled.

Toyota is offering a limited-run Tacoma Trail Edition in 2021 with only 7,000 up for grabs. The limited-edition is available as either rear or all-wheel drive based on the SR5 crew cab. It comes with all-terrain tires covering distinctive 16-inch TRD-type wheels. It also features unique black exterior badging, a unique grille, a lockable storage unit, and a 120-volt outlet in its bed.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is still a quality truck. However, more space in the back seat area, stronger powertrain options, and a smoother ride would help it immensely. The latest Taco is more fuel-efficient, but as a result, it’s the weakest model offered to date.

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