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Listen, I’ll be the first to say, I love the Toyota Tacoma and the other Toyota 4x4s. They are tough, strong, reliable, and pretty dang cool. The problem is they continue to be priced like new trucks even though they haven’t had any major updates in a very long time. The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is not exempt, although I do love it. The truth is, there are better options out there for the best mid-size pickup trucks.  

2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition new bed storage
2021 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition | Toyota

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma is cool, but you can do better

There is nothing wrong with the Toyota Tacoma. They are strong pickup trucks, but as Consumer Reports notes in their 2021 Toyota Tacoma review, these trucks are uncomfortable, noisy, jarring, and clumsy.

2021 Toyota Tacoma parked on the trails
2021 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

The 2021 Tacoma got an overall rating of 51/100, landing it on the not recommended list. However, the Toyota Tacoma is still a wildly successful model that sells well every year despite the high price and low refinement. If the 2021 Tacoma isn’t all that, then what should you do?

What is the best mid-size pickup truck? 

I will suggest two alternatives for anyone looking at the 2021 Toyota Tacoma. The first and favorite option is the 2021 Jeep Gladiator. It is similar, in spirit, to the 2021 Tacoma in many ways. There is still a feeling of old-school truck musk splattered all over the thing, but it was designed in the 21st century, unlike the Tacoma. 

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon driving
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon | Stellantis

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator scored a 65/100 on Consumer Reports because it is more refined than the Tacoma. The Gladiator got much better reviews across the board than the Toyota. The ride was smoother, the seats more comfortable, and the overall style is unmatched in the current mid-size pickup truck segment. 

While the 2021 Jeep Gladiator has the same amount of engine options as the Toyota Tacoma, the engines are modern and more exciting. The Tacoma has an old 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6.

These are both strong, reliable motors but a bit outdated. On the other hand, the Gladiator has a 3.6-liter V6 as standard that debuted only a few years ago and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that is brand new.

The 2021 Honda Ridgeline might be a better choice than the Toyota Tacoma?

The Ridgeline is actually the highest-rated truck out of everything Consumer Reports has tested. It is very different than both the Jeep and the Toyota. The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is refined in a way that almost makes it feel more like a car than a pickup truck. It is quiet, comfortable, and civilized. 

The Honda and Jeep both have perfect scores for owner satisfaction and reliability. The Tacoma, on the other hand, does not.

The Toyota Tacoma is pure function over form; the Ridgeline has more limited function as a mid-size pickup truck with its smaller bed and less power. Still, it is likely more appropriate for your average truck owner’s needs.

2021 Ridgeline Sport with HPD Package parked in the mountains
2021 Ridgeline Sport with HPD Package. | Honda

Most people who drive pickups aren’t working on the farm or construction site; they are commuting, picking kids up from school, and going to the grocery store. These average truckers want to haul stuff home on occasion and work with their truck from time to time.

The Honda Ridgeline was made specifically for these types of customers. It is a comfortable truck for everyday use that can work if need be. 

The 2021 Honda Ridgeline has only one engine option, a 3.5-liter V6, and gets a friendly 20 mpg. It is good for towing up to 5,000 pounds can haul a 1,584-pound payload capacity. It is not a strong truck, but this is likely enough for many people. 

Which mid-size truck is the best deal?

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma has the lowest starting price at $26,400. However, the Tundra also has the most expensive price tag at $47,030.

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator, which is easily the most exciting of the mid-size pickup truck options, has a price range of $33,715 – $43,995. Lastly, the most practical option, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline, costs between $36,490 – $43,920. 

2021 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon parked in the wild
2021 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon | Stellantis

Choosing a  pickup truck, more so than any other segment, really comes down to what you need the vehicle to do. The Tacoma is great, but outside of being the cheapest option, it doesn’t offer much else; and it pains me to say that, but it’s true.


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