Trucks & SUVs

Why Is the 2020 Toyota Tacoma the Best Small Truck You Can Buy?

You need the utility of a truck for towing and hauling. But you don’t want the big footprint and the price of a full-size truck? How about a truck that is just plain fun to drive? A small truck may be just what you’re looking for. But with several great models on the market, how do you decide on the right one? CarMax rates the top six small trucks for 2020. Read on to find out why the car retailer website ranks the Toyota Tacoma ranks as the best of them all.

Small truck rankings, according to CarMax

Ranked No. 6, the Honda Ridgeline boasts a standard 3.5-liter V6, a spacious cabin, and unibody construction. The front-wheel-drive Ridgeline is available in six trims. It can tow 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. The 2020 Honda Ridgeline starts at $33,900.

Following the Ridgeline in fifth place is the Ford Ranger, which staged a comeback in 2019 after Ford retired it in 2011. Powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine, the Ranger is available in three trim levels and two cabin configurations. The Ford Ranger can tow up to 7,500 pounds when properly equipped. Its starting price is $24,110.

The GMC Canyon is CarMax’s fourth-ranked small truck. The rear-wheel-drive Canyon comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a 2.8-liter turbodiesel as one of its two other engine options. Buyers can choose between two cabin sizes and two bed lengths. It is priced from $22,200.

The Chevrolet Colorado shares a platform with the Canyon and is No. 3 on this list. The two trucks share many of the same features and engine options. The Colorado has the off-road-ready ZR2 trim level that sets it apart from the Canyon. The Chevy Colorado starts at $21,300.

In the No. 2 position, the Nissan Frontier is powered by a standard 3.8-liter V6. It offers two cabin options and two bed configurations. The Frontier can haul 1,450 pounds when properly equipped. Pricing for the Nissan Frontier starts at $26,790.

In first place, the Toyota Tacoma wins as CarMax’s top truck. It’s not just because it’s the top-selling truck in its class. Let’s look at why the Tacoma tops the list.

What the Toyota Tacoma has to offer

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Like the other small trucks in CarMax’s list, the Toyota Tacoma is available in two body styles – the Access Cab, which is a two-door with a smaller second row, and the Double Cab, a four-door style that seats five passengers. Buyers can opt for a five-foot or six-foot cargo bed, but they must go with a six-speed automatic transmission that is paired with the longer bed. A five-speed manual is available on some trim levels.

What helps to set the Tacoma apart is its six trim levels. From the base model SR that starts at $27,100 to the mid-level TRD Off-Road at $35,120 to the top-of-the-line TRD Pro at $45,080, this Toyota truck has trim levels for every type of driver. 

Rear-wheel drive is standard but all TRD trims come with four-wheel drive for off-road adventures. As Clifford Atiyeh of CarGurus.com points out in a YouTube video, these trucks come with features such as skid plates, a stiffer suspension with offroad shocks, electronically locking differentials, and even a desert air intake.

Powering this truck is a standard 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. An optional 3.5-liter V6 produces 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates for the Tacoma’s fuel economy is up to 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

The payload on the Toyota Tacoma ranges from 1,120 pounds in the short bed to 1,620 pounds in the long bed when properly equipped. The base engine allows the Tacoma to tow 3,500 pounds. But when equipped with the optional towing package, the RWD Access Cab outfitted with the 3.5-liter V6 that is available on the SR, SR5, and TRD Sport trims can tow up to 6,800 pounds.

Upholstered in sturdy materials, the truck’s interior is just as rugged as its exterior. It also has split-folding rear seats. Another practical offering inside the cabin is the standard 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, which is straightforward and easy to use.

Like all Toyota models, the Tacoma has impressive standard safety features as part of the Toyota Safety Sense Package. These include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Available safety features are blind-spot monitoring and rear parking assist sonar.

Who is the ideal Toyota Tacoma owner?

The short answer to this question is just about anyone. For all drivers, Toyota’s renowned reliability and commitment to safety are huge pluses.

For the driver who seeks out an affordable, all-around truck that is built to last, the base model Toyota Tacoma is an excellent fit. Buyers can step up to the V6 if they want more power. If they want excellent hauling and towing capacity, they can opt for a long bed and a towing package. The three TRD trims will please those who want to crawl up slickrock or splash through mud bogs. 

No matter what your needs and wants are in a small truck, there are plenty of options and packages on the 2020 Toyota Tacoma to choose from.