There was once a period of time when every imported truck on the North American market fell into the category of compact. While domestic manufacturers may have held sway over the full-size pickup scene, companies like Datsun, Toyota and even Volkswagen were making in-roads with their diminutive mini-trucks. This was due to the fact that there was a significant number of buyers who had the need to occasionally haul cargo but who couldn't justify the purchase price or operating costs of a larger vehicle. Small trucks fit into this niche well, providing a decent-sized open area for loading tools, small bales of hay or construction materials.
As the decade wore on, compact trucks began to increase in size and utility as the market for them expanded. More and more people were attracted by the excellent fuel economy offered by these smaller trucks, thanks in part to their 4 and 6-cylinder engines and reduced mass when in comparison to a full-size pickup. Not only did this appeal to budget conscious consumers, but municipalities and universities also took a strong interest in compact trucks as they were cheap to operate and easy to maintain.
Since the Japanese market had long been focused on smaller vehicles, building pint-sized trucks came naturally to Toyota. However, they soon discovered that there was a limit to the reduction in vehicle dimensions that the average buyer in the United States would accept. When the Ford Ranger and the Chevrolet S10's dominance of the market became almost absolute, Toyota went back to the drawing board in order to come up with a bolder, more capable compact truck design. While the Toyota Truck, as it was called, had outgrown its mini-truck roots, it was still an undersized competitor in a rapidly evolving class. In 1995 the company released the Tacoma, which used a modified version of the Toyota Truck's frame. The Tacoma would go through several iterations until it emerged on a fully modern platform in 2005.
The 2005 - 2007 Toyota Tacoma is a serious contender for title of the best used compact truck available in the United States. Not only has Toyota carefully observed the design decisions made by both American and other Japanese companies and used them to inform their own, but they have also incorporated the build quality and engine technology that has helped to make the Toyota brand one of the most trusted in the world. This article takes a look at the second generation of used Toyota compact pickup trucks.
One of the first things that most people notice about the Toyota Tacoma is the dramatic exterior styling. There are a variety of different appearance packages available, but they all share the same bulky design that later found its way to the larger Toyota Tundra full-size truck. The most extreme version of the Tacoma is the X-Runner, which uses a variety of aerodynamic add-ons to appeal to the street cruising crowd.
Of course, the 2005 - 2007 Toyota Tacoma is more than just a pretty face. The base version of the truck is outfitted with a 4-cylinder engine that displaces 2.4-liters and develops 164 horsepower. Also available is a much more powerful 4.0-liter V-6 which pumps out a very serious 245 horsepower, coupled with 282 lb-ft of torque - all while turning in 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 21 miles per gallon on the highway. The 4-cylinder makes use of a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic, while the V-6 can be had with either a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. Either version of the Tacoma is of course available with 4-wheel drive and a special off-road package that upgrades the suspension and tires.
Like most pickups, there are a bewildering number of passenger cab configurations and bed lengths available for the Tacoma. The compact truck can be had as a two-door, an Access Cab extended two-door with smaller rear access doors and a four-door - the latter being comfortable for up to four passengers. The Tacoma doesn't offer much in the way of standard features, but a number of option packages can be applied across the spectrum of trucks, adding niceties such as air conditioning, keyless entry and power windows.
The 2005 - 2007 Toyota Tacoma dominates the used compact truck market thanks to the development effort made by Toyota with the goal of creating a truly competitive small pickup offering. This vehicle should be on the short list of anyone looking for a reliable and powerful used compact truck.