2012 Toyota Tacoma Walk Around

The 2012 Tacoma is all-new from the A-pillar forward: new engine hood, new headlights, new fog light housings, new bumper fascias, and new front grilles on all grades. But you'll recognize it instantly.

Your first clue is the familiar, sturdy arch over the top and sides of the grille, brightly plated on SR5's and TRD Off-Roads, body color on base models and on the more sporty variants. A slightly protruding inner grille of black plastic now echoes and emphasizes this Toy-truck hallmark. The trapezoidal shape leaves a gap between grille and headlights, and where the previous Tacoma filled this space with little side grilles, for 2102 reshaped headlight housings extend inward to cover the same area.

The lower air opening, previously just slit in body-colored fascia, is now more prominent as well; gripped between a body-color arch at the top (again, the arch theme) and a grey pseudo-skidplate below; it now suggests the menacing mouth of some bottom-feeding fish. Fog light nacelles, previous functional tunnels in the fascia, now wear their own elaborate, surrounding shape. In short, it's the familiar Tacoma face, only more so. We think it looks tougher and more rugged without going over the top.

Overall length of the Tacoma varies by body style: Regular Cabs are the shortest and most maneuverable, measuring 190.4 inches overall on a 109.6-inch wheelbase. Access Cab and Double Cab short-bed models have a 127.4-inch wheelbase and 208.1-inch overall length. Double Cab long-bed models are quite long at 221.3 inches overall on a 140.6-inch wheelbase. All models have six-foot beds except the Double Cab short-bed, which has a five-foot bed.

How to choose? Regular Cab models pack lots of cargo space in a relatively small package, good for maneuverability in the big city. Regular Cab 4WD models also have the best break-over angle due to their short length, and therefore offer the best capability off road. Access Cabs feature large dual rear auxiliary doors, not good for people but very good for gear. Double Cabs have long, conventionally hinged rear doors that open 80 degrees for ease of entry or loading gear. Double Cabs offer the people-carrying comfort of a sport-utility. Long-bed Double Cabs can carry more stuff but are unwieldy in tight places.

The Tacoma comes with a composite inner bed, lighter than steel yet tougher and more durable. The bed features two-tier loading and an integrated deck rail utility system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. The rails are compatible with numerous Genuine Toyota Accessories, including cargo-bed cross bars, a fork-mount bike rack, and other useful items.


The 2012 Tacoma gets a redesigned interior, yet it still feels familiar. The basic shape of the instrument panel is the same, but the center stack is now blacked out for better contrast; and has been redesigned to accommodate new climate and audio controls. High-contrast black trim now appears on switch bezels and the inner doors as well.

2012 Tacoma models come with an interesting new steering wheel with a rectangular hub, dark-colored spokes at 3 and 9 o'clock, and brushed-metal-look spokes at 5 and 7. Where the bright spokes meet the hub they open up into square, black control pads for audio and other functions.

Behind the wheel are new instrument faces for 2012, retaining last year's three-pod configuration but replacing the orange night-vision theme with red pointers and broad blue bands. It sure looks more high-tech; whether it's actually more readable is another matter, as orange (or red) is considered by pilots to be best for night vision.

A new AM/FM Satellite Radio-capable head unit comes with a single-disc CD player and built-in Bluetooth for hands-free jaw-jacking.

V6-powered Double Cabs offer a more deluxe display audio system with all the hot digital candy, including navigation, Toyota Entune services, XM Satellite Radio (with 90-day trial subscription), HD Radio with iTunes tagging and text/e-mail-to-voice; all playing at premium quality through a JBL GreenEdge audio system with seven speakers. (GreenEdge technology helps reduce fuel consumption by lowering the electric power demand on the vehicle.)

The Toyota Entune system combines popular mobile applications and data services, with three years of complimentary access. Once a smart phone is connected to the vehicle using Bluetooth or a USB cable, Entune's features are operated using the vehicle's controls or, for some services, by voice recognition. Entune includes Bing and Pandora; plus real-time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. Apps available in spring 2012 at no additional charge will include iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable. See toyota.com/entune for details.

But wait, there's more: SR5's get a new seat fabric, although it looks to us exactly like the old stuff. More significantly, TRD models now benefit from a water-resistant fabric, and all Access and Double Cabs are now available with heavy-duty all-weather flooring, which we used to call rubber before carpeting became ubiquitous.

The lower dash and console are still a lighter color than the main upper dash, brightening the interior; and trim rings still surround the three clustered gauges. The driver's seat is now height-adjustable, answering a complaint we've had in the past. Overall, the Tacoma provides the driver with a good driving position, and big mirrors afford a good view to the rear. Excellent grab handles on both A-pillars.

We found the TRD package's upgraded seats and interior nice, if costly. The sport bucket seats with driver lumbar support were made of a sturdy gray fabric and had excellent bolstering. There was an overhead console with compass and temperature gauge, as well.

Cup holders are provided in the center console area. On models that don't have sport seats, the front passenger's seatback flips down to form a tray table or to make room for long objects, a handy feature. The switchgear is easy to operate, and everything is where you expect it to be. Big rotary knobs make it easy to adjust cabin temperature even with gloves on; the knobs are electronic, so they're easy to twist. The radio is fully integrated into the upper center stack and it's easy to operate. CDs sound good through the JBL speakers. Models with automatics come with a foot-operated parking brake, while the manual transmission models use a pull-out handbrake from the past that we weren't thrilled with, on our test model. However we were totally thrilled with the air conditioning, which blasts real cold real fast.

The rear seats in the Tacoma Double Cab are particularly comfortable for the class, offering good legroom and shoulder room and decent headroom. The seatback is angled back slightly, making it more comfortable than the overly upright rear seats in some other compact pickups. In a back-to-back comparison test, we found the back seats of the Tacoma more comfortable than those in the Nissan Frontier. A younger person should be okay to ride across the state back there, and even adults won't complain too much on short trips. The rear windows even go all the way down.

The rear-seat area in the Double Cab is also good for carrying cargo. The seat is split 60/40. Flip the seat bottoms forward and fold the two sections down to form a flat platform for gear. It takes two hands to do this, and you first have to remove the headrests, which is a hassle, though Toyota has at least provided a place to store them. The backs of the seatbacks are hard, and form a sturdy cargo floor. It's not a bad spot for a dog, better than the bumpy floors in the Nissan Frontier and Dodge Dakota, but still a big jump down. Our experience has been that none of the trucks in this class is particularly good for dogs.

The Access Cab has rear seats, with the access coming on the passenger side only, but there isn't enough room for adults. The two kids we sentenced to the rear of our Access Cab are 5-feet and 5-feet, 5 inches tall, and they were okay back there for a short ride, but would rather have ridden in the bed with the dog.

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