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Is the 2021 Toyota Tacoma a Good Truck? 5 Pros and 5 Cons

toyota tacoma trd 4x4 off road 2021 01 exterior front angle green truck scaled jpg 2021 Toyota Tacoma | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Toyota Tacoma mid-size pickup truck has a decidedly retro look and feel, which may be part of the charm that keeps it so popular with buyers. But unlike nostalgia-inducing designs like the Ford Bronco Sport that combine retro styling cues with modern underpinnings, the Tacoma looks and feels old simply because it is — it’s been seven model years since the Tacoma’s last significant update, and the last complete redesign happened more than 10 years before that. A lot can happen in two decades of automotive development, something vividly demonstrated by spending time behind the wheel of a 2021 Tacoma.

Related: 2021 Toyota Tacoma Review: Over the Hill We Go

Shop the 2021 Toyota Tacoma near you

Used
2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport
24,377 mi.
$38,500 $200 price drop
Used
2021 Toyota Tacoma SR5
26,724 mi.
$28,500 $300 price drop

Despite its age, the Tacoma is not without appeal. It remains a reliable and capable choice, with solid towing capability and strong resale value. It also has solid off-road cred. Beyond that, as Cars.com reviewer Brian Normile details in the related link above, the Tacoma pretty much trails its competitors in most key criteria.

Toyota made great improvements to its full-size Tundra pickup for 2022, making it both a more competitive and capable choice. The Tacoma is overdue for a similar update, which won’t be a moment too soon; in the meantime, here are five things we like about the 2021 Toyota Tacoma and five we don’t:

Things We Like

1. Safety Features Aplenty

The Tacoma comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of advanced safety features, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, along with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. The Tacoma also scored well enough in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests and has a four-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

2. Strong Resale Value

toyota tacoma trd 4x4 off road 2021 06 exterior green rear angle truck scaled jpg 2021 Toyota Tacoma | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Many Toyota models have strong resale value, and used Tacomas can be especially good in this regard. Buyers are a loyal bunch and tend to hold on to theirs for a long time, which helps make used examples even harder to find, further driving up prices. None of this is likely to change anytime soon, making the Tacoma a solid investment for the long haul.

3. Off-Road Capability Without Monster Tires

The off-road-oriented TRD trims add suspension upgrades and other equipment to make the Tacoma more capable off-road, but Toyota stops short of including huge tires with an aggressive off-road tread pattern. This is a good thing, as it results in a quieter ride and increased steering feel on pavement (even if the ride is no more comfortable). It also makes it easier for buyers to make their own tire and wheel upgrades, something many will probably do anyway.

4. Comfortable Seats

toyota tacoma trd 4x4 off road 2021 22 drivers seat front passenger seat front row interior truck scaled jpg 2021 Toyota Tacoma | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Tacoma’s seating position isn’t ideal, but the leather front bucket seats in our TRD Off-Road test truck proved comfortable and supportive enough overall. Comfort aside, the leather seating surfaces felt somewhat thin and less substantial than some competitors.

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Things We Don’t Like

1. Unrefined Powertrain

toyota tacoma trd 4x4 off road 2021 17 engine exterior green truck scaled jpg 2021 Toyota Tacoma | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The optional 278-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 in our test Tacoma proved capable enough, with adequate power for passing and merging, but it never seemed very happy about it — the engine sounded strained and struggled to get up to speed. We noticed there wasn’t much power left in reserve at higher speeds, too, and the six-speed automatic was slow to downshift for more. The good news: Fuel economy isn’t much worse than with the base four-cylinder.

2. Clumsy Ride and Handling

On pavement, the Tacoma’s ride is stiff and bouncy, especially with nothing in the bed. Things don’t improve much with a load: Steering is vague and we noticed an alarming amount of play in the wheel. The TRD Off-Road suspension only adds to the punishment, with increased ride stiffness on pavement. Some competing trucks with off-road packages add suspension travel and added absorption, but that’s not the case here.

3. Tough Brakes

toyota tacoma trd 4x4 off road 2021 05 exterior green profile truck scaled jpg 2021 Toyota Tacoma | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Tacoma’s brakes are another sore spot, with an initial grabbiness so noticeable, we feared getting rear-ended in traffic. But bringing the truck to a stop required a lot more pedal pressure. The quick initial pedal response might be helpful off-road, but we found the brake response to be annoying and inconsistent on pavement.

4. Awkward Driving Position

For a relatively large vehicle that requires a big step up to get behind the wheel, the Tacoma’s cab is not all that roomy once you’re inside. The driver’s seat is comfortable enough, but the cushion is low to the floor and requires drivers to sit with their legs stretched out. Neither the seat nor the steering wheel offer a lot of adjustment, and our 6-foot-1-inch tester struggled to find a comfortable seating position throughout his time with the Tacoma. We also found rear seat headroom and legroom lacking.

5. Dated Interior Design

toyota tacoma trd 4x4 off road 2021 21 front row infotainment system interior steering wheel truck scaled jpg 2021 Toyota Tacoma | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Tacoma’s interior looks and feels basic, but it’s also solid and well put together, though not as modern or upscale as some competitors. There’s lots of hard plastic, and not a lot of frills. To Toyota’s credit, even base models come with a standard 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with three USB ports. Our test truck had a larger 8-inch touchscreen, but the display design looked old and was slow to respond to inputs.

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