For all the talk of full-size pickups from the Japanese manufacturers, it should be remembered that the standard in compact trucks is still set by the Japanese labels, and the new Toyota Tacoma is a statement of that leadership. The '05 Tacoma isn't altogether compact anymore, as its wheelbase has been lengthened by five inches and its track widened by four inches. This is a three-quarter-size truck, with commensurate increases in cabin volume, cargo capacity, and towing capability. Preferred power comes from a 240-hp, 4.0-liter V-6. Our choice will be the Tacoma X-runner, as its stiffer frame, firmer suspension calibration, and 45-series tires on eighteen-inch wheels promise 0.9 g of lateral acceleration, a number that's more in keeping with a muscle car than a pickup.
ON SALE: Fall 2004
PRICE: $17,500-$28,500 (est.)
ENGINES: 150-hp, 2.7-liter I-4; 240-hp, 4.0-liter V-6
BOTTOM LINE: Look out, Chevy Colorado, Toyota is back in the compact-truck game.