Step Into Toyota's City Truck
2000 Toyota Tacoma Xtracab Stepside
Contrary to popular advertising mythology, not everyone who owns a pickup truck lives in a rural area or drives it daily through the mud and the muck. Toyota's new Tacoma Stepside may be the perfect package for those folks living in the city or bustling suburbs but wanting for a taste of the country.
In the dense confines of San Francisco, where parking spots and garage spaces are almost as scarce as a someone who doesn't work for a .com, the Tacoma Stepside feels right at home. When you do find that lone parking space eight blocks from your house, between the '78 Olds Cutlass and the spankin' new Bimmer, you need a truck that can be shoehorned with minimal effort - where parking a full-size pickup could quickly turn into an all-night adventure in futility.
Gasoline prices in northern California are the highest in the nation with regular fuel fetching an astounding $1.95/gallon. The Tacoma's 4-cylinder engine sips gas at an EPA rated 22mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway - almost twice the mileage as some of its full size country cousins.
Along with the high price of gas, rent and housing prices in the Bay Area are second only to New York City's. The modest $17,678 price of the nicely equipped truck we tested still allows the comfort of knowing you can feed the family and make the mortgage at the end of the month.
The dual nature of the Tacoma Stepside fits well for those with an active work and social calendar. During the day you can haul a moderate amount of payload to the work site or get the new dishwasher home. At night the handsome rear lines and color keyed grille, body and bumpers allow you to show up looking respectable at social events or your favorite night spot.
With the Toyota Tacoma Stepside you get a 9/10th scale country truck tailored to the city environment.
Inside & Out
Inside the Tacoma its controls, instrument panel and seating are precisely laid out in Toyota's typical car-like fashion. All gauges and switches are easy to read and manipulate. Unfortunately there are no aluminum, wooden or leather accents to brighten the interior or remind you of open prairie expanses.
The tachometer and speedometer occupy the most prominent space in the dashboard and are buttressed on the right and left by the fuel and temperature gauges. Just underneath the speedo is a combination digital odometer and trip computer which proves handy for measuring distance and fuel economy.
A standard five speed plus reverse manual transmission makes for quick shifts and is easy to reach. Depressing the clutch requires using only about 1/3 of its total arc, something that can take a little getting used to if you normally push the clutch close to the floor before changing gears.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls are split into two dials, to change temperature and ventilation, two sliding controls, for fan speed and re-circulated air, and a push button, to select the A/C or vent. Though finely separated by function, a total of three integrated dials, as found on the Dodge Dakota GM compact trucks, could have also served the same purpose as the five HVAC controls and made for a better ergonomic experience.
The stereo, tape cassette and compact disc player is close to twice the size and located due south of the HVAC controls. Eighteen FM1, FM2 and AM settings allow one-touch storage of probably all the radio stations a large city has to offer. The in-dash CD player is nice for switching discs on the fly but proves tricky unless you are on the highway at speed or at a stop because of the Tacoma's manual shifter. Sound quality was very good inside the cab.
60/40 split cloth seats up front with separate headrests are comfortable on short hops and quite supportive even on long trips.
Fold down seats in the back of the cab should only be considered for use by small children. Adults will find the seating uncomfortable for all but the shortest in-town trips.
Accessing the back of the Xtracab from the front is difficult. The armrest in the Tacoma - normally expected to fold down between the driver and passenger to provide a clear opening to the back of the cab on most trucks - is integrated into a housing within the driver's seat. The back of the armrest housing stops you from quickly accessing the Xtracab.
The rear of the Xtracab has a great amount of storage space for those items you don't want to expose to the elements or urban malcontents. We carried three bags of groceries, two motorcycle wheels and a full backpack all inside the cab at the same time.
Sorely missed on the Xtracab model is a third and fourth door for easy access, ala the Ford Ranger.
The outside of the Tacoma is quite stylish and breathes life back into a design now approaching 6 years old. Its color keyed bumpers, grille and body add character and refinement beyond the sporty stepside rear fenders which blend smoothly into the Xtracab. Five spoke wheels are a nice touch.
The large grille gives the truck a slightly aggressive appearance that is sure to appeal to sport truck enthusiasts who might further lower the Stepside from its 4x2 ride height.
The bed is adequately sized in length and width for most tasks but its shallow depth means you will want to ensure any loose objects are tied down securely.
Overall Toyota's simple, straightforward approach to the interior is reflective of the Tacoma's working-class nature but somewhat contrary to its handsome exterior.
On The Road
In the city the Tacoma Stepside excels. Around town on surface streets and the freeway the truck handled well in tight traffic. Its solid chassis and suspension soak up city potholes amazingly well.
The manual transmission can be a liability if most of your driving is in the city, especially one as densely trafficked and hilly as San Francisco. Its a matter of affordability and personal preference. Gear selection was flawless with seldom any hunting for the right one.
The small size and maneuverability of the Tacoma really shines when positioning the Tacoma to accept a load in the city.
Long trips are a different matter. Though comfortable inside you will probably want for more power on the highway.
We drove the Tacoma from San Francisco to Medford, Oregon and back in one day - a little under 800 miles. The trip was over varying terrain from sea level to mountainous elevations.
With its standard four cylinder, 2.4-liter engine producing 142 horsepower, the Tacoma struggled to get up some hills. If you are in 5th gear on an incline steeper than 5-6% be prepared to downshift to maintain speed or pass, otherwise the tach begins a very slow drop in rpm's much to the protest of the noisy engine. The smoother six cylinder engine is a better powertrain choice if you can afford the extra cost.
Fuel economy on the long trip averaged a very respectable 24 mpg. Something sure to appeal to wallets with today's high gas prices.
Ride quality was above average on the long trip even with the bed unloaded. We never heard any squeaks or rattles. The Tacoma is a solid, well-built truck.
Summing It Up
Toyota has long been known for its durable, conservatively styled trucks, but the handsome flared rear fenders and freshened front end set the Stepside apart in the looks department from the rest of the rather staid Tacoma lineup.
If you are looking for the ideal truck that makes the compromise between the demands of work and an active urban lifestyle the 2000 Toyota Tacoma Xtracab Stepside is probably for you.
2000 Toyota Tacoma Stepside
Specifications as Tested
Limited Warranty Provides 36 Month/36,000 Mile Comprehensive Coverage, 5 Year/60,000 Mile Powertrain Coverage Plus 5 Year Body Panel Corrosion Perforation Warranty
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
N/A: Information not available or not applicable.