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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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Toyota Tacoma Stepside
5-Speed Manual Overdrive Transmission
Emissions (N/C); Cruise Control ($250); Convenience Package Including
Tachometer, Digital Clock, Tilt Steering Wheel and Lighting ($440);
Alloy Wheels ($370); SR5 Package Including SR5 Badging, Sliding Rear
Window with Gray Privacy Glass, Deluxe AM/FM/Cassette/CD with 4 Speakers
and Spring Back Antenna, CFC-Free Air Conditioning, Color Keyed Front
Bumper, Valaence, and Grille, Chrome Plated Bumper, Sunvisor with Mirror
and Pocket, Power Steering ($2400); Stepside Bed ($310); Metallic Paint
(N/C); Destination Charge ($480); Extra Value Package MSRP Discount
Cylinder DOHC EFI
142 @ 5000
160 @ 4000
and Passenger-Side Airbags with Cutoff Switch
Double Wishbone; Independent Front Suspension
Warranty Provides 36 Month/36,000 Mile Comprehensive Coverage, 5 Year/60,000
Mile Powertrain Coverage Plus 5 Year Body Panel Corrosion Perforation
otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
Information not available or not applicable.