Globally, Toyota is recognized as one of the most popular automakers. While a lot of this stems from its exceptional reliability and value, the model lineup also stretches through all customer demands. With so many models available, there can sometimes be more than one Toyota that meets your needs. One popular purchase decision that might arise is with the Toyota Tacoma vs 4Runner.
While the capabilities of the Tacoma and 4Runner are very similar, the Tacoma will be the better purchase most of the time due to its lower price.
Unless you need the ability to seat more than five people or prefer your cargo enclosed, the Tacoma is the better choice. Both of these mid-sized vehicles perform really close to one another in key aspects, but the Tacoma is able to provide the same or slightly more at a lower price. Below we compare the two in some key metrics.
The obvious difference between the Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner is their different body styles. So how does this affect the interior space available? While the 4Runner is made only in a four-door style, the Tacoma is also available in an access cab variant. The access cab version comes with a lot of space sacrifices to the rear passengers.
On the exterior, the 4Runner and Tacoma are very close in height and width, but the Tacoma is significantly longer due to its truck bed.
Tacoma – 212-226″ L x 74-75″ W x 71-72″ H
4Runner – 190-191″ L x 76″ W x 72″ H
In the Tacoma, front passengers have 39.7 inches of headroom with rear passengers having 38.3 inches (34.9 in access cab). Legroom is measured at 42.9 inches in the front and 32.6 inches in the rear (dropping significantly to 24.6 inches in an access cab). The Tacoma can sit up to five people (four in access cab) and has a passenger volume of 57.5 cubic feet for front passengers and 42.6 cubic feet for rear passengers.
The 4Runner can be had with third-row seating, making it the only option if you need a vehicle that can transport more than five people. In regards to space, the 4Runner provides 39.3 and 38.6 inches worth of headroom for first and second rows seats respectively. 41.7 and 32.9 inches of legroom is also provided.
Overall, in a comparison between the two five-passenger options, both the Tacoma and 4Runner provide a very similar amount of space.
However, if you have no need for rear passengers, then opting for the access cab Tacoma could save you even more money. Likewise, if you need more than five people worth of seating, then the 4Runner will be the winner.
The type of cargo you want to haul around may also influence your decision between a Toyota Tacoma vs 4Runner. With the Tacoma, you have the freedom of an open bed, allowing ease of access and the ability to haul taller objects. However, you will have to compromise on leaving things out in the open, and if you opt for a cover, then the height advantage is lost.
The Tacoma is offered in both a five-foot and six-foot bed length. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. The long bed option provides about 33 cubic feet of trunk space while the standard bed provides about 27 cubic feet.
In the 4Runner, you can expect 47.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. This expands dramatically to 89.7 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded down.
Both the Tacoma and 4Runner are offered in an AWD and RWD configuration. However, their engine options are not the same.
The Tacoma is offered with two different engines, both of which are available with AWD. The first is a 2.7L 4 cylinder generating 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. The beefier option is a 3.5L V6 with 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. While a 6-speed automatic is a more popular choice, the Tacoma can still be optioned with a 6-speed manual.
As opposed to the Tacoma, the 4Runner is only available with one engine. The 4Runner comes with a 4.0L V6 making 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission.
Neither the Toyota Tacoma nor 4Runner are winning any awards for great fuel efficiency.
The most efficient Tacoma is the 4×2 with a 4-Cylinder engine. The EPA-estimated MPG of this configuration is 20/23 in city/highway. Going for the 4X4 slightly drops that down to 19/22. Going for the larger V6 engine does not make a significant difference in fuel economy, so the extra power can be chosen without much compromise. The V6 4×2 is able to get 19/24 while going for the 4×4 gets 18/22.
The 4Runner gets the same fuel economy regardless of being 4×2 or 4×4. The EPA-estimated MPG for the SUV is 16/19, worse than any Tacoma configuration.
Both the Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner are capable of towing relatively large loads if needed.
Regardless of which version of the 4Runner you get, it will come with a 5,000-pound towing capacity. For the Tacoma, the final towing capacity will depend on which version you have.
If you opt for the 4 cylinder engine, you will have a lower towing capacity of only 3,500 pounds. However, when you step up to the V6, the Tacoma outperforms the 4Runner. In the 4×4 version, the Tacoma can tow 6,400-6,500 pounds. In a 4×2, the number increases slightly to 6,600-6,800 pounds.
With the Tacoma and 4Runner performing similarly, pricing will be the biggest differential.
The base Toyota 4Runner SR5 trim has a starting price of $37,305, not exactly the cheapest SUV on the market.
On the other hand, the Tacoma has a starting price of $26,500. However, that relatively low price does come with a lot of caveats. For this price, you are getting a Tacoma with an access cab that severely limits rear passenger space as well as a less powerful 4-cylinder engine. If you don’t need the space or power, then going this route will save a lot of money. If you need more power, the V6 is still affordable with a $28,760 price tag.
If we look at a more comparable double cab six-foot bed Tacoma with a V6 engine, the starting price is $33,650. That still provides an almost $5,000 savings from the 4Runner.
Whichever model you decide, if you choose a used model, I advise investing just a few dollars to check the VIN number against the vehicle database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, Vin cloning, and a ton of other uglies.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.