May 22, 2012

Review: Toyota Tacoma / Town Ace Truck

Let it not be said that CelloMom leaves out data that doesn't fit in with her point of view.

While most of my reviews persistently show that carmakers sell only their largest (or largest-engined) vehicles in the US, some car manufacturers do offer the same models all over the planet.

One example is Lexus, Toyota's luxury car division, which offers the same models in Japan and in the United States, with the same engines. It is in Europe where the choices are restricted, mostly to Lexus' hybrid models, which of course have significantly higher fuel economy than the conventional gasoline ones.

Toyota itself tends to follow the same general direction, except that in Japan their car lineup is vastly larger than in the US, and includes the much smaller cars in the "keio" and the "2-Box" categories.

In the United States, the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck is very popular with homeowners. It was a compact pickup truck at its introduction in 1995, but has since swelled into the midsize pickup class. It's still smaller than the giant Tundra. Neither of these trucks are in Toyota's Japanese lineup.

In Japan, pickup trucks can be found only in the "Business" category. Apparently Japanese homeowners don't feel the need to own a truck the way their American counterparts do. Besides, where in a Japanese neighbourhood would one park it?

Toyota's trucks for the domestic Japanese market are much more bare-bones, really meant to haul goods, not so much optimised for the "comfort" of the driver: certainly, it is not a toy. Choices are between the larger Dyna or Toyo Ace, and the more compact Town Ace Truck.

The Town Ace Truck is nearly two feet shorter than the Tacoma, and six inches less wide. But its cab does reach 8 inches taller, so its aspect is slim and tall. Nevertheless, its bed has an area that is 43% larger than that of the Tacoma, and the payload is up to 800kg, or 31% larger than for the Tacoma.

Apparenty, the beer crate is the real unit of payload capacity, judging from the way Japanese web pages on pickup trucks conscientiously report the number of beer crates you can transport: for the Town Ace Truck the number is 60. Go ahead, check it out: there is, helpfully, a picture of a beer crate with the number 60 - no knowledge of Japanese required.

The Town Ace Truck's tail gate and side walls are less tall than on the Tacoma, but this is actually a sign of versatility: all three sides can be folded completely out of the way so that you can use it to transport oversized loads, for those places in Japan where the roads allow it. (On the other hand, its very small turning radius is helpful for negotiating the narrow streets characteristic of many residential neighbourhoods in Japan).

What's not to love?
Well, the Town Ace Truck comes with a 1.5L, 96HP engine. Now, as you know I'm generally a fan of small engines. However, this one delivers just two-thirds the power and torque of that of the 2.7L Tacoma engine, at pretty much the same fuel efficiency, an estimated 24-26 mpg (the JC08 schedule overstates the actual fuel economy). This is just underwhelming all around.

Sounds like a candidate for revision: imagine the Town Ace Truck outfitted with a diesel engine like that in my VW Golf: 2.0L, 140HP, 236 lbs-ft torque. Enough to easily haul 60 crates of beer up the side of Mount Fuji. And it's hard to argue with the 38mpg average fuel economy of the diesel.

Better yet: since Toyota is a leader in hybrid technology, perhaps its line of trucks is ready for the upgrade. Electric engines deliver whopping torque, and the fuel economy will get a huge boost. My guess is that, after the closing of the last nuclear reactor, energy will be at a premium in Japan, and Japanese car makers will be under pressure to deliver vehicles with significantly better fuel efficiency.


Toyota Tacoma / Toyota TownAce Truck

Toyota Tacoma TownAce Truck
Type Regular Cab  
Year 2012 2012
Emissions rating  
MSRP $ 17,125 ¥ 1,358,000
($ 17,100)
CelloMom Rating    
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 21 / 25 mpg  
Avg. quoted   12.8 km/L
(30mpg) JC08
Avg. actual 24 mpg est. 24-26 mpg est.


Power & torque 159HP @ 5200rpm
180 lbs-ft @ 3800rpm
96HP @ 6000rpm
134Nm @ 4400rpm
(97 lbs-ft)
Gears 5-spd man RWD 5-spd man 2WD
Fuel Regular unleaded  
Length, mm(in) 190.4 in (4837mm) 4275mm (168 in)
Width, mm(in) 72.2 in (1833mm) 1675mm (66 in)
Height, mm(in) 65.8 in (1671mm) 1890mm (74 in)
Kerb weight, kg(lbs) 3250 lbs (1475 kg) 1130 kg (2491 lbs)
Payload, kg(lbs) 1350 lbs (612 kg) 800 kg (1764 lbs)
Bed length 73.5 in (1867mm) 2430mm (96 in)
Bed width 56.7 in (1440mm) 1585mm (62 in)
Bed height 18.0 in (457mm) 360mm (14 in)
Turning dia c-c, m(ft) 36.7 (11.2m) 9.4m (30.8)
Top speed, kph(mph)    


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