By Mike Milne

When GM launched the resurrected mid-size Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon for 2015, it seemed only a matter of time before Toyota would refresh its aging Toyota Tacoma.

The result is on the market for 2016. It may bring some non-believers into the mid-size-truck fold, and it is sure to keep Toyota loyalists happy. It looks a lot like the old Tacoma, but with a beefed up hood and more muscular appearance around the wheel wells. There are more significant improvements inside the cab and under the hood.

There are very few truly small trucks these days, but today’s mid-size trucks fill the void. I test-drove a new Colorado last winter and appreciated of its flexibility in carrying people or cargo and tow-ratings up to 7,000 pounds. The only other competitor in the segment, the Nissan Frontier, is over-due for a makeover.

One of the main charms of a mid-size pickup is its lack of bulk. Unlike most full-size pickups, the Tacoma is easy to drive and park in city-size spaces and more manoeuvrable in traffic. Its cargo beds are smaller – a choice of five or six feet for the Tacoma – but adequate for most recreational loads.

For 2015, the Tacoma has a new V-6 under the hood: a 3.5 L with variable valve timing and direct fuel injection that puts out 278 hp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. My test truck is a 4X4 Double Cab V-6 model, combining peppy acceleration with tow-worthy torque and a 6,400-lb (2,900 kg) tow capacity. The price tag is $40,585; the top-of-the-line leather-trimmed 4X4 Double Cab Limited lists for $44,275.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport FronSt

The TRD Sport Upgrade package gives the test truck a seven-inch display screen (great in combination with the standard backup camera), navigation, heated front seats, a sporty hood scoop, blind spot detectors and much more. With a Class IV trailer hitch, a seven-pin trailer wiring harness and trailer sway control, it’s ready to tow. Part-time four-wheel drive and automatic transmission with limited slip differential are a big help on slippery roads or launch ramps.

Under way, the new Tacoma is relatively nimble. Inside, the front bucket seats are comfortable (and heated, ideal for spring and fall boating), gauges easy to read and knobs easy to reach from the driver’s seat. The back seat is fine for three passengers but also folds flat. Power windows, a power sliding rear window and factory-installed GoPro camera mount are standard equipment.

With the rear seat-back folded forward, fully or in 60/40 sections, there’s a flat, highly usable space for loading luggage, boating gear or provisions. The cargo bed is also well-equipped, with D-rings for tying down equipment. The 17-inch wheels help give it more clearance and a tall stance.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport BackSt

Fuel-efficiency is fine: 11.9 L/100 km (24 imperial mpg) combined and 10.5 L/100 km (27 imperial mpg) at highway speeds. The four-cylinder version of the Tacoma, with a starting list price of $27,995, is available only in an extended cab version, does not offer much better fuel economy and has a 3,500-lb (1590 kg) tow rating.

You will be in good company in whatever Toyota Tacoma you choose. A similar Toyota truck model called the Hilux had worldwide sales of about 650,000 at last count, while about 150,000 Tacomas were sold in North America. Despite slowly evolving styling, Toyota trucks’ reputation for durability, reliability and longevity is the factor that continues to drive many of those sales and keeps many Tacoma owners coming back.

This article is features in the Winter 2016 issue of Boats&Places magazine.