The pickup truck segment is a growing and continually competitive segment in the US automotive market. Despite increasing oil prices, Americans keep buying them and sales are stronger than ever. At least when you can get hold of one. Both the Toyota Tacoma and Toyota Tundra are mature and highly respected players in the segment. Known for their resilience and reliability, Toyota continues to offer them for the 2023 model year. A few things have changed, but much remains the same. This article compares the 2023 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2023 Toyota Tundra and assesses them to see which one is the best.
The basic difference lies in their sizes. Tacoma has always been smaller than Tundra. This still remains true; the dimensions remain unchanged from last year. While the Tundra competes in the full-size pickup truck segment, the Tacoma is an accomplished pickup in the mid-size segment.
Pricing and Trim Levels
Prices were not available for the 2023 model year at the time of writing, but expect a small increment over last year. This puts the base price of the Tacoma with an Access Cab at about $28,000 and the starting price of the Tundra in Double Cab configuration is around $37,845.
The Tacoma’s base engine is the least powerful in the segment. It is, however, way more affordable than any of its rivals. Unlike the Tacoma, the Tundra is pricier than its rivals, but more standard features make it a desirable choice that can look like decent value when you factor in things like reliability and resale values.
The 2023 Tacoma is available in the following trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro, while Trail Edition and Nightshade Edition return to the lineup as well. Similarly, for the 2023 model year, the Tundra is available in five core trim levels: SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, and 1794. Customers can also upgrade to the TRD Pro model or the new flagship Capstone grade. Four-wheel drive is standard on TRD Pro and Capstone trims. The Tundra is available as either an extended- or crew-cab only, and offers a 5.5-, 6.5-, or 8.1-ft bed depending on cab size and trim.
Powertrains and Performance
For the 2023 model year, the Tacoma continues to use the same engines and transmission that it debuted with back in 2015. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder, producing 159 hp of power and 180 lb-ft of torque, remains the base engine and is paired with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. A 3.5-liter V6 producing 278 hp of power and 265 lb-ft of torque is optional. It is similarly paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
For the 2023 Tundra, unlike its rivals that have a V8, the Tundra still has a V6 introduced last year, and no optional V8 has been added. The V6 comes in two flavors: twin-turbocharged/i-FORCE and hybridized/i-FORCE MAX. The 3.4-liter V6 produces 348-389 hp (depending on the trim) in the former and 437 hp in the latter with the help of an electric motor. Torque is between 409-479 lb-ft in non-hybrid and 583 lb-ft in hybrid form. Both of these engines are paired with a 10-speed Aisin-sourced automatic transmission. These engines give the Tundra brisk acceleration, and combined with last year’s update of coil springs replacing leaf springs, it is overall better in on-road dynamics.
The Tacoma powertrains lack a diesel option offered by rivals like the Chevrolet Colorado and Jeep Gladiator. There is also no hybrid option like the bigger Tundra, so if you seek a hybrid Toyota truck, the Tundra is your only option. The base four-cylinder is short on motivational power, but the optional V6 is decent, providing enough power. The automatic transmission offered in the Tacoma is clumsy and not up to the job, so essentially you are left with the optional V6 paired with a six-speed manual. Every Tacoma has an optional dealer-installed TRD Lift Kit. Combined with its off-road-oriented trims, it turns into an even greater off-roader. Overall, the Tacoma is a decent-sized pickup truck with a wide range of capabilities.
Just like the Tacoma, the Tundra also lacks a diesel engine and, additionally, a manual transmission. The absence of a V8 engine is also noticeable since all rivals have one. The Tundra excels in on-road driving characteristics. Its coil springs help it achieve a smoother ride than the rough ride of the Tacoma.
Both the Tacoma and the Tundra return almost similar gas mileage, so there is no exact winner here. The Tacoma has a projected gas mileage of up to 20 city/23 highway mpg, while the Tundra gets an estimated gas mileage of up to 20 city/24 highway mpg.
The Tundra’s towing capacity of 12,000 pounds is definitely better than the Tacoma’s 6,800 lb but still falls short when compared to its competition. However, the maximum payload capacity of 1,940 pounds is an area where the Tundra really does stand out.
When it comes to off-roading, both of these pickups are great off-roaders, especially off-road-specific trims such as the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro. The Tundra has a pretty huge footprint, which is a downside where maneuverability and off-roading are concerned. Therefore, the Tacoma is a better choice because of its smaller size and lighter weight for most off-road situations, although, both are capable and dutiful off-roaders with unmatched reliability.
2023 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2023 Toyota Tundra exterior styling
The Toyota Tacoma was last facelifted in 2020 and last redesigned in 2015. But it is still a handsome-looking truck with the right proportions. The front features a not-so-wide grille, accompanied by sleek headlights, and the rest of the truck is also modern looking. New for 2023 model years Tacoma’s are exterior styling package. Two new packages, namely SX and Chrome, are being offered on the SR5 trim.
The SX package includes a blacked-out grille, black badges, door trims, and 16-inch black wheels. Likewise, the chrome package, as the name implies, adorns the Tacoma with chrome highlights. This includes a chrome grille, chrome-finished door handles, chrome-finished tailgate lettering, and chrome exhaust tips on the exterior. The wheels have been changed to 18-inch chrome-finished alloy wheels. On the inside, a leather-wrapped shift knob reminds you of the special truck you have.
Unlike the Tacoma, the Tundra got a redesign with the introduction of the third generation recently. The looks are still fresh but not so distinct for a redesign. A huge grille occupies most of the frontal area, flanked by headlights and more air vents beneath them. The rest of the truck is, well, truckish. Just like Tacoma, new for the 2023 model year, an appearance package is offered.
In the case of the Tundra, only the SX package is available on SR5 trim in both two-wheel- and all-wheel-drive configurations, as well as on double cab and CrewMax models, and it’s a little different from the one offered on the Tacoma. The SX package includes 18-inch alloy wheels with a dark grey metallic finish, blacked-out door handles, and rear inboard bumpers. A badge deletion treatment helps achieve a subdued and clean look. Moving inside, black accents replace dark silver trim. The SX package can only be added to white, silver, gray, or black exterior paint options.
2023 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2023 Toyota Tundra interiors
The Tacoma is let down by its interior materials, layout, and features. It feels quite dated inside. The interior is not exactly roomy for passengers, specifically in the rear seats. There are not enough storage bins either. The overall interior is utilitarian and very basic, although the Tacoma finally has a power-adjustable driver seat. The ride is coarse and not on par with the rivals.
Unlike the Tacoma, the materials used in the Tundra tend to be nicer, and the quality only gets better with higher trim levels. The layout is simple and prioritizes ease of use. There’s enough room for passengers, and visibility is great. There’s a lot of storage space inside the center console and all around the inside. Seat comfort and interior noise levels have greatly improved. This all makes the interior versatile and pleasant to stay in.
The 2023 Tacoma is quite only a very modest improvement over its predecessor. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility have been added, but a mobile hotspot is still a notable absentee. The base model has a 7-inch infotainment display, while the upper trims have an 8-inch. Other than that, there isn’t much to report.
The Tacoma certainly doesn’t lack safety features. This is where the Tacoma shines, pretty much like every other model from Toyota these days. Forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control are standard, but they are just a couple of headlines from an extensive list of standard safety kit.
An 8-inch infotainment screen is standard on the new Tundra, while an optional 14-inch outshines every other segment rival. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and there’s also a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot available as an option.
The Tundra is a step ahead of the Tacoma as most of the advanced driver assistance technologies come as standard. Tundra includes automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and more. Safety features include standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and standard adaptive cruise control.
The Tundra, which was refreshed last year, is a better choice than the Tacoma. It has a great powertrain, great interior materials, and technology, and it’s seriously good to drive. The only problem is that, since it is a full-size truck, it really is a bit of a land yacht. Then again, you could probably say the same about every full-size truck these days.
You could say that this is where the 2023 Tacoma shines. The Tacoma is just the right size for the urban jungle, and it’s also better at off-roading than the Tundra and comes at a notably lower price. The only letdown is that it is getting old and needs a major overhaul, specifically on the inside, and in the powertrain.
Considering how difficult it can be to get your hands on some new vehicles at the moment, it might be worth waiting for the 2024 Toyota Tacoma if a midsize truck is your preference. On the other hand, the mighty Tundra has only recently been redesigned so you’re not going to see significant changes for some time.
For the moment then, unless a full-size model is too much truck for what you need, I’d go with a 2023 Toyota Tundra over a 2023 Toyota Tacoma.