1st Gen Tacoma Specs and Review [1995-2004 Toyota Tacoma]

Since 1995, the Toyota Tacoma has established itself as a reliable pickup truck for the North American market and elsewhere. It was so well-made that you can still buy a 1st Gen Tacoma today. So, what are the specs of 1st Gen Tacomas?

The first-generation Tacoma is an inexpensive pickup truck with a comfortable cab. It is available in 4×2 and 4×4 variants, with 2.4, 2.7, and 3.4-liter engines producing between 142 and 190 horsepower. It has an exterior design with a tough and rough look and can withstand harsh weather conditions. You can also drive the Toyota Tacoma off-road, which is very adaptable.

Read on to learn more about the 1st Gen Toyota Tacoma and the different models and yearly updates. 

1st Gen Toyota Tacoma Review

1st Gen Tacoma
2004 1st Gen Tacoma

Included Features That the Hilux Lacked

When it was first introduced to the market in 1995, the initial goal was to replace the Hilux, a utility vehicle. The 1st Gen Tacoma included features that the Hilux lacked, such as airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Comes with 2.4, 2.7, and 3.4-liter Engines

As soon as the first-generation Tacoma established itself as a comfortable and safe vehicle, sales were booming. It comes with 2.4, 2.7, and 3.4-liter engines producing between 142 and 190 horsepower.

Old Design But Not That Grumpy

Yes, it has an old design, but it is not that grumpy. The first-generation Tacoma went through many design changes, but the headlights are the one feature that you see in all of them.

1st Gen Tacoma Models

It comes in five models:

  • N140,
  • N150,
  • N150,
  • N170, and
  • N190.

Equipped with a 4-speed Automatic or 5-speed Manual Transmission

Each of these models comes equipped with either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. You also have many engine options to choose from based on the model.

Prone to Rust

One thing to keep in mind is that the first-generation Tacomas were particularly prone to rust. If you don’t live on the West Coast or in a dry climate, you should scrutinize any first-generation Tacoma before buying it.

Repurchase Program

In fact, because of this rust issue, Toyota first offered a repurchase program for trucks from 1995 to 2000 and later extended an indefinite corrosion warranty to all first-generation pickups.

1995-04 1st Gen Tacoma Road Test

Quickly Accelerates

The base engine accelerates quickly, especially when coupled with the manual transmission. Although the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine in 4WD models produces slightly more horsepower and torque, it seems more stressed in all driving scenarios. 

Tacomas with the 3.4-liter V6 tend to have strong standing-start acceleration. 

The truck did pretty well when testing the 2WD automatic V6 double cab. It was 0-60 mph time. With the 4WD and manual transmission, you hit an average of 16,1 mpg, which is not that bad. 

What Is the Ride Like?

The ride is of mediocre quality. Tacoma stomps over potholes and leaps over dips in the road. The handling isn’t great, but the brakes are reliable.

There’s enough room for two adults to spread out in the front seats. But, like many compact pickups, the back of the truck is better left to freight rather than people. The noise levels are slightly higher than similar Ford or Chevy compact pickups.

Average Payload Capacity

Tacoma’s payload ratings are competitive with anything in its class, but towing restrictions are around 1000 pounds less than the Ranger and S-Series, even with the 3.4-liter V6. 

We should also add that Tacoma only offers a single 6.2-foot cargo bed length. Whereas practically every rival offers a regular-cab model with a cargo bed length of 7 or 7.5 feet.

Main Features of the 1st Gen Toyota Tacoma

1. Reliability

Some of the Most Reliable Compact Trucks

First-generation Toyota Tacomas are some of the most reliable compact trucks. Even though the latest model of the 1st generation has been out of production for more than a decade and a half and has a mileage of over 200,000 miles, they still run well and have reasonable maintenance expenses.

Performs Well Despite the Rust Issues

You are getting a truck that outlasts most competitors, including more modern ones than the Tacomas.

Even when you experience rust issues with your truck, it still performs admirably well. 

The first Gen Toyota Tacoma holds its value well and adds to its appeal. There’s no denying that a well-maintained truck will last a long time without breaking the bank on expensive repairs.

2. Adaptability

Equipped with Drivetrains That Allows Drivers to Handle the Road with Ease

1st Gen Tacomas are versatile, with drivetrains that let them handle the road with ease. They can also travel off-road, which gives them a big advantage over their competitors.

All-terrain and All-weather vehicle

Because of its RWD, a first-generation Tacoma is considered an all-terrain, all-weather vehicle that can comfortably move your cargo everywhere, with a drivetrain paired with a four-speed automatic transmission.

Comes with All-season Tires

It also comes with all-season tires for further peace of mind when driving in the winter. Although several of Tacoma’s competitors have more powerful engines, the V6 engine is enough for the truck’s needs.

3. Demand

Reason Behind Its Demand

The increased demand for these trucks is due to two factors. The first is their well-deserved reputation for high reliability. The second factor is the scarcity of 1st-generation Toyota Tacomas on the market. 

Why so? Because as mentioned earlier, due to rust problems, Toyota purchased most of the 1995-2004 models from its consumers. So, you end up with low supply and high demand.

Can Hold Its Value in the Long Run

Price rises in response to increased demand. The good news for truck sellers is that their truck will hold its value pretty well in the long run. So, when you decide to sell your Tacoma, high demand will stand, and pricing will remain unchanged. 

The 1st generation Tacomas will reign supreme in the used compact truck market.

4. Trustworthiness

There is a belief among compact truck buyers that older models are more likely to last longer than newer ones. This belief or lack of trust is founded on nostalgia rather than facts. There’s always the hope that things were better in the past.

1st generation Toyota Tacomas were among the first compact trucks to hit the market, making them “golden oldies” in the industry. Anyone with even a passing interest in compact vehicles, or trucks in general, will come to appreciate it.

5. Low Depreciation

First-generation models do not depreciate as quickly as other compact vehicles. This is all thanks to their durability and low maintenance.

For example, knowing that you can buy a 2003 Tacoma and that it has not depreciated too much is a huge deal. Again, early rusting is a concern with such first-generation trucks, but that does not necessarily add to their depreciation.

6. Toyota Buyback

Toyota had to recall hundreds of thousands of first-generation Tacomas in 2008 due to a rust issue that caused some truck components to deteriorate.

Another 150,000 1st generation Tacomas were recalled in 2012 due to rust in extra tire carriers. You might be thinking that these recalls have lowered the value of these vehicles. Well, you’d be mistaken.

Toyota agreed to pay $3 billion to truck owners as part of a court settlement. They replaced most of the cars and scrapped those severely damaged.

Toyota even paid five-figure sums for certain truck owners who qualified for such refunds. 

All the vehicles that had been reframed performed better later on.

1st Gen Tacoma Design

1st gen tacoma years
2000 1st Gen Tacoma

Not as Fancy Compared to Models Today

Almost all models between 1995 and 2004 were not as fancy as today’s models. Older models tended to focus on practicality rather than aesthetics.

Rough and Tough Exterior

Most first-generation models have an exterior design based on a tough and rough look.

The large wheels and a high ground clearance show off the vehicle’s all-road capability. The vertical front and wide grille add to the truck’s aggressive look.

The flared headlamps are attractive, and they are coupled with a few clever body creases to give the vehicle a sporty feel.

Good Payload Capacity

There is a fairly large cargo bed in the back and a handy rear bumper that doubles as a footstep to make loading and unloading easier.

Body Options

Regular Cab, Xtracab, and Double Cab were the three-body options available on the previous Toyota Tacoma. The Double Cab was a small Crew Cab with four doors and a large backbench. 

The bed of the Double Cab is trimmed to 61.5 inches to maintain the same overall proportions as the Regular Cab vehicles.

Again, is the First Gen Tacoma reliable? The First Gen Tacoma, which lasted until 2004, is reliable. It still holds its value even throughout the years.

Safety Standards of the 1st Gen Tacomas

Equipped with Antilock Brakes and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution

All models come standard with antilock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution. On V6 models, traction control is standard, while stability control is optional. 

Ratings

This truck received three out of five stars for driver safety in frontal crashes and four stars for passenger safety in federal crash tests. 

It scored three stars for front-occupant safety in side-impact testing, with a high risk of pelvic injury. The IIHS gave this 1st Gen truck an “Acceptable” rating for frontal-offset collision testing.

1st Gen Tacoma Interior

Sturdy Due to Good Quality Materials

The inside design is simple, but the plastics appear sturdy, and the materials are of good quality. The dashboard has a sturdy and simple look, but it’s quite functional, and you will appreciate the handy center console.

Accessible Control

Every control is easily accessible, and you will certainly love the excellent road visibility, all thanks to the elevated driving position and large windows.

The sleek instrument cluster has a simple appearance and a set of white-faced gauges with an intuitive layout that is simple to read. 

Comfortable Front Seats

The seats are comfy for long and short rides, and there are ample adjustments to help you become comfortable behind the wheel. They may, though, have had greater side bolstering.

Ergonomic Steering Wheel

The steering wheel was quite sophisticated for its period, with an ergonomic design that provided a strong grip. A few changes were also possible, providing some common sense comfort.

1st Gen Tacoma Engine and Performance

Engine Options

The standard 1s Gen Toyota Tacoma comes equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 142 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. 

The next engine choice is a 2.7-liter powerplant that produces 142 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque and is available in both 4WD and 2WD configurations.

Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

It comes standard with a 3.4-liter V6 engine that produces 190 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. You can also choose between the following:

  • Five-speed manual, or
  • A four-speed automatic transmission.

Capable of Handling the Truck’s Utilitarian Nature

All of the engines are powerful and capable of handling the truck’s utilitarian nature, with the four-cylinder units capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds and the V6 capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds.

Mileage Range of the 1st Gen Toyota Tacoma

The one certain thing about the Toyota Tacoma is that it will get you through tough roads and harsh weather conditions while remaining in excellent shape.

So, you can count on this car to travel at least 200,000 miles of reliable service. You can even push it further and get your truck to 300,000 miles when you properly maintain it.

Getting a Tacoma to last 300,000 miles would have seemed unthinkable in the past. But now, thanks to improved manufacturing procedures and components, you can get the most miles out of your truck before you need any pricey repairs.

Still, you play a big role in this. Proper maintenance is the key.

1st Gen Tacoma Yearly Updates

1995

There were three engine options available for the 1995 Tacoma model

  • 2.4L four-cylinder 2RZ-FE engine: This engine produces 142 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque, has a maximum towing capability of 3,500 pounds and gets 26 miles per gallon.
  • 2.7L four-cylinder 3RZ-FE engine: This engine produces roughly 150 HP and 177 lb-ft of torque. Surprisingly, at only 20 miles per gallon, the 3RZ-FE was more fuel-efficient than the smaller model.
  • 3.4 L with a 5,000-pound towing capacity: This 3.4L engine produces 190 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque, with a modest boost in gas mileage of 21 mpg.

1998

Toyota debuted the PreRunner model in 1998. The Tacoma had the same full-frame and solid rear axle as its predecessors, but Toyota changed the front suspension to coil springs on 4×2 and 4×4 models. 

A locking differential was available as part of the TRD off-road package.

1999

For 1999, Toyota extended the PreRunner option to conventional cab models, and Toyota equipped all Tacomas with antilock brakes and daytime running lights. Toyota pushed the style envelope even further once the PreRunner package became a certified hit. 

2000

Toyota released the Tacoma StepSide variant in 2000, which included a bed with characteristic fender blisters. A new four-door crew cab model is one of them. 

Toyota also added Tokico gas shocks and four doors to the “Double Cab” model. 

The crew cab had a 5-foot bed, while the extended cab had a 6-foot bed. Toyota introduced the S-Runner trim package in October 2000, which included a five-speed manual transmission and a 3.4 L V6 engine.

2002

In 2002, the Toyota Tacoma remained unchanged. It was, nonetheless, popular enough to earn the title of “Most Wanted” small pickup that year. By 2003, sales of Tacoma had increased by 16.5 percent. 

In 2004, the 1st Gen Toyota Tacoma ended with no more updates.

Most Common 1st Gen Tacoma Problems

1st gen tacoma specs

1st Gen Tacomas, like most cars, are not perfect, and they do have flaws. Here are a few examples:

1. Frame Rust 

Their frames enable moisture to enter, which accelerates the process of corrosion. While Toyota issued a recall and paid some owners, your Tacoma might be one of the corrected vehicles. 

The undercarriage of most of the earlier models has already been covered to address the issue.

Still, if you would like to check for corrosion, thoroughly inspect the underside of your truck.

2. Failing Lower Ball Joint 

There is a high risk of lower ball joint failure in 1st generation Tacomas because of a finishing issue during production. This happens mainly with models made between 2001 and 2004.

Before the ball joint failure, some drivers complained about a humming sound underneath the truck or difficult steering. Others were not so fortunate. Their trucks suddenly broke down without warning. 

The problem with the lower ball joint was so pervasive that Toyota again had to recall all 2001-04 models.

Examine the lower ball joints of any of the 1st generation models before you consider buying one.

3. Broken Glove Compartment Tab

Another common concern with these trucks is the glove compartment tab. Many truck owners are familiar with the rattling sound from the vehicle’s passenger side.

The source of this rattling sound is some badly fitting rubber tabs. During the manufacturing process, these tabs broke off, causing the glove compartment to fit loosely and strike the bottom dash region. 

The most effective solution to this is to replace the glove compartment altogether.

4. Automatic Transmissions Issues

This transmission issue affects roughly 9 model years (1995-to 2004). Some (but not all) of the cars’ automatic transmissions do not shift correctly. 

You can still fix this issue by adjusting the gear sensor and replacing the solenoid.

5. Crankshaft Pulley Bolt

This is a minor problem caused by worn screw threads. The crankshaft’s pulley bolt falls loose. This happens with this type of truck because, let’s face it, they have been around for a while, so no surprise.

You can solve this problem by using a thread locker and then retorquing the bolt.

FAQs

How Safe Is the 1st Gen Toyota Tacoma?

Despite the airbags in some models, front and side-impact protection is just average. This is true of other compact pickups with similar model years (94-04)l, so this isn’t a Toyota-specific issue. 

What Is the Towing and Hauling Capacity of a Toyota Tacoma?

All models can pull roughly 3,500 pounds. They can also carry payloads of up to 1,600 pounds thanks to the 4-cylinder engine. The trailer rating rises to 5,000 pounds with the V6 engine. Plus, the payload rating rises between 1,600 and 2,000 pounds, depending on the model. 

How Common Is It for a First-Gen Toyota Tacoma to Experience Rust?

Expect rust to form on your truck in the first three years of ownership.

What Is the Handling Like in 1st Gen Toyota Tacomas?

The Toyota Tacoma provides you with a well-balanced and comfortable ride and the ability to absorb most potholes without too much drama.

Its outside proportions are relatively tiny, making it convenient to drive in the city. Not to mention the turning radius, which is considerably smaller than that of a full-size pickup truck.

The truck performs admirably well when driving off-road and remains firmly planted on its wheels.

You won’t have any major complaints about the steering, which has a crisp response and provides adequate road input. The braking power is on par with what you’d expect in this truck. The pedal feel gives you confidence that you’ll be able to stop this four-wheeled truck in no time.

Conclusion – 1st Gen Toyota Tacoma Specs

The first-generation Toyota Tacoma is a pickup truck released in the United States in 1995 as a replacement for the Hilux.

The Toyota Tacoma was more refined, offering a better ride, superior handling, and a larger payload capacity than the Hilux. It also comes with 2.4, 2.7, and 3.4-liter engines that provide 142 to 190 horsepower. 

The 1s Gen Tacoma has a good mileage range of at least 200,000 miles. It also boasts a rugged and robust exterior design that can withstand extreme weather conditions. 

Sure, first-generation Tacomas have had some problems with rust over the years, but Toyota has done an excellent job fixing this issue.

Read next:

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