MPG: 21 city/25 highway/22 combined
Because its base version comes nicely equipped with air conditioning, power locks and windows, and an audio system -- three features we consider to be must-haves -- the Tacoma is the most affordable member of our list and is fuel efficient as well.
When loaded up, Tacoma can carry up to 1,320 pounds of passengers and cargo. It can tow up to 3,500 pounds, and comes with a 6-foot cargo box with a spray-on bed liner.
Tacoma's get-up-and-go is from a 159-horsepower, 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine that sends power to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. A $900 premium will substitute a four-speed automatic transmission for the manual.
Tacoma's interior is tidy and user-friendly. Quality materials and good craftsmanship elevate the passenger experience. The front bucket seats are comfortable with adequate support. The flip-down rear seats extend maximum occupancy to four.
Other standard equipment not already mentioned includes stability control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.