(Above): Exterior view of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma.

With crew cabs becoming more popular in the pick-up truck segment, automakers are targeting a larger a consumer-base who have a growing family as opposed to those who simply need a truck to haul stuff, writes Sally Miller Wyatt.

You don’t have to have a big or growing family to appreciate the versatility that trucks can offer. And, especially since more and more of them have crew cabs, they become even more family-friendly, in terms of transportation choices.

We recently had a chance to drive the 2011 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4X4. As far as I’m concerned, it has many of the things that families need and appreciate built right in. With seating for five, it means the whole tribe can come along, and the big gear fits nicely in the truck bed. Our test car had a bed extender, which means even longer or more items can be hauled along on your adventures. Plus, it came with an optional tow package for $650, which included a Class 4 hitch.

Toyota has been building Tacomas for quite some time, and it has become a very popular compact truck here in North America. For 2001, some of the new features and upgrades include five new four-cylinder models, revised styling on the front grille and new features designed to boost passenger comfort.

Some Tacoma models have additional standard equipment for 2011. It’s always nice to learn you’ll get more without having to pay more. These features include standard air conditioning on all Regular Cab models, and satellite radio is added to Tacomas that are equipped with the available six-disc CD changer. When you opt for the Convenience Extra Value Package for Double Cab models, the package now includes cruise control, a sliding rear window with privacy glass, remote keyless entry and steering wheel audio controls. Our test vehicle did have that package and it has quite a long list of features, including the above mentioned ones, for a total package price of $3,080.

(Above): Interior view of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma.

At first blush you might think that’s a chunk of change for added features, but it is quite a nice collection. Fog lamps, chrome on the front grille and rear bumper, bucket seats with lumbar support for the driver, and a back-up camera in the rearview mirror are just a few of the other items in this Extra Value Package.

Toyota Tacomas are built in an array of combinations, based on three cab types: the Regular Cab, Access Cab and the four-door Double Cab. The rear doors on the Access Cab open 80 degrees, to make it easier for your passengers to get in and out of the truck.

Other models are built on a 60.3-inch or 73.5-inch wheelbase, or wheelbases that range from 109.4 inches all the way up to the Double Cab Long Bed with a 140.6-inch wheelbase. Other models include 4X2 or 4X4 options.

So, you’d be advised to do a bit of homework on which cab or wheelbase option is best for your family, before heading out for your test drive.

The Toyota Tacoma we had for test drive was among the larger models, and it offered a formidable stance in our driveway. The passenger cabin is good sized and there is plenty of leg, hip and headroom for all your passengers, no matter where they are sitting.

(Above): Exterior view of the 2011 Toyota Tacoma.

Many vehicles have back-up cameras these days, and most are located on the dashboard. The Toyota Tacoma had its rear-view camera positioned in the rear view mirror, which is something I really liked. Your first habit is to look in the rear view mirror anyway, not on the dashboard, right?

On the road, the Toyota Tacoma handled well and had that bit of “truck kick” some people really favor. It offers a comfortable ride, even on long road trips. It maneuvers well, too, but this model is not meant for compact car parking spaces.

Overall, the 2011 Toyota Tacoma is a very versatile truck because it has been built in such an array of cab and bed configurations. That could be good news for busy, active families.