I shopped extensively, test driving one of each competing model before buying my 1995.5 Tacoma LX Extended Cab 2x4 4 Cylinder Manual transmission new in 1995. It was reliable, great gas mileage, and was perfect for hauling stuff for the house and commuting to college and work. Three years later, I bought a boat, and needed 4WD and a larger engine, so I traded it up for a 1998 Tacoma SR5 Extended Cab 4x4 V6 AT. I also did a lot of research and a lot of test drives before buying the 98, so I would be glad to help people choose options packages, etc. After getting the 4x4, I have gotten heavily into off-roading. I have access to a lot of info on vehicle mods such as lift kits for Tacomas.
Former Alabama Chapter President of Tacoma Territory Off-Roader's Association, very active on Usenet newsgroups, also survived a rollover accident in my 1998 Tacoma with only a pavement burn on my elbow, so I have firsthand crash safety info ;-).