Taxi cabs are an iconic staple of the GTA series, but the history involving them is a little more complicated than most players assume.
The taxi in the Grand Theft Auto series is a four-door sedan, but there are other taxi variants that play a pivotal role in the brief history of these cabs. Something like the Kaufman Cab will be mentioned, although not all discussions will be pertaining solely to a vehicle's performance.
There's also the matter of Taxi Rides, a mechanic where players can enter taxi vehicles to get back to a mission marker should they fail it previously. Then, there's also the matter of taxi side missions, where players could acquire a decent amount of money and unlock additional rewards if they were good enough at driving.
A brief history of taxi cabs in the GTA series
Taxis were around since the very beginning, as they appeared in GTA 1. However, there were no side missions pertaining to taxis, and players could not enter them to return to mission markers, making them nothing special.
Their stats were also pretty terrible in the 2D GTA games, meaning that the taxi was an unremarkable vehicle for these games.
Taxis in the 3D universe
Fortunately, GTA 3 bestowed several benefits to the taxi. There were two primary taxi vehicles in GTA 3, the Taxi and the Cabbie. Both could do "Taxi Driver," a side mission where the player drove people around as a real-life taxi driver would.
Something similar existed in GTA 2, but that system was far less refined as pedestrians did not have a specific destination in mind.
Generally, the taxi was preferred over the cabbie, as the latter was more sluggish and awkward to use, making the faster taxi more useful in "Taxi Driver."
After 100 cab fares were completed, the player could unlock the Borgnine, a superior taxi option. GTA 3 also featured a glitch where players could start the "Taxi Driver" mission, swap to another vehicle, and continue the mission if they were quick enough.
As some vehicles were far and away superior to the taxi options in GTA 3, it diminished these vehicles' value by quite a bit.
GTA Vice City introduced Kaufman Cabs, a business property that Tommy Vercetti could own. This addition gave taxis more prominence in the overall story, and it also allowed players to earn more money.
The Kaufman Cab was highly similar to the Cabbie, but the Zebra Cab was the best taxi in the game. It spawned in Kaufman Cabs after the player completed its final mission.
However, the best part of GTA Vice City was that players could drive back to a mission if they got wasted during it. "Taxi Rides" was a new feature that was highly convenient for them, and it even returned in Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories (yet is absent in GTA San Andreas).
Another neat thing was that taxis could jump if the player completed 100 fares, which was a highly unique ability.
GTA San Andreas & the other 3D games
GTA San Andreas removed "Taxi Rides," which was one of the weaker aspects of that game. "Taxi Driver" still returned, with the bonus that players could customize their Taxi in TransFender.
Rockstar Games also introduced a tip meter in GTA San Andreas to incentivize players to drive safely yet quickly to their destination.
As previously mentioned, GTA Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories allowed players to use "Taxi Rides" to get back to missions more quickly. The former also introduces Bickle'76, another bonus taxi that outclassed other taxi vehicles.
Vice City Stories returned the ability for players to do a sizable jump whenever they wanted while inside a taxi.
Considering Roman is an integral character to GTA 4, it shouldn't be surprising that taxis played a huge role in the overall storyline.
His taxi company, Bellic Enterprises, eventually burned down, and he opened a new taxi company somewhere else in Liberty City. Players could drive Roman's taxi to earn a little bit of side money, although they could also ride it for free. Later on in the story, they could also ride Cavalcades for free.
"Taxi Rides" could bring a player to any destination they want. Considering players could call for cabs quite easily in GTA 4, it was highly recommended to use it and skip the drive (for an additional cost) to save time. Players could either use regular taxis for this or Roman's taxi service.
GTA 5 & GTA Online
GTA 5 players could use "Taxi Rides" in a similar manner to GTA 4. Predictably, GTA Online players could not skip the drive given the game's nature, even if they were in a solo lobby. Players could not do "Taxi Driver" in GTA Online, but they could always roleplay it if they wanted to do something similar to it.
GTA 5 also allowed players to purchase Downtown Cab Co, which operates similarly to Kaufman Cabs. The missions were noticeably different, as there were no competitors for them.
Franklin also got a new booty call for acquiring this business, although otherwise, taxis are just seen as cheap transportation in the HD universe of GTA games.