From 2003 to 2007 Subaru continued the tradition established originally by their coupé utility Brat, by releasing the Subaru Baja car. In typical Subaru style, the Baja was all-wheel-drive, and featured a flat-four motor. The 2.5L power plant generated 165 base hp and was rated at 20 miles per gallon in town and 25 on the highway. A turbo charged version was available; increasing the output to a respectable 210 hp. Bajas were available with either automatic or five-speed manual transmissions.
Winner of the 2003 and 2004 J.D. Powers’ APEAL Award for “Most Appealing Compact Pickup”, the Baja sported a look unique to the industry. Based on a slightly extended version the Legacy and Outback uni-body platforms, the Baja’s passenger compartment featured four-door access, in addition to an open pickup-style bed and tailgate. Overall, the Baja measured 193 inches long, 70 inches wide, and 65 inches high. Although the cargo bed was only 41 inches long, Subaru included a “Switchback” hatch, allowing the user to fold the rear seat down and extend the bed an additional 17 inches into the passenger compartment. Though it featured a 2400 pound tow rating, the Baja’s handling was more like that of a mid-sized passenger car than of a pickup.
Unfortunately for Subaru, the Baja’s sales never lived up to expectations. When production began at their facility in Lafayette, Indiana in July of 2002, Subaru projected 24,000 units per year in sales, but only ended up selling a total of 30,000 Bajas during its entire four and a half year production run. In April of 2006, manufacture of Bajas was ceased for good.
Luckily, it is still possible to find replacement Subaru Baja parts, since it shares the basic platform and many components with Legacy, Forester, and Outback models of the same time period. Because of this, Baja owners today who perform regular oil changes and other standard maintenance should be able to look forward to driving their Bajas for many years to come.