The Subaru Baja was a spiritual successor to the Subaru BRAT. Like the BRAT, the Subaru Baja was based on a Subaru wagon’s platform.
I seriously considered a Subaru Baja based on its utilitarian layout, price, AWD and overall performance. Sure, it wasn’t the best looking little truck out there, even a little, it was one of the most logical for a guy like me who was starting a small family. Then I discovered its two biggest flaws.
2. Only a small portion of the rear bulkhead (the mid-gate) folded for cargo.
The Subaru Baja is six-inches longer than the Outback/Legacy wagon its based on. The bed is 41-inches long and can extend to a total of 77-inches with both the tailgate and midgate open (60.5 inches with the standard bed extender with the tailgate down). Maximum towing is 2,400 lbs – which is a bit low. Still, it’s enough to pull a small trailer with a motorcycle/jetskis. Payload is 1,070 lbs.
Originally, the ride-height started at 7.3-inches and, by the end of production, was raised to 8.4-inches.
The normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine made 165 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque (later models made a little bit more torque). The turbocharged 210 hp 2.5-liter boxer made 235 lb-ft of torque and made the Subaru Baja a genuinely quick ride. Both powerplants were connected to a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission was optional.
Regardless of the engine, the Subaru Baja was (by far) the easiest truck to drive in North America.
So, why did Subaru kill the Baja?
Sales were sluggish and demand was pretty low. Also, the Subaru Baja was not exactly cheap. Prices wandered into other base-model pickup truck territory. Finally, rumor has it that (then automotive partner) General Motors would not allow Subaru to make the mid-gate larger as that was the domain of the Chevrolet Avalanche.
I’ve spoken to a few Subaru suits and a lab-coat or two… all of them seem pretty convinced that the Subaru Baja AND the Subaru BRAT will never return. Bummer.
Well – you never know. Maybe Subaru will build a diesel/hybrid, AWD replacement for the Subaru B9, cut the rear end open like a pickup truck and call it a Subaru B4-86i or something.
Speaking of small trucks…