Every couple of years here we have to pay homage to the Subaru Baja. It’s still surprises me that these bombed out so badly. It seems perfect for Eugene—whose official car is the Outback—given how popular gardening and other messy and muddy outdoor activities are. But no; it’s either got to be a wagonish Outback or a Tacoma pickup; never the twain shall merge.
I wonder if Subaru will ever try making a truck again. The current platform under the Outback and Ascent is pretty good sized; with a bit of a stretch they could build something like the Honda Ridgeline. Of course that hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, although I think the current generation sells reasonably well, at least around here. It’s a better Baja.
Speaking of, the 2021 Ridgeline is looking a bit more buff. Good call. I find it a pretty attractive package; much better interior space than a Tacoma, and probably a more civilized ride too.
I have a lot of love for the Brat, but I never really warmed up to the Baja. It’s funny, but my experience was a lot like that of the Oregonians described here. I drove an Outback from this same era and much preferred its look and closed compartment.
I used to occasionally see these Bajas with camper tops and thought to myself, “What’s the point?” Why not just get an Outback?
I’m not sure why this car didn’t light might fire. Maybe it’s because it looks exactly like an Outback, but with the back Sawzalled off. Perhaps Subaru could have done a little more to make it unique.
I share the love of the BRAT. My roommate in college had one and a used Subaru of that era was my first purchase when I started working. The BRAT looked like a two door wagon with the back sawzalled off, I called it the Japanese el Camino but it looked better than the Baja.
A couple of Brats are still driven in my neighborhood. Never seen this at all.
Maybe it crosses status boundaries. The monster four-door pickup is purely a status symbol, never a work vehicle. Compact pickups are for work. A small status symbol is an oxymoron.
@ Polistra ;
Where do you live ? .
I’m in So. Cal., land of poseurs and brodozers and there’s lots of well worked BIG American crew cab trucks that work daily, full of tools and hit the junkyards in ten short years mostly due to cosmetic damage .
I know many who consider their small vehicles status symbols, I’m one of them with my 2001 Ford Ranger trucklet base model .
It’s my shop truck but I also keep it squeaky clean and tidy, no need to be a slob nor hammer it just because it’s a cheap truck .
I like smaller vehicles and only buy the size of truck I need to actually carry Motocycles and engines trannys etc. .
I’ve seen a few of these Subies here and didn’t realize they were a sales flop .
Subies have always seemed niche vehicles to me .
Nice but not my cuppa tea .
>>Ridgeline is looking a bit more buff. Good call. I find it a pretty attractive package; much better interior space than a Tacoma, and probably a more civilized ride too.<<
before the cosmetics one car buff mag had the Ridgeline and four or so other off-road style pickups and/or SUVs drive out to Ubehebe Crater (I think) on washboard roads
the jaunt was extremely tough on the shocks – causing them to overheat and all but the Ridgeline's to fail – they were all leaking but the Ridgeline
That side cladding really is way over the top – as if Subaru looked at Pontiac and said “Watch us!” The 2-tone version shown in the picture makes it even more apparent.
I would have liked to see it without all that plastic on the sides. Maybe it would have done better.
The cladding on the bottom of the Baja is overdone. Perhaps if it was simpler like the Outback then it would have looked better. The point of the Baja with the cap was that the bed was separated from the body and could hold dirty stuff and could be hosed out. That’s not how you would treat the cargo area of an Outback. Regarding the Ridgeline, it should be interesting to see how the new Hyundai Santa Cruz does. And Volkswagen may bring their version out as well. I am not sure sure a Subaru version would be financially viable.
If they had actually just made the Outback 6″ wider and gotten rid of all of that cladding (which merely provided the illusion of being wider) I might have given an Outback a serious look. My Mom had one for about ten years, and I always felt like I was wearing the car as opposed to sitting in it.
Speaking as a former Subaru owner (an ’84 GL wagon).
I only know one person who drives a Baja. I wish that he would get in his Baja and drive far away and not come back. I feel better now.
I remember the introduction of the Explorer Sport Trac at the auto show and it was similar to the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Glenda lands. Great idea and execution.
I’m a Subaru fan boy but the Baja was needlessly ugly. However I certainly do think there is room for the concept; in fact the Forrester and Outback platforms are perfectly suited for extended cab (Forrester) and crew cab (Outback) models. I think 60-70k sales a year would be possible.
Subaru also needs to milk that Toyota connection to get hybridized stat. It’s disappointing they haven’t been on the forefront regarding hybrids; it certainly fits their image.
I think the Baja and Ridgeline are more in line with people’s actual needs.
I’d buy a Ridgeline if I ever really need a truck. I have a friend who wants to loan me their V8 4WD truck any time I need one just to put a few miles on it from time to time.
The think trucks like the Baja and Ridgeline are perfect with a trailer hitch for hauling 4×8 sheet materials.
Wasn’t the Baja developed at the time when GM owned a sizable chunk of Subaru?
Under that influence, did they try for a mini-Chevrolet Avalanche but ran out of time and budget? And then GM sold 20% of Subaru to Toyota.
Here’s my problem with the Baja, the Ridgeline, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac; etc. – the shortness of the bed. I know the pictured Ridgeline is shown with motorcycles in the bed, but I’d love to see how they got them in without breaking the rear window.
to me, you either need just a wagon or CUV with folding rear seats, or you need something with a real size bed for oversize stuff. Vehicles like this one to me mean either your stuff gets wet needlessly, or the bed is too small at times.
Of course it’s certainly possible that I’m overstating the problem. wouldn’t be the first time!
Lastly, the other thing about the Baja that’s always bugged me are the chrome bars in back of the cab. If they aren’t part of a true roll cage, they just seem like an indulgent sytling exercise – sort of like the plastic faux skid plates under too many CUV’s.
I’ve never understood the hangup some people have about “real sized beds”. The Ridgeline has a 5′ bed, same as any other mid-size crew cab truck in the US or around the world. That’s been more than sufficient for “real truck work” for decades. The Sport Trac was 4′ and the Baja 3.5′, which are definitely on the short side, but still adequate for their intended audience. Ford’s upcoming Maverick will be about 4.5′, which is the same length as the earlier Frontier and S-10 crew cabs, as well as the older Ranger crew cab. Not every job requires 4×8′ of load space. Heck, even HD pickups are more likely to have 6.5′ than 8′.
The Baja’s chrome bars are necessary for structural integrity after cutting out the Outback’s roof, much like the sail panels on an Avalanche. And how many CUVs have plastic skid plates?
Just for a counterpoint the whole reason I didn’t seal the deal to trade in my old 2004 long bed Dodge Ram on a new Gladiator was the diminutive bed. Though driving a Jeep with the top down brought me back to my youth the Gladiator quickly showed I would need to buy a trailer to haul the lumber I pick up weekly. A 12′ board in an 8′ bed is reasonable, a 12′ board in a 5′ bed is untenable, especially when it’s pricy imported hardwood. Those smaller beds are great for gardeners and antique hunters. Woodworkers, and handymen may need a little more. Here’s hoping that Jeep makes an open top FSJ once again.
Room for a beer cooler and a bag of mulch, not much else. The size of the Ridgeline certainly is more useful especially with its lockable compartment. My Ram Tradesmen works hard hauling loads and pulling trailers. The bed is generally dirty and the back seat (folded up most of the time) is usually full of tools. It looks like a truck ought to look, plain and unadorned.
The much fancier trucks, all makes, remind me of a woman with all her makeup and jewelry on, pretty to look at but don’t want to go work in garden. They’re just luxurious boat pullers.
I’ve owned all makes, Ford Chevy and Dodge and never had a bad one. There have been some repairs required and some design flaws but overall excluding abuse excellent service life.
A mechanic at the local Subaru dealer drives a yellow one. It makes the cladding standout even more, which is not good. I am generally more interested in practicality than looks, but the Baja seems to be going out of its way to look weird without any discernible benefit.
When we bought our Forester a couple of years ago I seriously looked at the Ridgeline, but it was a bit larger than I really wanted. My sister-in-law had just been forced to replace her Mazda B2300 and I no longer had easy access to a pick-up, but in the end I just got a hitch for the Subaru.
It seems like maybe 1/3 of Bajas were yellow. Or at least, yellow was such a halo color in the early-mid ’00s that we never notice any other colors.
Curious : why need to replace the Mazda B2300 ? .
I’ve seen maybe one Baja and that’s it-the bed could accommodate a few bags of mulch or top soil or some potted plants from the local greenhouse but that’s about it. Had Subaru eliminated the rear passenger compartment and lengthened the bed a corresponding amount, it would have been a much more useful vehicle.
It sort of looks like a transformer that got stuck halfway through transforming. Love the concept though!
Never seen one well not one Subaru built Ive seen a couple of cutdown Subaru wagons but theres very little space behind the rear seats, better off with a towbar and a light trailer.
One of the popular colour options for Baja was bright yellow. Apparently, Subaru didn’t get the memo that the specific shade of yellow was identical to the taxicabs in the US. I bet the owners of yellow Baja got fed up and traded for something else.
When I lived in Denver, a few friends and I wanted to hail a taxicab after 02.00 in the morning for a ride home. Lot of people had the same idea so it was difficult to hail one right away. One with unmistakeable yellow colour approached us from the distance. We hailed one only to realise it was Subaru Baja, not taxicab.
I recently drove past a business establishment, not sure as to whether it was a repair or sales facility, or combination of both; but there were no less than 7 Baja’s parked at one end. There may have been one or two more, but without stopping, I just got in a quick glance! 🙂