A four-passenger, all-wheel drive, open-bed ride produced from 2002 to 2006, the Subaru Baja was known for its versatility and design. Despite being in production for only four years, the Baja earned its fair share of fans, although some have criticized its unusual style. Today, the Subaru Baja continues to attract hobbyists and Subaru fans who love its distinctively styled lower body, rugged look, and durability.
2003-2004: The Subaru Baja as a “multiple-choice” vehicle
Because of its distinct design, the Subaru Baja was nicknamed as a “multiple-choice” vehicle. Its unorthodox shape may have earned it a number of critics, but it was a vehicle that combined the hauling capabilities of a small pickup and the comforts of a sedan. Its design was meant to appeal to adventurers who want more out of their vehicles. Built to handle rough terrains, the Baja was aptly named after the Baja California peninsula, a northwest Mexican land mass where the annual Baja 1000 off-road race is held.
The Baja was able to live up to the expectations because it’s powered by a 205-L H4 engine that was paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The Baja was also equipped with a drop-down tailgate, a 41-inch open bed, and a four-door passenger compartment. Through the “Switchback” system, passengers can fold down the back seat and fold inward a small hatch to make way for the open bed. Once these seats are folded down, an instrument in the dashboard panel lights up to indicate an opened Switchback system. To further differentiate the Baja from other Subaru vehicles, it was also built with sports bars, two flying buttresses made of stainless steel that are designed to reinforce the open bed’s structure. Other standard features included a bed liner, tie-down hooks, bed light, tinted rear windows, map pockets, and a power supply system for the rear seats.
To cater to budget-conscious buyers, a more affordable Sport model was also offered. This version was equipped with manually adjustable seats and interiors covered in leather in cloth upholstery.
In 2004, a turbocharged version was introduced. This one was equipped with a standard manual transmission that could be upgraded to an automatic transmission, side mirrors and exterior door handles with matching colors, and a hood scoop.
2005-2006: More upgrades and tweaks
In 2005, standard Baja units were made with a higher ride height, a net pocket on the rear seat, and a power outlet mounted at the center console. As for the turbocharged models, those with leather upholstery were upgraded with a new tonneau cover. In the following year, all models were upgraded with an improved security system. The turbocharged units were offered with an optional package that included heated seats, alloy wheels, a sport-mode automatic transmission, upholstery with leather trims, and a hard bed cover.