A light utility, 4-door, 4-passenger and a 4-wheel drive coupe is a utility vehicle that was launched in 2003. It was introduced with an improved lesser degree, load capacity of a pickup truck as well as open-bed adaptability. The idea was to combine both handling and passenger carrying features in a single vehicle.
Majority of its mechanical features, including platform and sheetmetal as well as its unibody design was derived from the Legacy and Outback wagon. The Baja went into production in July 2002 and introduced as 2003 model year. The assembly work was done at the Lafayette, Indiana facility called Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc (SIA). Subaru also shared this facility with Isuzu in the past.
The Subaru Baja concept reminded us of many identical open-bed, car-based automobiles, such as the former 4-wheel drive BRAT (1978-1987) launched as unibody pickup in American market; small unibody pickups sold in American market including Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp and Volkswagen Caddy (Rabbit Truck); rear-wheel drive US-based Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero; and the Coupe utility or Ute offered in Australian market as 2- or 4-door options.
The name of the vehicle Baja is an inspiration after the Mexico’s California peninsula known for 1000 off-road racing.
Design, Marketing and Sales
Compared to Outback, Baja was 6 inch (152 mm) longer offering 4-door passenger cabin. It also featured a drop-down tailgate with 41 inch (1041 mm) open bed.
The Baja also featured a system known as ‘Switchback’ that could be used to fold the rear passenger down and a tiny thru-hatch to fold inward that stretched the area the end of the open tailgate by 75 inches (1900 mm). The status of the Switchback was shown by a light present in the instrument cluster.
It was described by James Healey in USA Today as ‘a controversial fashion statement with limited utility’. The Baja had a competition with larger Chevy Avalanche and Ford Explorer Sport Trac.
In April 2006, Subaru announced to discontinue the production of Baja following the hiking fuel prices as a result of which the fuel economy became the major cause of concern in automobile market.
With the launch of Baja, Subaru aimed to achieve 24,000 sales per year, but unfortunately, Subaru ended up in selling 30,000 units in above four and a half years, eventually put the production to an end.
Some of the most prominent features offered in Baja were: tinted rear-door windows and rear window, integrated bed liner, dual-illumination bed light, four bed tie-down hooks, bed recesses, standard roof rails with crossbars for extra load capacity, 2 unique stainless steel flying buttresses at the back of passenger compartment known as Sports Bars, towing power of 2400 lb (1089 kg), rear sear storage compartment featuring – rear-seat power supply, rear-seat center storage net, map-pockets at rear of each front seat, bottom mounted spare tire, and a license plate holder that could be folded up.