Subaru combines the notion of a sport utility vehicle and a pickup truck in its compact car-based Baja four-door crossover. A turbocharged engine goes into the Baja Turbo, which was added for the 2004 model year.
For 2005, a new net-type center storage pocket for the rear seatback was installed, and the 12-volt power outlet was relocated to the console storage box. All models were pre-wired for optional high-powered, offroad Baja lights. A hard bed cover accompanied the upgraded Baja Turbo with the Leather Package.
The only changes for the 2006 model year are a newly standard security system and keyless entry.
Assertive styling touches give the Baja Turbo a distinctive appearance, and its turbocharged 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder produces 210 horsepower. The regular all-wheel-drive four-passenger Baja Sport carries a 165-hp four-cylinder.
Except for its small cargo bed at the rear, the Baja bears some resemblance to other Subaru models, including the Forester SUV. The Baja features enlarged front fenders and large, foldable, body-colored mirrors. Integrated fog lights sit behind protective stone guards. The Baja's grille is unique, while its stylized alloy fuel door is similar to the one used on Subaru's ST/X concept.
A power moonroof is standard. The Baja rides a 104.3-inch wheelbase and has 8.4 inches of ground clearance.
A Switchback system provides a reconfigurable rear seat and cargo area. With the optional bed extender, cargo bed length increases to 60.5 inches and can hold such equipment as mountain bikes and surfboards. Tie-down hooks, a bed light and sport bars on the cargo bed are installed. Roof rails and crossbars are standard.
Bajas can seat four occupants. The driver faces gauges ringed in silver trim. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, an outside-temperature gauge, and power windows, locks and mirrors. The Baja Turbo Leather Package includes a six-way power driver's seat and heated front seats.
Under the Hood
Subaru's 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder generates 165 hp in the Baja Sport, while the Turbo model features a 210-hp, turbocharged 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder that produces 235 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-manual transmission with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Turbo models can be equipped with an automatic transmission featuring a manual-shift provision.
The Baja has depowered front airbags with a dual-stage front-passenger airbag. The front seat belts have pretensioners and load limiters.
The quiet, smooth-running Baja drives easily and has a pleasant feel. Confident steering produces a near-sporty feel. The ride is firm but not unpleasant, even on rough pavement. After initial hesitation, acceleration is fairly good from a standstill, but low-speed passing power is mild.
The front seats have unusually snug side bolstering. The backseat is fairly comfortable, but legroom could be better.