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Subaru Baja - 2006 Pickup Truck Buyers Guide

2006 Subaru Baja New Car Review
Martha Hindes

Subaru Baja
2006 Subaru Baja

In profile, you might have to take a second glance. At quick blink it looks rather like an oddly shaped sedan. But Subaru's sporty Baja isn't a relic of some designer's bad day. It's a uniquely crafted small bed pickup truck built on the foundation of a trail worthy sedan.

On second glance, it's all there. The roofline ends abruptly, slanting down through side support bolsters to the truck bed walls. Check the rear and you find a nice, albeit smallish, truck bed well -- about a meter, or nearly 3-1/2 feet deep -- ready to hoist a treasured antiquing find, garden supplies or mountain bike with wheels notched sideways. The Baja's unibody base blends smoothly from cabin through bed, with a "Switchback" system that opens inward into rear seat space for added cargo room. With an optional extender over the dropped rear gate, truck bed room grows to nearly 8 feet.

The foundation of the Baja is the Legacy turned Outback toughy that during its earlier advertising days scooted around through Australian dust under the command of Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame. Never mind it was and is still a creature comfort sedan, meant to transport but not to jolt as most truckier frame-based pickups will. But its looks won't spill that secret. Thank Subaru's sidewise-mounted 165-HP, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder "Boxer" engine that allows a lower center of gravity. Also thank its long heritage of putting all-wheel drive on virtually every Subaru vehicle before the idea was subsequently picked up by other auto makers. That combo might limit Baja's heavy duty mountain climbing ability, but makes it perfectly capable of handling dirt road challenges that get in its way.

Appearance-wise, the Baja has a bold, snorty look with a rugged face, protected sport lights, hood air intake, roof rails and 5-spoke aluminum 16-inch alloy wheels. A new security system with optional shock sensor, added for 2006, will temper thieves' temptation. Baja not only should fit nicely in most garages until called on for sporty duty, but with a base sticker around $22,495, (Baja Sport, non-turbo manual) and mileage around 21/27 (manual) or 21/28 (automatic), it could fit nicely in many checkbook balances as well.