Trucks & SUVs

Can the Honda Ridgeline Scratch The Subaru Baja Itch?

The Subaru Baja was a unique little ute that only saw three years of production. From 2003-2006 Subaru offered this small pickup truck. Now, there isn’t really a comparable vehicle on the US market. Unless….Can the Honda Ridgeline scratch the Subaru Baja itch?

An older Honda Ridgeline driving through a puddle
Honda Ridgeline | Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Though the Honda Ridgeline is a vastly different vehicle that the Subaru pickup truck, it does stand apart from other compact trucks such as the Toyota Tacoma and the Chevrolet Colorado. With its unibody platform, the Honda pickup truck might be a comparable vehicle to the Subaru Baja.

When did the Honda Ridgeline come out?

The Honda Ridgeline released in 2006. That was the same year as the last model of the little-but-capable Subaru Baja. The Honda Ridgeline has been one of those polarizing love it or hate it vehicles since its birth.

That is one more similarity the Honda pickup truck shares with the Baja. Both are based on a unibody platform. They are able to do quite a bit with their AWD powertrains, but they each boast a nice comfortable car-like ride.

The Subaru Baja

Car and Driver reviews respected the Baja in its day. It entered the market in 2003 as an answer to the sudden absence of mini trucks like the Ford Ranchero and the Chevrolet El Camino. However, not enough people wanted a replacement for such vehicles to justify keeping the Subaru pickup truck in production. Subaru discontinued the Baja in 2006.

a Subaru Baja utility truck driving along the coast
Subaru Baja | Subaru of America

“The Baja is the vehicle for the modern quasi-suicidal adventurer of the body and spirit — the extreme-sports enthusiast who frolics on sheer cliffs, surfs tsunamis, and bicycles down the side of the Sears Tower. It’s named after a place that’s very hot and doesn’t work very well. But unlike its namesake, the Subaru Baja does work very well indeed.”

Car and Driver

Baja turbo

First, there was only a 165 horsepower 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine paired with either a manual or automatic transmission. Then the turbo engine was dropped into the Baja and things got a lot more exciting, according to Car and Driver. Their review of the turbo Baja call it “powerfully weird.” In a good way, of course. The turbocharged Subaru Baja truck zips around with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine that generates 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque.

the unique small utility truck call the Subaru Baja
Subaru Baja Turbo | Doug DeMuro

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Can the Ridgeline stand in for the Baja?

The Honda Ridgeline hit production in 2006 with its very own unibody weirdness. Car and Driver also wrote positive reviews for the Ridgeline. After taking their original tester 40,000 miles, it earns endorsement from the pros. It’s a thing of beauty that rides like an Accord with a pickup bed.

The Subaru built the Baja on the platform of the popular Subaru Outback station wagon. Then they gave it that little pickup bed. The Baja was small, yet resourceful and noted for its smooth car-like driving experience. If you don’t mind a slightly supersized version of the Subaru pick up truck, the Honda Ridgeline might actually satisfy on most fronts.

2019 Honda Ridgeline parked in sand and gravel
2019 Honda Ridgeline | Honda

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Just eccentric enough

Though the Honda pickup truck gets applauded for its supreme versatility, it’s also noted for being a little quirky and different. Car and Driver calls it “a new type of utility vehicle.” The review on their website even shares an anecdote of how the tester was labeled as a “station wagon” on its Michigan registration documents.

Honda Ridgeline Black Edition parked in front of the horizon
Honda Ridgeline Black Edition | Honda

It tows twice as much, offers more cargo space, but still maintains the individuality that makes both of these unibody pickup trucks similar. The Subaru Baja was cool, but weird. The Honda Ridgeline––both boxy and updated with a curvy silhouette––is just eccentric enough to scratch the Baja itch. And though it isn’t a Subaru, it is a Honda. Both brands are generally respected for their reliability and performance.