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The Subaru BRAT was a unique and quirky vehicle that was popular in the 1980s. However, it was eventually discontinued, and many fans of the BRAT have wondered why. Let’s look at the history of the Subaru BRAT and explore the reasons for its discontinuation. We’ll also consider some potential successors to the BRAT, such as the Subaru Baja and the Hyundai Santa Cruz.

What Does “BRAT” Mean?

The Subaru BRAT, short for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter, was a small pickup truck that the Japanese automaker produced from 1978 to 1994. It’s known for its unique design, which featured a small, boxy body with a flat front end and a removable fiberglass top. The BRAT is powered by various four-cylinder engines and came standard with all-wheel drive, making it capable of tackling rough terrain.

One of the main appeals of the BRAT was its versatility and ruggedness. It was small and lightweight, which made it easy to drive and maneuver, and it had a relatively high ground clearance, which gave it good off-road capability. The BRAT is also equipped with a small bed for hauling cargo, a practical choice for outdoor enthusiasts and farmers.

Here’s why the Subaru BRAT was discontinued

1978-1987 Subaru Brat four-wheel drive coupe utility vehicle model flyer
1978-1987 Subaru Brat | Subaru of America, Inc.

The Subaru BRAT was born in response to the fad of small, car-like pickup trucks. It competed well enough with the Ford Ranchero and the Chevrolet El Camino. However, the car-truck hybrid platform eventually ran its course in the public interest. The BRAT was a niche vehicle with no far-reaching appeal outside of its dwindling market. The nameplate exited the market in the United States first, selling its last unit in the 1987 model year. The BRAT continued selling in a few other markets until production was discontinued in 1994. 

Successors to the Subaru BRAT

We don’t know if there’s another Subaru BRAT in the company’s future. MotorTrend speculates that the arrival of the Ford Maverick could mean a return of the BRAT. But for now, a few vehicles could potentially fill the void left by the unique little pickup truck. In this section, we’ll look at two cars that have served as potential successors to the BRAT: the Subaru Baja and the Hyundai Santa Cruz. 

Subaru Baja

The Subaru Baja had its time as the BRAT’s successor. Unfortunately for fans of Subaru and small trucks, the Baja is now only a viable option for those in the used vehicle market. The Baja is a small pickup truck produced by the Japanese automaker from 2003 to 2006. It was designed as a more practical alternative to the BRAT, offering four doors and a small bed for hauling cargo. Like its predecessor, the Baja was well-loved by a small niche of consumers. Ultimately, that niche proved too small, and the truck was discontinued due to a lack of sales.

Hyundai Santa Cruz

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a small pickup truck introduced by the South Korean automaker in 2015 before being officially released in 2021. Unlike the Subaru Baja, it’s currently still in production and available for purchase brand new. Like the BRAT, one of the key features of the Santa Cruz is its compact size and car-like handling, which make it easy to drive and maneuver in tight spaces. In terms of design, the Santa Cruz has a more modern and refined look than the boxy BRAT. So far, this has helped the Santa Cruz avoid the same fate as the BRAT and the Baja, as the Hyundai is selling well.