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As we enter a compact pickup truck renaissance of sorts, some long-time fans are turning their eyes to Subaru. Years before the Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz carried payloads, the Subaru Baja was slinging sand. Yet while it also struggled to find buyers, many have come around to this Japanese ute’s unique nature. And they’ll want to look at the 2006 Subaru Baja Sport that just dropped on Bring a Trailer.

The Subaru Baja was a car-based pickup truck way ahead of its time

The rear 3/4 view of a green-and-tan 2005 Subaru Baja driving through the desert
2005 Subaru Baja rear 3/4 | Subaru
2003-2006 Subaru Baja
Engine2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder
Horsepower165 hp
Torque166 lb-ft
TransmissionsFive-speed manual
Four-speed automatic
Curb weight3581 lbs
0-60 mph time9.3 seconds (Car and Driver)

In Australia, pickup trucks built on unibody car platforms are usually called ‘utes,’ and they’re a cultural institution. However, while they were popular in the US for a time (El Camino, anyone?) they mostly faded away. But in the early 2000s, Subaru tried bringing the trend back with a sequel to its ‘70s Brat: the Baja.

Keep in mind, Subaru’s car-based truck launched and died before Honda introduced the first-gen Ridgeline. The Ridgeline is still divisive amongst the pickup community today. In 2003, taking a passenger car—in this case, a stretched Outback wagon—and turning it into a pickup was odd, to say the least. And it didn’t help that the Baja wasn’t exactly fast, though the later 210-hp Turbo model addressed the lack of speed.

As a result, the Subaru Baja wasn’t particularly popular, hence its brief production run. However, viewed through the lens of the Santa Cruz, Ridgeline, and arguably the Maverick, the Baja was rather prescient. And while it wasn’t the most rugged pickup truck, Subaru did give it some interesting features and capabilities.

Besides standard AWD, the Subaru Baja has up to 8.4” (7.3” in 2003) of ground clearance, only 0.2” less than the Santa Cruz. Also, although its bed doesn’t look that long, Subaru gave it a bed extender for up to 7.5’ of space. Plus, there’s a pass-through and roll-down window between the bed and the rear seats. And because the bed extender might block a stationary rear license plate, it’s mounted on a rotating assembly.

In addition, while there are unibody trucks on sale today based on car platforms, the Baja is still unique, Car and Driver says. Even though it has near-Santa Cruz levels of ground clearance, it rides and handles like a car, not a tall crossover. It’s also the size of a regular car. There’s really no new vehicle that matches up.

A low-mileage manual 2006 Baja Sport is up for grabs right now on Bring a Trailer

Because of the truck’s particular set of skills, Subaru Baja owners tend to hold onto their pickups. As a result, those that pop up for sale usually have well over 100,000 miles on their odometers.

That’s not the case with the 2006 Subaru Baja Sport that’s currently listed on Bring a Trailer. In addition to its manual transmission, this ute has just under 8250 miles on the clock. It’s practically pristine; its zero-accident history is just as clean. And it comes with a few desirable options and modifications.

From the factory, this 2006 Subaru Baja Sport has a limited-slip differential, sunroof, A/C, fog lights, roof rails, four-wheel disc brakes, and beefed-up suspension. Inside there’s a CD stereo, as well as power locks, windows, and mirrors. Also, the bed features stainless-steel bars and built-in lights. Plus, this Baja has tinted rear windows.

The seller changed this Baja’s oil in preparation for the sale, though they note that it still has an open Takata airbag recall.

Once ignored, the Subaru Baja is now a beloved compact truck throwback

As of this writing, this $19,250 Subaru Baja Sport is listed at $19,250 with four days left in the auction. And there are two things worth noting here.

One, this Baja originally stickered at $23,120 in 2006. Two, manual, low-mileage examples are rare. Looking at Autotrader at the time of writing, the closest match at a dealer has 161,403 miles and costs less than half as much. Then again, there’s nothing quite like a Baja, and early-2000s nostalgia is undoubtedly playing a role here. Also, Subaru only sold about 30,000 examples.

Still, let’s hope whoever wins this Subaru truck takes it out for a spin.

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