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2003 Subaru Baja Truck Crossover

4dr Sport Manual

Starting at | Starting at 20 MPG City - 25 MPG Highway

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  • Average Retail is not available
  • $21,995 original MSRP
Printable Version

2003 Subaru Baja Truck Crossover

Printable Version

2003 Subaru Baja Truck Crossover


2003 Subaru Baja

Source: New Car Test Drive


Remember the Subaru Brat?

If so, you are probably over 30 years old. It was a unique vehicle, some would say funky. It was a small two-passenger sedan with a pickup bed on the back that contained two crude seats facing toward the rear.

Now it has been re-incarnated in a thoroughly modern form as the 2003 Subaru Baja. This time, however, it is a much more civilized and practical vehicle with seating for four people as well as a modest pickup bed. It is currently the only car-based four-door crew cab pickup on the market. Plus its offers all-wheel drive. Subaru likes to call the Baja a Leatherman on wheels. And Subaru prefers that we forget the Brat.

Model Lineup

The 2003 Subaru Baja comes as one model, starting at $23,995 (MSRP).

Baja offers a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, which costs an additional $800. There are not a lot of options meaning that even a fully loaded Baja should stay under $27,000.

The list of standard features is quite extensive and includes leather seats, power adjustable driver seat, air conditioning, a decent stereo system with CD player, moonroof, power doors, windows and mirrors and a remote key system.

Accessories for holding bikes, skis and other objects are available from Subaru to make the Baja more versatile.


The 2003 Subaru Baja is based on the Outback wagon, which is based on the Legacy wagon. Baja and Outback are essentially the same vehicle from the front seats forward. The wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) of the two is identical, but the Baja is 6 inches longer due to the bed tacked on the back.

It's the rear of Baja that's most interesting so we'll start our walkaround there. The bed is quite short, 41.5 inches. That's less than three and half feet and compares to 72 inches or six feet on a typical compact pickup truck, though the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and other hybrid truck/SUVs come with short beds.

The key to the Baja's flexibility is the Switchback system as Subaru likes to call it. To gain the maximum amount of cargo space, fold the rear seat cushion so that its metal reinforced base forms a front cargo wall. Next, fold the seatback flat; its back surface becomes the forward cargo floor and is made from the same slip resistant material as the integrated bed liner.

The bed pass-through door can be lowered so that it rests flush with the back of the lowered seat back. The full length available is now about 56 inches (4.6 feet). If the rear tailgate is lowered and the optional bed extender used there is a grand total of 78 inches or 6.5 feet in length. The actual opening through the front of the bed is 30 inches by 12 inches, which means there is a limit to the size of long objects that can be carried.

The Baja is more functional than it first appears. Hefty looking stainless steel sport bars sprouting from the trailing edge of the cab like flying buttresses look like an imitation from off-road race trucks but they are an integral part of the vehicle's structure, not just for show. Even the polypropylene cladding integrated splashguards are not only for show, according to Subaru, but provide protection from rocks and debris. Individual pieces of the cladding can be replaced as necessary.

The bed is made from double walled steel and has an integrated bed liner made from a non-slip material that can be easily washed. Drain holes ensure that water does not get trapped. Four tie-down hooks are convenient for securing loads. The bed features notches for 2x4s for creating cargo compartments.

The Baja offers a slightly more aggressive look than the Outback. The open bed and the Silver Stone gray cladding that covers the bumpers, lower body, and fenders attract attention to the Baja, especially when ordered in bright yellow. The cladding dips down along the sides of the doors before rising up over the rear wheel arches, continuing in a straight line to cover half of the rear tailgate. Tough looking brush guards protect integrated fog lights up front. The rear bumper has a large flat rubber covered integrated step pad. The license plate is located on the tailgate and can be folded out so it is still visible when the tailgate is lowered. As befitting a vehicle such as the Baja the trim around the windows and along the roof rack is finished in matt black plastic. Lights are available for mounting onto the roof rack, but are illegal to operate on public roads. The only chrome is the trim surround on the front grill.

Interior Features

The Subaru Baja seats four people. Its rear seat is smaller than in an Outback wagon, which seats five. The rear seat of the Baja is short on comfortable as the seat back is relatively upright and the rear window is right behind the headrests. Rear headroom seems less generous than in the Outback even though the specifications say it is the same. We took a couple of octogenarians out to dinner in the Baja and they fared well but reported a lack of space in the back seats when the front-seat passenger had his seat back and reclined. The rear seat includes a center console with cup holders. When the rear seat is folded out of the way the rear passenger compartment becomes a useful storage area.

The dashboard layout is nice with an instrument panel that sweeps around in front of the driver and blends in nicely with the center console. The large gauges are easy to read and the climate and sound system controls fall to hand nicely. Anyone familiar with the Subaru Outback or Legacy will find they are all but identical.

Seats are finished in perforated leather with a neatly embroidered Baja logo in each seat back. The two-tone black and gray finish of the interior gives the car a classy look and feel. It is accentuated by silver metallic trim on the dashboard, doors and center console.

Driving Impressions

The Subaru Baja offers a soft ride, like a car. It feels and drives like a compact sedan. It feels no different from the Outback, which is not surprising as the Baja is essentially an Outback with an open pickup bed.

The Baja's curb weight is within 50 pounds of the Outback and the engine is identical so acceleration performance is much the same as well. Power is a bit lacking when equipped with a manual transmission. With an automatic the Baja is clearly on the slow side. For this reason we prefer the manual transmission.

Confident handling is a trait of Subaru's thanks to all-wheel drive and a lower center of gravity due to the flat-4 engine. It's certainly true for the Baja as well. While driving on twisty mountain roads twice we came upon sharp corners covered in loose dirt. On both occasions the car did not slip in the slightest as all four wheels gripped efficiently. Around town in the dry, where one might not feel the need for all-wheel-drive, there's no disadvantage as the system is transparent in feel.

Though the suspension is soft, the Baja feels much more solid than many pickup trucks as it is built as a monocoque or unit-body rather than a body on frame. The Baja is much quieter than a truck as the bed is an integral part of the whole body structure rather than being bolted on the back as a separate unit.

Subaru did not design the Baja for rough off-road use, but it does have a 7.3-inch ground clearance, the same as the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Coupled with the permanent all-wheel-drive system and decent angles of approach and departure, the Baja can negotiate a wide variety of off-highway situations with aplomb. It handles very well on gravel roads, much better than a truck. Based on our experience in the Subaru Outback, we expect the Baja to be superb on snow and ice.

If you want the comfort and handling of a sedan with the utility of a small open bed, then the Baja is a good choice. It should work well for gardening, weekend projects, and some outdoor activities. The rest of the time, it feels like a comfortable sedan.


The 2003 Subaru Baja wears two hats. If you normally carry passengers but have occasional need to carry cargo such as mountain bikes, surfboards or awkward goods such as a refrigerator, then the Baja could be the ideal vehicle. That assumes you don't mind something that looks different from the run of the mill car or truck.


Model Line Overview

Model lineup: Baja ($23,995)
Engines: 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard): ABS, uniform child restraint anchorage system (LATCH); front seatbelts with pretensioners; front airbags with dual-stage deployment for passenger side
Safety equipment (optional): none
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Lafayette, Indiana

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Baja ($23,995)
Standard equipment: automatic climate control; leather seats; 6-way power driver''s seat; telescopic, leather-wrapped steering wheel; power windows; remote central locking; intermittent wipers; cruise control; rear window defogger; AM/FM/CD/cassette 4-speaker stereo; Switchback system with fold-down rear seats and cargo-bed pass-through door; daytime running lights; front fog lights with stone guard; power moonroof
Options as tested (MSRP): bed extender ($250); cargo area spotlight ($65)
Destination charge: ($525)
Gas guzzler tax: N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $24,835
Layout: four-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5-liter sohc 16-valve horizontally opposed 4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 165 @ 5600
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 166 @ 4000
Transmission: 5-speed manual
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 20/25 mpg
Wheelbase: 104.3 in. in.
Length/width/height: 193.3/70.1/64.2 in.
Track, f/r: 57.9/57.7 in.
Turning circle: 36.7 ft.
Seating capacity: 4
Head/hip/leg room, f: 38.3/51.3/43.3 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r: 37.3/51.9/33.5 in.
Trunk volume: N/A
Payload: 1070 Lbs.
Towing capacity: 2400 Lbs.
Suspension, f: independent
Suspension, r: independent
Ground clearance: 7.3 in.
Curb weight: 3485 lbs.
Tires: P225/60R16
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gal.


Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of August 19, 2002.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-782-2783 - www.subarubaja.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.


Printable Version

2003 Subaru Baja Truck Crossover

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Daytime Running Lights Std
Fog Lamps Std
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std


Alarm Opt
Printable Version

2003 Subaru Baja Truck Crossover

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance 3 Years/36,000 Miles

Subaru Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

84 months or 100,000 mile powertrain (whichever comes first) from original warranty start. Many upgrade options available.
Age/Mileage Eligibility Current model year or preceding 5 yrs/80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified Yes
Point Inspection 152
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible No

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2003 Subaru Baja Truck Crossover

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