As with Mark Twain, reports of the Subaru Baja’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Although there were rumours that the little trucklet might be discontinued due to lagging sales, Subaru Canada confirms that the Baja will carry on into 2006. There are no changes for 2005.

Based on the Legacy, the Baja is a car body with a pickup box, a style originally made famous by the Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero. Unlike those cars, the Baja has a pass-through to the cargo box, called a Switchback. It works much like GM’s “Midgate”; flip the seats and fold the backrests, and there’s room to slide in long items. Should that not be enough, a cargo container is available so that the tailgate can be lowered and used as a bed extension.

Power is supplied by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder; a turbocharged version sold in the U.S. is not available here. It features Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive with a viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential. A five-speed manual can be optioned to a four-speed automatic. There is only one trim line.

The Baja comes with air conditioning, power sunroof, power windows, power heated mirrors, cruise control, heated cloth seats, CD player with four speakers, power locks, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, variable intermittent wipers, fog lights, privacy glass and underbody engine and fuel tank protection.

The Baja features the same comfortable ride and excellent handling characteristics of the Legacy. Despite its skid plates and all-wheel-drive, this isn’t an off-road vehicle. Instead, it’s a quirky but versatile way to move people and a reasonable amount of gear around. The Outback wagon does the same thing, and provides the Baja with considerable competition, but it doesn’t have the surfer-dude appeal of the little carry-all. Nothing else does, either; no other company makes anything quite like it.

The Baja is built in Lafayette, Indiana.

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