If you live in a hilly area and need a great looking utility vehicle, buy a Baja equipped with a manual transmission..... coast down every hill you come to.. and get a fun to drive, head-turning ride and 30 mpg to boot. Wouldn't own anything else and will put a new engine in it when it dies.
I had a 2003 baja which I bought at 100,000 miles. Over the next two years, I added on 60,000 miles using it as a commuter car. I bought the car with few mechanical problems, and over the long commutes and two years on an already dated car, I was rather impressed with its reliability. Over the course of those miles, the only repairs were brake pads, rotors, muffler repair, sealing an oil leak and a lower ball joint. I finally trades it in once an O2 sensor failed at 162,000 miles. All in all, pretty respectable considering it is 13 years old in the rust belt. The bed was very useful for moving washers, dryers, beds, etcetera. I got my use out of it. I would buy another if they were still making them.
Bought this 2003 Baja with 105,000 miles on it because of Subaru's supposed reliability. Thought it would be a good car for my college bound kid. Ran fine for 6 months then I got a misfire code that turned out to be scorched exhaust valve (Subaru uses subpar valves according to my regular mechanic, who used to work at a Subaru dealership). $4000 later (at this reputable mechanic) I had new valves, head gaskets, valve cover gaskets, water pump, thermostat, throw out bearing, rear struts (yeah they went bad) and so on and so on. Within 1300 miles after the new head gaskets, started having overheating problem when I had been on the highway about 2 hours. never did it in town. never had overheating problem before all that work. took it to local Subaru dealership and their tests indicated hydrocarbons in the coolant (diagnosis: bad head gaskets), bad turn signal switch assembly. Took it back to original place and they warranted the head gaskets and throw out bearing and flush (including heater core - no blockages and no charge). Got the car back, replaced the turn signal switch assembly and flasher relay just for kicks and ran it up our local mountain pass (highway) for about 45 minutes. Ran great no problems. 1 day later, after driving on the highway for about 2 hours on relatively flat highway, temp gauge crept up to about 3/4. Pulled off and let it cool down before overheat could occur. Time to pull the bandaid off and kick this one to the curb. Do yourself a favor. Avoid subarus. Known cooling problem that causes head gasket failure. If I'd only know before I bought it from that guy....
Engine gaskets and CV boots only real issues over 12 years. I have taken it cross country (Wash to Maine), non turbo struggles up hills at higher altitudes (Idaho, Montana), gearing is great for best gas mileage @ 65 mph, drops considerably when up at 75 mph handles rain or snow with aplomb. Subaru need to update design and make a newer model within the next few years so I can buy my final BAJA
I dislike reviews of this vehicle/truck hybrid that say it is limited in functionality. If one needs to haul drywall, then get a truck. The Baja is an amazing vehicle with no problems after 12 years and 90,000 miles. It's fun to drive and looks great. I get offers to buy my car all the time, even though it is not for sale. My wife encouraged me to treat myself to a new car. I won't trade this Subaru in for even a Mercedes. I owned a business for 10+ years and this was the perfect vehicle to take the kids back and forth while hauling boxes and landscaping equipment in the back. The Baja is a collector's car. I own the yellow, which is sporty and fun. Oh yeah, other drivers can't miss seeing it.