Fact: U.S. sales of trucks and sport/utilities are increasing. Problem: Subaru doesn't make traditional trucks or SUVs (the Forester is really a high-roof wagon). Solution: Take the popular Legacy Outback, lop off the roof aft of the rear doors, add structural reinforcements and 6 in. of overall length to the wagon's floor that now forms a mini pickup bed. Result: Baja!

Like the Chevy Avalanche, the Baja melds the attributes of a four-door wagon/SUV with a (very) shortbed pickup. How short? The bed runs 41.5 in. with the tailgate up, room aplenty for two 20-gal trees and several 50-lb bags of mulch. Or add the dealer-installed tubular bed extender, flip down the tailgate, and bed length rises to 75 in.--space for a pair of mountain bikes and camping gear. Got longer cargo? Fold the rear seats down and open the 31x12-in. "switchback" door, effectively making a cargo bed about 7 1/2 ft long. It's not unlike a trunk pass-through door in a sedan. The Baja's rear glass, however, is fixed.

With big fender flares, 16-in. alloy wheels, and sport bars, the Baja looks rally ready. Although the suspension and structure are up to the task, the 165-hp flat four begs for a turbo or two more cylinders to aid spirited driving. Like the Subaru BRAT that preceded it by a generation, the Baja is fun to drive and kind of practical, if you're not in a hurry. Leather trim, power sunroof, and a CD sound system round out the equipment. Oh, and all-wheel drive, too--because the Baja is a Subaru.