By on June 24, 2020

No, I won’t rest until Subaru returns with a true successor to the brash and youthful Brat. I’ve harped on this desire in the past when we asked what vehicle the well fleshed-out Subaru lineup lacked, and I’ll do so again today.

With Hyundai’s Santa Cruz entering production in Alabama next year and Ford working on a unibody challenger, the timing will never be more right.

We’ve already seen spy photos of a camo-clad Santa Cruz, so there’s few mysteries to the recipe Hyundai cooked up. Four conventional doors, sweeping C-pillars, and a platform/powertrain combo stolen from the corporate parts bin. All-wheel drive will naturally compliment the vehicles’s CUV underpinnings.

Ford’s effort remains much hazier, though there have been test mules spotted in the past. Here in North America, Ford’s compact pickup past (Ranchero notwithstanding) is not as well known as it is overseas, where truly wee trucklets were a common sight for decades. Named Courier or Maverick, the vehicle announced last year will see the same recipe employed by Hyundai replicated by Ford.

Is there a market for a compact crossover-turned-pickup in North America? Time will tell, but there’s good reason to believe the niche exists in a market obsessed with CUVs of all sizes and descriptions — one where conventional pickups start at midsize and go up from there.

While the ungainly Baja failed to launch, history shines brightly on the scrappy little Brat. Vacating American shores after 1985, the tiny sport pickup still enlivens the brand’s image and remains a touchstone of its heritage. The brand already has AWD dependability at the center of its core identity. So, if the Koreans and Americans plan to venture into new waters, why shouldn’t Subaru return to the past? It’s arguable that consumers would trust Subaru’s effort more than that of its rivals.

What say you, B&B? Yes, the pandemic may hang heavily over the industry’s accountants, but design teams surely want to exercise their drawing boards. Certainly, development of such a vehicle adds risk in a time of constrained finances and uncertainty. But let’s push most of that aside.

Subaru unibody pickup: Yea or nay?

[Image: Subaru]

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36 Comments on “QOTD: Time for a Trucklet From the Dog-approved Brand?...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I wouldn’t buy one, but it seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Sure, why not? Subaru has become stale and predictable a little sport trucklet might be just the thing to create a little excitement

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Well everyone here seems to think that most truck owners don’t do any work with their trucks, so yeah, why not sell a truck that actually can’t do any work?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yeah, it works for Honda

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @jack4x: You’d be surprised how much “real work” a smaller truck can do when you’re not worried about having the biggest and strongest all the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Do explain how a small truck with a 5-6 foot bed and less payload does more work than a big truck with a 5-8 foot bed.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Read what I said again, Art. I will quote: “…When you’re not worried about having the biggest and strongest all the time.”

          It means it will do what it needs to do, no less; no more.

          Just as a very tiny example, about 30 years ago I worked in the avionics shop of a fixed base operator (FBO) on an airport. When we didn’t have any radio repairs or re-wiring to do in a plane, I tended to get called on to carry propellors to an overhaul shop in Atlanta, GA… about 100 miles away. We didn’t carry those props in a full-sized pickup; we used a Chevy LUV to carry them because it was big enough for the task and got better fuel mileage than the full-sized rigs. It tended to make such runs at least once per week, sometimes carrying one or two propellors, other times maybe an engine or other part for overhaul. Nothing larger was ever needed to meet the company’s needs for hauling parts. Its heaviest load still fell well below its 750# payload capacity and it worked harder than ANY of the A&P technicians’ personal vehicles.

          Another job occasionally had me using a shop foreman’s full-sized pickup truck to get a load of manufacturing parts for a factory in which I was the purchasing agent. The bed was NEVER filled to capacity–in fact, I had to make one of those runs in my own car…a large sedan (’73 Gran Torino) and I was able to carry the same load volume with no difficulty. The foreman had far more truck than he needed but in that shop we simply didn’t have any smaller trucks available.

          Again, you would be surprised at how much work they can do when you don’t have to worry about having the biggest and strongest.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      LOL!

  • avatar
    JMII

    Seems like a great idea – especially for the mountain biking and kayak crowd. Much easier to load messy things in a bed (even a short one) then trying to get them on the roof. I owned an SUV once and 2 pickups since then… the pickup is way more user friendly for outdoor activities (fishing / camping). Add a locking bed cover and your gear is secure. With a uni-body design its likely you could make the bed water tight plus have in bed storage (see Ridgeline). If you only need to tow a jetski or small ATV then a BOF truck, even a mid-size is overkill.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    It’s the four-door part that disinterests me – on any company’s compact pick-up. And I was so hopeful about Ford’s plans for a while. But I’m sure Americans would gobble it up. I wouldn’t buy one but that shouldn’t stop Subaru. If they created a true Brat replacement – with two doors – that would be something else.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It was the perfect time/place, circumstances surrounding for 2-door compact trucks/truckletts.

      It won’t happen again (for at least 4,000 years), but we were done/over/bored with big American cars, 2-door land yachts, Muscle cars, custom vans, and over-all crappy cars. And bell-bottom jeans, Disco and others.

      Then the US imposes a completely “voluntary” embargo on Japaneses imports (except pickups), so everything they sent was hard loaded with options (except pickups), everything was price gouged by import dealers (except pickups) and there was a long, long waiting list (except for pickups) if you didn’t mind waiting a overpaying.

      Coincidentally, compact/mini-trucks became a crazy Hot trend (for unknown reasons) and they couldn’t build enough of them.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        I went to high school in the mid 80s during the mini truck craze. The main reason they were popular was they were CHEAP. Often the cheapest new vehicle on the lot was a bare-bones, stick shift mini-truck.

        The go-to truck at the time was the Mazda B2200 – extra cab (need room for subwoofers), 4 cylinder, stick shift. Held surf boards, fishing poles or BMX bikes. Got good mileage. Was RWD but believed to be too underpowered for parents to worry about hooning (they were wrong). Could be shared by dad for projects around house so it was a good choice for Juniors first ride. S10, Rangers and Nissans were other options but the Mazda was perfered, in teal paint with neon graphics and a 4″ drop kit of course. I’d say 50% of my high school friends had one. The other 50% had fastback or hatchbacks of some kind: Civics, Celicas, Escorts, Mustangs, Camaros, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          They basically put a gun to your head. Unless you were deadset on Mustang, Fleetwood or something and were mostly just yourself and a passenger, hell yeah.

          It’s a slightly different scenario now, and although most automakers prefer to make some kind of profit, one or two on the market would more than satisfy.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Subaru will be the first to admit, you can’t go back in time. The BAJA mostly shifted Subaru buyers away from other Subarus.

    Over-all Subaru sales figures grew slightly in the BAJA era, except Subaru profits were down slightly, then returned to normal with the BAJA killed.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Not everyone. Just the usual angry Karens, extremely judgmental on everything they see. They can’t stop and need professional and or medical help.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Do you think the Ford compact pickup will be based on a crossover, or on the new Transit Connect? All previous signs point to the TC, and that’s what I was looking forward to.

    Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but the Transit Connect is designed for commercial duty, which at least somewhat suggests more durability than a crossover-based trucklet.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The Transit Connect is as “commercial duty” as the Ford Focus it’s based on.

      That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you’re not using/loading it like an F-150. But it’s why minivans based on midsize trucks, like the Astro have a strong cult following.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Makes sense for Subaru to re-enter the small pickup truck market with a new Baja. Previous generation Bajas go for decent money on some of the car sites.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    First reaction: “Trucks” and truly truck-like things stand in [almost perfect] opposition to everything supporting Subaru’s current brand positioning.

    (Will ponder some more and neglect to get back to you.)

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    “and Ford working on a unibody challenger”

    The challenger has a large trunk for sure, but hardly seems like something Ford would want to copy for truck duty lol.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      1989 Chevrolet Caprice trunk (Murilee’s Monday article) is 29% bigger than 2019 Dodge Challenger trunk [20.9 cu ft vs. 16.2 cu ft], but I suppose “large” is all relative, eh?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The thing that gets me about the Challenger’s trunk isn’t so much the size…it is the size of the opening. It is actually closer in utility to that Caprice’s trunk than anything else I can recall today. Certainly more useful than the typical mail slot trunk one finds on most lots today.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    It’s really funny-I see on here it has to carry a 4 x 8 piece of something…..

    When at Home Depot and the like-when I only see contractors buying this material(driving pickups and/or towing trailers because the average folks don’t have the time or knowledge to hang plywood or drywall.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I hope these “trucklets” come to market. I’ve had decent experiences with full size trucks and the Ram is impressive to me. But I don’t need to live with that bulk and size for the 95% of the time that I don’t need a truck.

    Something to toss some bags of mulch into, load up the bikes without a carrier or adding a hitch,etc. would be nice. And not much larger than my Golf. I really don’t need or want AWD, but it’s standard with Subies and I’m sure it will be with the others. Ridgeline is just a bit too large and we already have an Odyssey.

    What I’d REALLY like is a 2wd Ranger or Toyota that isn’t lifted into the air to look like a 4wd and doesn’t cost 35k. Technically they come much cheaper than that, but can be hard to find or look like the work trucks they are. I’d like something like the 88 Ranger super cab XLT 2WD my Dad bought new, except with air! My kids would fit in those jump seats for now.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      So I just priced a 2wd XL Ranger Crew cab with what I want in it and it came in at 30k (Starting at 27k). Not bad really, but I just can’t get over the pseudo 4wd look. Add another $1500 at least to replace the steel wheels it comes with. Plus, it still feels kinda cheap inside for that money.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    All in for a Baja replacement. Add an AWD midi-van (the original Nissan Quest size) with seating for 6.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I would have already been driving one if Subaru hadn’t canceled it a year before I bought my Jeep Wrangler. It met my needs better than anything else then available (including the Ranger), especially since the rear seat could be folded down to extend the load bed, similarly to the Chevy Avalanche. Now, and again, their timing is atrocious. I already have a mid-sized truck–fully paid for–that is much too large for my tastes but meets my needs exceedingly well. This doesn’t mean I can’t trade it when these three much-smaller trucks come along, only that because mine is an extended cab, trade-in is probably going to be much lower than I’d like, where my intention of keeping the Colorado for at least eight years means depreciation is irrelevant.

    Still, I’ll give them a couple more years to work out the bugs and see if anyone else intends to join the fray, then I’ll make my choice to keep or trade.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Yeah people might trust it more than a Hyundai, but for trucks people trust Ford, more than any other make.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    @Scoutdude: … Yeah. Despite the fact that the other brands tend to last longer in original owners’ hands.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The new compact Ford pickup is coming out in late 2021 as a crew cab only, uni body based on the Bronco Sport (bed will be part of the body and not separate), front wheel drive with AWD optional, 8 speed automatic, and a turbo 1.5 I-3 optional will be a turbo 2.0 I-4. This is according to Ford Authority

  • avatar
    randyinrocklin

    I had a brand new 1979 Toyota PU Long Bed 5 speed. I bought it of the lot for 3500. I loved it!

  • avatar

    My cat does not approve it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I always enjoyed the idea of a Maloo (or was it the Menaro – pickup based on what became the G8). I have very little use for a full sized truck aside from occasional hauling of bulky items. The items that I usually need to move would work well in a smallish bed.

    That said would a reasonable buyer of said truck let be asking it to tow often? Would it have the Subaru standard CVT? Are CVTs a terrible idea for towing? I ask because I’ve never needed to tow much, and when I did it was with a truck based U-Haul and a full car trailer.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Just take an Outback and make it a two door standard cab pickup with the same overall length as now. Then it will be able to carry something.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Steve Biro–I was but after further research I don’t want an engine with the water pump enclosed with the timing belt along with it being a crew cab and probably a small bed.

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