2020 Subaru Ascent vs. Nissan Pathfinder: The Choice Is as Obvious as It Seems

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder offers solid value in its class. The interior is comfortable even though its third row is a little small. It has a decent tow rating and average cargo space. Still, many are underwhelmed by the crossover today and miss the reliable off-roading SUV it used to be.

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is everything you like about Subaru. It’s loaded with great features, offers a comfortable ride with nimble handling, and has a versatile interior. It doesn’t provide the biggest third row either, and it’s a little noisy.

Which is the better SUV? 

Performance and handling

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder’s 3.5-liter V6 engine falls somewhere in the middle of its class. It gets 284 horsepower and its paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It’s not the slowest in its class, but it’s not the quickest. The low torque engine isn’t as efficient at sending power to its wheels as the 2020 Subaru Ascent.

With its turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the Ascent is quick. The Ascent has the advantage of handling too. Its smaller turning radius makes it easier to navigate tight spaces than the bulkier Pathfinder. Consumer Reports (CR) found the Pathfinder’s handling to be a “major disappointment” because of its awkward cornering.

While the Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds compared to the 5,000 pounds the Ascent can tow, that’s the only advantage the Nissan has here. The 2020 Subaru Ascent scores higher on performance and handling.

Comfort and convenience

While the Nissan Pathfinder does offer a bit more head and legroom in its cabin, it provides less seating than the Subaru Ascent. The Ascent offers more in the way of cargo space too. If you frequently transport people and their stuff, the Ascent might be a better choice for you.

Plus, the Ascent offers an interior more on par with a large crossover, which is nice. The seat configurations are versatile, and the driver’s seat is raised for greater visibility. You can seat up to eight people in the Ascent. 

When it comes to stops at the gas pump, these two SUVs are evenly matched. According to EPA ratings, they can travel a comparable distance on a tank of gas with both getting around 26 mpg on the highway. A slight advantage for comfort and convenience goes to the 2020 Subaru Ascent.

Safety and owner satisfaction

Recommended in its class by CR, the 2020 Subaru Ascent got high marks for safety. It earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for a solid crash test showing and thanks to its wealth of standard safety features.

You get Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with Ascent. The impressive suite of safety features includes automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure alerts, lane keep assist, and sway alerts. Cross-traffic, rear automatic braking, and blind-spot warning are also available on most of the trim levels.

It’s also important to point out that when it comes to predicted owner satisfaction, the Ascent earned a five out of five from CR. CR gave the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder a one out of five on predicted owner satisfaction.

CR noted that when their users were asked if they’d buy a Nissan Pathfinder again, only 48% indicated they would. Aside from the handling they didn’t like, they also didn’t like the smaller window that impedes a straight-back view. They found the interior to be lackluster for the price.

The winner is obvious

The 2020 Subaru Ascent manages to outmatch the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder in most categories. It handles well, offers an impressive list of standard and safety features, and it’s quick for a three-row crossover. With good safety ratings, a recommendation, and high predicted customer satisfaction ranking from CR, the 2020 Subaru Ascent wins this SUV matchup.

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