2020 Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander: It’s Too Close To Call

Midsize SUVs represent a leading segment for overall sales. Toyota produces two of the perennial leaders of this class, the 4Runner and the Highlander. The 2020 Toyota Highlander provides surprising luxury, though priced a little above its competitors, but maintains an excellent track record for reliability. However, the 2020 Subaru Ascent is mounting a significant challenge to this long-time class leader. 

With few serious drawbacks, good resale value, and features that place it on even footing with the Highlander, it is time for buyers to take an honest look at what the Ascent has to offer. Kelley Blue Book found that the two models matched up so well that choosing the best of these two models is too close to call. A closer look at the pros and cons of each explains how Subaru’s newcomer can rival a midsize SUV icon.

What are the positive and negative features of the 2020 Subaru Ascent?

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is a fourth-generation SUV powered by a V6 engine capable of producing quick acceleration while maintaining EPA fuel economy of 22/14/32 mpg (overall/city/highway.) It also comes with a 4-cylinder hybrid option capable of providing an impressive estimated 36 mpg fuel economy. The Highlander features an impressive list of driver assist and driver/passenger safety features while receiving “Good” ratings in crash and rollover tests. The Highlander has maintained an excellent reputation for reliability, along with retaining its resale value.

Despite these positive features, the Highlander is a bit tight in the third row when it comes to seating adults. The 2020 Highlander is a bit lax when it comes to handling. Its 2020 hybrid option does not have the same power as third-generation versions. Finally, the 2020 Highlander’s starting sticker price is higher than most of its class competitors.

What pros and cons stand out on the 2020 Toyota Highlander?

Though the 2020 Subaru Ascent doesn’t have a long history, it builds on the same foundation as the Outback. Its 4-cylinder turbocharged engine matches the performance and fuel economy of the Highlander. All-wheel drive is a standard feature offered on the 2020 Ascent. This SUV has a car-like ride with agile handling and solid braking, making it an excellent performer on-road tests. It also features an impressive list of standard driver assist and driver/passenger safety features. 

A competitive starting price, an above-average reliability rating, and a high resale value round out the positive features of the Ascent. Subaru does offer neither a hybrid option nor alternate engine choices on the 2020 Ascent. Like the Highlander, the Ascent’s third row is not well-suited for adults. The interior fit and finishing of the Ascent lag behind the midsize SUV class leaders as well.

The value features of the Ascent and Highlander are nearly equal

In a head-to-head comparison, the 2020 Ascent and the 2020 Highlander are nearly equal. The Highlander’s powertrain produces a performance edge without conceding fuel economy while riding comfort, handling, agility, and braking are areas where the Ascent takes the lead. The Highlander has a more refined finish while the Ascent provides a better off-roading experience. The Subaru’s sticker price is about $3k less, but only Toyota offers that option if you are looking for a hybrid version.

Choosing between the 2020 Ascent and the 2020 Highlander is difficult

When sizing up midsize SUVs, potential buyers have plenty of options in one of the most competitive automotive segments. The competition is so tight that picking one model over another is tough. Choosing between the 2020 Subaru Ascent and the 2020 Toyota Highlander is difficult, coming down to a personal preference for ride and handling or performance and luxury.

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