Crossover & Midsize

2021 Mazda CX-9 vs. Subaru Ascent: The Choice For You Is Obvious

The three-row midsize SUV realm is full of compelling models. Although, two options that may fly under your radar are the Mazda CX-9  and the Subaru Ascent. Both the CX-9 and Ascent are charming and are already impressing us for the 2021 model year. Are you the type of driver that would be happy with the CX-9 or Ascent?

What the Mazda CX-9 does well

A red Mazda CX-9 on display
A Mazda CX-9 on display | Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

In 2020, critics recognized the CX-9 as a standout against its humdrum handling rivals. The 2021 version keeps the same energy. What separates the CX-9 from the rest of the class is its sleek style, agility, and quietness.

The CX-9 presents just one powertrain, and that’s a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder linked to a six-speed automatic. With regular gas, this turbo-four makes 227-hp; it produces 250 hp with premium fuel. The 2021 CX-9 has an EPA rating of 24 mpg overall, which is great for the class. This Mazda is standard with front-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive available as an upgrade. 

The 2021 Mazda Carbon Edition lineup – CX-5, CX-9, and Mazda6
The 2021 Mazda Carbon Edition lineup | Mazda

One of the most significant updates for the 2021 CX-9 is the Carbon Edition trim, which includes a Polymetal Gray exterior and bold red leather interior. In addition to these sharper finishings, Mazda finally made the CX-9’s infotainment system more user-friendly.

Standard infotainment features now include a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. You’ll also appreciate the CX-9 for its advanced safety features such as stop/go, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Overall the CX-9 has a handsome interior and can seat up to seven. The only thing you may not like is that its third-row seat is on the narrow side, and so is its cargo space. 

What the Subaru Ascent does well

2021 Subaru Ascent parked outside of a house
2021 Subaru Ascent | Subaru

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With the Subaru Ascent, you get a unique blend of practicality and adventurousness. The Ascent gets its power from a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 260-hp. Also standard is a continuously variable automatic and AWD. 

The Ascent is extremely enticing because it’s smooth and capable on-road and off. This Subaru drives like a luxury SUV. Plus, its AWD system and 8.7 inches of ground clearance are helpful for mild off-road adventures. It has an EPA rating of up to 23 mpg overall.

2020 Subaru Ascent driving down road
2020 Subaru Ascent | Subraru

Along with its performance capabilities, the Ascent also impresses with its focus on safety. The 2021 Ascent has already ranked as the safest midsize SUV. This Subaru has earned this recognition because of its excellent crash test scores and for the number of safety gadgets it comes with, such as forward automatic emergency braking. 

Like the CX-9, the Ascent also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, the Ascent’s standard touchscreen is only 6.5 inches. On the other hand, the Ascent offers more passenger and cargo room than the CX-9 does. The Ascent can seat up to eight. 

Deciding between the CX-9 and Ascent 

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The 2021 CX-9 begins at $33,960, and the 2021 Ascent starts at $32,295. Both models provide a luxury-inspired experience. But if one of your more significant priorities is sporty driving dynamics, the Ascent isn’t for you ᠆ the CX-9 is. If you value extra cabin space and standard AWD, the Ascent is better.