2021 Subaru Ascent vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander: Which Three-Row SUV Does Consumer Reports Recommend?

When the Subaru Ascent first debuted, Consumer Reports gave it some pretty high ratings. In fact, the organization rated it as one of the best three-row SUVs at the time. But these days? The 2021 Toyota Highlander is giving the Subaru Ascent a run for its money. As a matter of fact, when it comes to comparing these two three-row SUVs, Consumer Reports says that the Toyota Highlander makes for the better pick. Let’s find out why.

2021 Subaru Ascent vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander: Which three-row SUV earned better ratings?

A silver 2021 Toyota Highlander parked, the Highlander is a three-row SUV often compared to the 2021 Subaru Ascent
2021 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

There’s no beating around the bush here. Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Toyota Highlander a significantly higher overall score than the 2021 Subaru Ascent. While the organization gave this year’s Highlander an 84 overall score, the Ascent could only manage a 60 overall score.

Those scores don’t tell the whole story, however. While the Highlander did earn a better overall score, the Ascent does have the edge when it comes to road tests. However, when it comes to reliability? Well, that’s where the Highlander shines. While the 2021 Subaru Ascent earned the lowest possible predicted reliability rating, the 2021 Toyota Highlander secured a Very Good predicted reliability rating. 

Now, both three-row SUVs did earn a Very Good predicted owner satisfaction rating. Consumer Reports predicts that owners of both SUVs will be happiest with their driving experience, comfort, and styling. But when it comes to buying either three-row SUV again? While 72% of Ascent owners would rebuy the SUV, an impressive 78% of Toyota Highlander owners said the same.

2021 Subaru Ascent vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander: Safety is key in these three-row SUVs

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Chances are, if you’re shopping for a three-row SUV, you’re shopping for a new family hauler. If that’s the case, then standard safety features are likely very important to you. The good news is that both three-row SUVs come well-stocked with sought-after safety features. 

Take, for example, the 2021 Toyota Highlander. This year’s model is standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes confidence-inspiring safety features like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. According to the IIHS, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is also a Top Safety Pick+. The NHTSA gave it a five-star overall safety rating too.

As for the 2021 Subaru Ascent? It comes standard with a pre-collision braking system, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning, and advanced adaptive cruise control with lane-centering. Much like the Highlander, the NHTSA gave the Ascent a five-star overall safety rating. Meanwhile, the IIHS tapped it as a Top Safety Pick+.

2021 Subaru Ascent vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander: Interiors compared

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Now, let’s talk about which three-row SUV has the better interior. According to Consumer Reports, the 2021 Subaru Ascent boasts a “plush, steady ride that’s more comfortable than we’ve found in some luxury vehicles.” Its seats are comfortable, as are its optional second-row captain’s chairs. The interior does, however, feature a good amount of plastic. For some, that might be a deal-breaker.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander, on the other hand, boasts a compliant and controlled ride. Getting in and out of it is easy enough, and, according to Consumer Reports, accommodations are pretty comfortable regardless of your height or weight. Its rear seats also boast more legroom and headroom than the Ascent. 

Which new three-row SUV is the right fit for you? 

In the end, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is the better choice. While the 2021 Subaru Ascent has plenty to offer new SUV shoppers, the Toyota Highlander earned much better ratings than the Subaru Ascent and is significantly more reliable. Not to mention, unlike the Ascent, it’s recommended by Consumer Reports. But does that mean the Highlander is the right three-row SUV for you? To find out, we recommend getting behind the wheel for a test drive.