Trucks & SUVs

2021 Toyota Highlander vs. Subaru Ascent: There Is a Clear Winner This Year

If you’re in the market to get a midsize three-row SUV, you might’ve come across two of the leading models in this segment. The Subaru Ascent and the Toyota Highlander

Figuring out which one is better is a difficult thing to do, but luckily Kelley Blue Book came to the rescue with their evaluation of the two sport utility vehicles. Let’s see what they had to say about each one of them. 

What are the highlights of the Toyota Highlander?

press image from Toyota for the 2021 Highlander in gray with gray background
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE | Toyota

RELATED: The Highlander Was the Only Car Toyota Redesigned in 2020

The hybrid version of the Toyota Highlander has one of the best fuel economy ratings for a three-row, midsize SUV. It can get 36 mpg combined when you have the front-wheel drive model. For the AWD version, you will still get 35 mpg combined, which is something you don’t see in too many of their rivals. 

You can get a nice list of standard safety and driver’s assistance features with the Highlander. Some items included in the list are lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. 

Like the Subaru Ascent, the Highlander also has a nice, roomy interior with plenty of legroom for the first two rows of seats. However, the third row is too cramped to seat full-size adults. Small children should have no problem in the last row. 

Towing isn’t bad either. The hybrid version can handle 3,500 lbs. But the V6 motor, which is a bit stronger than the hybrid, can take on 5,000 lbs. 

What are the highlights of the Subaru ascent?

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

Subaru equipped its Ascent for some off-road traveling. With the standard all-wheel drivetrain, you’ll get an off-road x-mode option. Also, the ground clearance for the body is 8.7 inches, which is the perfect height for maneuvering on off-beaten paths. As an added bonus, it can tow up to 5,000 lbs, which is useful for hauling some of your other toys.  

The Ascent also comes with a plethora of standard features, besides AWD. The long list includes items such as roof rails, hill descent control, 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, eight-passenger seating, 6.5-inch infotainment display screen, and 19 cup holders to name just a few. 

Subaru’s Ascent is the largest vehicle they have for three-row SUVs. The interior is roomy, offering more than enough leg and headroom for the first two rows of seats. Unfortunately, the third-row won’t seat adults too well, but a couple of small children aren’t likely to have a problem. 

Which one is the clear winner?

Last year, Kelley Blue Book had a tough time coming up with a clear winner between these two. But, this year, they were able to determine that one of them pulls ahead of the other.

While the two have much in common as far as features go, the Toyota Highlander comes out on top for a few different reasons. The V6 engine coupled with the eight-speed automatic transmission felt more responsive than the combination of the Ascent’s turbo Inline-four. They’re close to be sure, but the Highlander is just a bit better. 

The primary reason they chose the Toyota is because of its resale value. The Highlander offers a wide range of trim levels, so there’s a model that will get you whatever you want or need. It also comes with the same reliability that all Toyotas are known for. 

Both are great three-row SUVs, and each one offers a decent amount of features. The Highlander rides smoother, The Subaru Ascent is the cheaper one of the two, since AWD doesn’t cost more, but the Highlander still outshines with its reliability and resale value.