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The Subaru Ascent cuts a different path through Subaru’s SUV lineup. It’s the brand’s largest SUV, with room for up to eight, and Subaru’s classic good looks. Subaru dropped a bit styling and features update on it for 2023, which helps it compete in the hyper-competitive three-row SUV market. But others are gaining on the Subie to vie for three-row SUV supremacy, including Hyundai with the new Palisade, Chevy’s Traverse, the Nissan Pathfinder and the big VW Atlas.

The 2023 Subaru Ascent is the only three-row Subaru SUV

2023 Subaru ascent in purple driving in a neighborhood
2023 Subaru Ascent | Subaru

The 2023 Subaru Ascent starts at $33,895. For that, you get the standard goodies that Subarus are known for, like all-wheel drive, the EyeSight driver’s aids, and classic tall wagon good loos. But with the Ascent, you get something that other Subarus don’t offer, a third row and seating for up to eight. Granted, this is no minivan, but it does have a respectable 31.7 inches of rear leg room, which means that adults can sit in the back. However, that leg room does cut into the cargo room when the seats are up. However, it does have a massive 76 cubic feet of space in back with all the seats folded.

Though the Ascent’s price starts low, you can get one that is as luxurious as an Audi or Infiniti in the Onyx or Touring versions, which start at $46,295 or $48,195, respectively. That being said, the base 8-passenger Ascent comes with all the goodies you need, but you may want to step up to the Premium version for $37,995 if you want heated seats, the second-row captain’s chairs, and other goodies. It comes with a 260-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and good reliability ratings from J.D. Power.

The Nissan Pathfinder was all new in 2022 and brought back off-road good looks

The Nissan Pathfinder was completely redesigned for 2022 and now starts at exactly $35,000 in base S trim. The Nissan comes with a gutsy 284-horsepower V6 and a 9-speed automatic, which helps keep it in the powerband longer. Though four-wheel drive is available, for $35,000, you’ll have to stick to the front-wheel drive version. It has a digital driver’s display, as well as a standard 8.0-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Pathfinder S has seating for eight, and with the seats folded 80.5 cubic feet of space. However, that third row has a relatively-cramped 28 inches of legroom, which limits its capability. If you can stretch you budget beyond the $35,000 mark, the Rock Creek package at $42,820 has a different off-road tuned suspension and four-wheel drive, which makes it more the spiritual successor to the Pathfinders from the 90s that many of us loved.

The Chevy Traverse is the (larger) American alternative to the Ascent

The Traverse has a peppy V6 that tops this list for power, at 310 horsepower. It also has a massive cargo hold, which also tops this list, with 98.2 cubic feet of space. That tops even the big VW Atlas. It also beats the others on this list with 33.5 inches of rear-seat legroom. It starts at $34,520 and comes standard with seating for eight. The base version is fairly minimal and covered in plastic, but it does have a sliding second row, a 7-inch touchscreen, and a wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Chevy Safety Assist driver’s aid software is standard. But, to get the adaptive cruise, surround cameras, or Amazon Alexa compatibility, you’ll need to step up to RS or LT version for much more. All wheel drive is a $2,000 option.

The VW Atlas is the stylish German alternative to the Subaru Ascent

A 2023 Volkswagen Atlas full-size SUV model driving on a highway near trees with autumn-colored leaves
2023 Volkswagen Atlas | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

Sure, you can get a Volkswagen Tiguan for a lot less that has similar features. But to get a full-grown human-sized back seat (like in the Ascent) you’ll need to step up to the big VW Atlas. But, to stay around $35,000 you’d need to stick to the base Atlas SE, which starts at $35,150. However, that’s OK because the base trim comes with a lot of features that are options on others, like heated seats and a leatherette-wrapped steering wheel. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder, however, can get overwhelmed by the big SUV.

 Atlas, like its name suggests, carries a lot. In this case, it can hold up to 97 cubic feet of stuff with the seats folded, which is a significant amount more than the Ascent.

The Hyundai Palisade got a major update for 2023

A white 2023 Hyundai Palisade full-size SUV parked outdoors
2023 Hyundai Palisade | Hyundai

The 2023 Hyundai Palisade packs a lot of value into this base $35,250 three-row SUV. Unlike the Subaru, the Palisade has the traditional two-box look of an SUV, but that also means that you get a large 86.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity and standard seating for eight. It also comes with a 12.3-inch screen and navigation, standard. An interesting feature, even in the base model, is the one-touch sliding second row, which helps with easy access to the back seat.

The Palisade offers 31.4 inches of back seat legroom, putting it on par with the Ascent. However, the Hyundai comes with a much more powerful 290-horsepower V6 that rarely feels overwhelmed by this large SUV.

RELATED: Is the 2023 Hyundai Palisade a Yukon Denali Killer?


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