The 2021 Subaru Ascent Is a Fantastic SUV You Shouldn’t Buy

Buying a third row SUV is a particularly important purchase for families. This is because this vehicle will likely have to handle daily driver duties, family road trips and everything in-between. As a result, you’ll want to buy an SUV that is not only enjoyable to drive but robust enough to last many years. On the surface, the 2021 Subaru Ascent seems like the perfect fit for this role. However, a new reliability report from Consumer Reports says otherwise.

The 2021 Subaru Ascent excels during road tests

The 2021 Subaru Ascent offers plenty of value for its $32,295 base price. Under the hood, you get a 260-hp 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine more than equipped to move the 4,430-lb SUV around. As standard, you get three rows of seating, all-wheel drive, and driver-assist tech.

According to Consumer Reports, the Subaru Ascent’s excellent specs translate nicely into real-world performance. During its road test of the SUV, Consumer Reports noted that the Ascent excelled in the ride, comfort, braking, and acceleration categories. The result is an SUV that is not only nice to drive but also quite comfortable as well. Both front and rear seat comfort was noted as a major win for the Subaru. This means you’ll be able to tackle even long trips with great comfort.

From a daily driving perspective, the Subaru Ascent appears to have just one major drawback: its fuel economy. During Consumer Reports’ testing, the Ascent consumed 14 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway for an average of 22 mpg.

Predicted reliability is surprisingly low

A white Subaru Ascent on display at an auto show
A white Subaru Ascent on display | Paul Marotta/Getty Images

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While the Subaru Ascent may excel in short term testing and road tests, it seems to struggle in the long term. Consumer Reports surveyed Ascent owners and found some significant issues. As a result, the large Subaru was rated one of the least reliable brand-new SUVs available.

Since the Subaru Ascent has been on sale for more than one model year, we’ve got two sets of data to compare. In the 2019 model, the major trouble areas were the transmission, climate system, brakes, power equipment, and in-car electronics. The model apparently received some major improvements for the 2020 model, with the only trouble areas being the transmission and power equipment categories. Regardless, having continuous problems in major components could spell trouble for long-term ownership. Based on these ratings, Consumer Reports estimates that the 2021 model won’t improve.

To Subaru’s credit, the engine appears to be rock solid. The 2.4-liter powerplant managed to score favorable both in the 2019 and 2020 model year.

What Subaru should I buy instead?

Subaru Forester is displayed during the second press day at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show on March 6, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Subaru Forester | Robert Hradil/Getty Images

If you are buying a Subaru Ascent because you are a big fan of the brand, you have other options. If you can skip on the third row and slightly downsize the overall platform, the Forester is a great option. Unlike its large SUV sibling, the Forester scored favorably in all major categories. Aside from impressing during the road test, the Forester also has excellent predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

However, if you absolutely need three rows, the Subaru Ascent has some formidable competitors. The highest-rated midsize SUVs by Consumer Reports are the 2021 Kia Telluride, 2021 Hyundai Palisade, 2021 Toyota Highlander, and the 2021 Mazda CX-9. The result is that while the Ascent may not be the best buy, you’ve got plenty of other options.