Crossover & Midsize

You Could Do A Lot Worse Than the 2020 Subaru Ascent If You Need 3 Rows

Not every SUV has ample passenger space, especially in the third row. Family haulers also need to last many years, so picking a reliable brand like Subaru is important. The 2021 Subaru Ascent is one of the roomiest midsize SUVs you can buy, according to U.S. News.

This relatively new model can seat up to eight passengers and comes with many standard features. However, the Subaru Ascent only has an average reliability rating from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. Still, the Ascent does a lot of things right, but does it have staying power?

What everyone loves about the Subaru Ascent

One of the Subaru Ascent’s biggest strengths is having an adult-friendly third row. Even tall folks have plenty of legroom, and the second row has even more at almost 39 inches. Higher trims also have the option to implement captain’s chairs, but this will lower the Ascent’s seating capacity to seven.

The Subaru Ascent also has a spacious cargo area. There’s 18 cubic feet of space available behind the third row, which expands to 47 feet with the second row folded. All rows folded down provide drivers with nearly 87 cubic feet of space. Split-folding bench seats come standard on both passenger rows.

The cabin isn’t the most luxurious, but everything looks neat and most of the materials are high-quality. The seats are either cloth or leather depending on the trim. Spill-resistant cloth upholstery is an excellent option for families with rowdy kids in tow. 

Drivers have exceptional visibility inside the Subaru Ascent, especially with the skinny A-pillar. Under the hood is a 2.4-liter turbo-four that makes 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. It may not be as powerful as some V6 rivals, but at least it gets great gas mileage. Critics reported that it sometimes takes the turbo a while to kick in, but it feels athletic afterward.

The Subaru Ascent comes with standard all-wheel drive for the base trim. In addition to being able to tackle hazardous weather, the Ascent has enough ground clearance for light off-roading trips. The base trim also comes with a good amount of technology. 

It has smartphone integration, automatic climate control, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and a few USB ports. Safety features include adaptive cruise control with lane assistance, automatic emergency braking, and pre-collision throttle management. It also has LED headlights with automatic high beams that respond to the driver’s steering inputs. For a starting price of around $32,300, that’s not a bad deal.

The Subaru Ascent struggles to stand out

The Subaru Ascent is a perfectly capable SUV, but it doesn’t bring anything special to the table. Several rivals sport more powerful engines, like the Buick Enclave’s 310-hp V6. If you want something less expensive, the Hyundai Santa Fe is also a great alternative.

On average, it’s around $7,000 cheaper than the Subaru Ascent, plus has more second-row legroom. However, the Santa Fe has only two rows, unlike the Kia Telluride. This SUV offers plenty of legroom in all three of its rows and a more luxurious cabin.

Which midsize SUVs should be avoided?

RELATED: What Are the Most Common Nissan Pathfinder Problems?

The Subaru Ascent might be an average SUV, but there are far worse choices. The Nissan Pathfinder boasts generous legroom, but it lacks many standard safety features and the cabin feels very outdated.

The GMC Acadia has insufficient legroom in the third row, which predictably doesn’t allow for much cargo space behind it. The cabin is also made with mostly cheap materials and has a weak engine on the base trim. A turbo-four is available, but considering the Acadia’s other flaws, you’re probably better off with a completely different SUV.