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2020 Subaru Ascent: What You Need to Know

US News & World Report - Cars logo US News & World Report - Cars 4/9/2020 U.S. News & World Report
a red car in a forest: 2020 Subaru Ascent © Subaru of America, Inc. 2020 Subaru Ascent

The 2020 Subaru Ascent places in the middle of our midsize SUV rankings. It boasts easygoing handling, sure-footed grip on slick roads, abundant safety features, and excellent crash test scores, but a below-average predicted reliability rating holds it back from the top tier of the segment.

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is ranked:

Is the Subaru Ascent a Good SUV?

Yes, the Ascent is a good midsize SUV. This versatile three-row SUV is great for busy households. Large crews will be grateful for its standard 19 cup holders, six USB ports (four standard), and available second-row climate controls.

The Ascent stands out with its high-quality cabin, standard all-wheel drive, and exceptional ground clearance. Even those who don’t plan to venture off road will appreciate this vehicle's lengthy list of standard features, user-friendly infotainment system, composed handling, and peppy powertrain.

The Ascent’s performance and passenger space, however, fall short of some rivals. It has pleasant handling and solid acceleration, but some SUVs corner better and can get up to highway speeds quicker. Passenger volume is good, but some competitors have more third-row space for occupants to stretch out their legs.

Should I Buy the Subaru Ascent?

There's something for everyone in the midsize SUV class and plenty of alternatives if the Ascent doesn't ring every bell for you. You'll get better fuel economy with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, a meatier engine with the Ford Explorer, and a higher towing capacity with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. If you need more interior space, look inside the Volkswagen Atlas or Chevrolet Traverse.

Should I Buy a New or Used Subaru Ascent?

The Ascent launched as an all-new vehicle for 2019, so it may be difficult to find a used model. That said, you'll likely pay less for a 2019 Ascent if you can find one, and it's nearly identical to the new Ascent. There are no major changes for 2020.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2019 Subaru Ascent review to help make your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

We Did the Research for You: 15 Reviews Analyzed

Our Subaru Ascent review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from more than 15 sources and combined them with concrete data like fuel economy estimates, safety scores, and performance specs to help you make an informed buying decision.

This 2020 Subaru Ascent review incorporates applicable research for all vehicles in this generation, which includes the 2019 and 2020 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Jobs, Best Hospitals, and Best Colleges to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. We've been ranking and reviewing the Best Cars since 2007, backed by a team with more than 75 years of combined automotive experience. To keep favoritism out of the picture, we maintain a separate advertising team and decline expensive gifts and trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Subaru Ascent Cost?

Prices for the Ascent start at around $32,000 and top out near $45,000. See our Which Subaru Ascent Model Is Right for Me? section below for full details on pricing, standard features, trim levels, and options.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer offers and incentives on our Subaru deals page.

Subaru Ascent Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Subaru Ascent or Toyota Highlander?

The Toyota Highlander places in the top third of our midsize SUV rankings. It has an excellent predicted reliability rating, a quiet cabin, and a stylish selection of premium-grade materials. The Highlander is a good choice if you want an SUV with a higher-class feel than what the Ascent provides or if you plan on using the first two rows of seats most of the time. Pick the Subaru if you need more cargo space or a larger third-row seat.

Which Is Better: Subaru Ascent or Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot is one of the few three-row SUVs that's as spacious as the Ascent. The Honda is a comfortable, well-rounded vehicle, but the Subaru is better in many ways. You get more standard tech features in the Ascent, and reviewers praise the Subaru's handling more than they do the Honda's. Also, the Pilot has a below-average predicted reliability rating (J.D. Power has not yet rated the Ascent).

Ascent Interior

How Many People Does the Ascent Seat?

The Ascent is a three-row midsize SUV that can seat eight (with the standard second-row bench seat) or seven (with the optional second-row captain's chairs). Overall passenger volume is generous, and though it isn't class-leading, the third row is easily accessible and comfortable enough for adults to sit on for brief trips. The driver's seat conforms to a wide range of sizes and provides good support and a relatively clear view.

Ascent and Child Car Seats

In the second row, the Ascent has two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors for the outboard seats, as well as a tether anchor and one dedicated lower anchor for the middle seat. There is also one complete set of LATCH connectors for the driver's-side third-row seat.

The Ascent's LATCH system is relatively easy to use. All hardware is clearly marked, and it doesn't take much effort to connect a car seat to the lower anchors.

Ascent Interior Quality

The Ascent is well-built, and its materials are of good quality. The interior colors and styling are modest, and though the cabin isn't lavish, reviewers say it feels welcoming.

Ascent Cargo Space

The Ascent has an above-average amount of cargo space, with 17.8 cubic feet behind the rearmost seat, 47.5 cubic feet with the third row folded down, and up to 86.5 cubic feet with all rear seats folded down. A convenient cubby is tucked into the cargo floor, and a height-adjustable power liftgate is available.

Ascent Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

There's virtually no hunting and pecking when it comes to the Ascent’s climate and audio controls. The infotainment system is user-friendly, and its accompanying buttons are simple and straightforward. The Ascent has multiple USB ports, along with effortless smartphone integration via standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Optional tech upgrades include navigation, a premium Harman Kardon sound system, and an uplevel infotainment system that increases the touch screen size from 6.5 to 8 inches.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Ascent Performance

Ascent Engine: Pint-Sized but Peppy

The Ascent comes with a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission. Though its engine is smaller than what lies under the hood of the average midsize SUV, it provides plenty of oomph. This engine is rated at 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain occasionally lags or sounds raspy, but few drivers will be bothered by these minor drawbacks.

Ascent Gas Mileage: Above Average

The Ascent gets better fuel economy than the average midsize SUV, earning 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. This is especially remarkable because it's outfitted only with all-wheel drive, while most class rivals come standard with front-wheel drive. The added weight of AWD systems typically has a negative impact on gas mileage.

Ascent Ride and Handling: Balanced and Smooth

This eight-seat SUV doesn't handle like a large, hulking vehicle. Instead, the Ascent is nimble and composed, though not necessarily athletic. It has strong brakes, responsive steering, and a comfortable ride.

Ascent Off-Road Performance

The Ascent comes with Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive. This is unusual for a midsize SUV, as most come standard with front-wheel drive. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and the AWD-enhanced X-Mode system, the Ascent competently traverses steep grades and slippery terrain. All trim levels feature hill descent control, which manages the SUV's speed on downhill slopes.

Ascent Towing Capacity

The base trim of this midsize SUV can tow up to 2,000 pounds, while all uplevel trims have a 5,000-pound towing capacity. That's typical for the class.

Ascent Reliability

Is the Subaru Ascent Reliable?

The 2020 Subaru Ascent has a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Subaru Ascent Warranty

Subaru covers this SUV with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Subaru Ascent?

The cost of insuring a Subaru Ascent will depend on a variety of factors, including your deductible, the level of coverage that you want, and the type of insurance that you choose. Your age, gender, location, credit score, and driving record can also have an impact on your insurance rates. Check out our car insurance guide to find the best policy for you.

Ascent Safety

Ascent Crash Test Results

At the time of writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2020 Subaru Ascent.

The IIHS named the nearly identical 2019 Ascent a Top Safety Pick+, the organization’s highest honor. The Ascent earned a top rating of Good in all six crash tests. Models equipped with LED projector headlights received a Good rating for how well they illuminate the road ahead, while models with halogen headlights received the lowest rating of Poor. Thanks to Subaru's standard EyeSight safety suite, the Ascent earned a top rating of Superior for front crash prevention.

The NHTSA gave the 2019 Ascent an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. The SUV earned five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover evaluation.

Ascent Safety Features

Every Ascent comes with Subaru's EyeSight driver assistance package that contains forward automatic emergency braking, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, and a head-up display. A rearview camera and a rear-seat reminder are also standard.

Optional safety features include reverse automatic emergency braking, cornering headlights with automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a rear-vision mirror camera, and a front-view camera.

Ascent Dimensions and Weight

The Ascent is about 16.5 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,430 to 4,603 pounds.

Where is the 2020 Subaru Ascent Built?

Subaru builds the 2020 Ascent in Indiana.

Which Subaru Ascent Model Is Right for Me?

For 2020, Subaru's three-row SUV comes in four trim levels: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. All models come with a four-cylinder engine, an automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive.

The base trim is well-equipped with many popular safety and entertainment features and costs around $32,000. For the best value, we recommend the Subaru Ascent Premium. Its added safety features make it easier to maneuver this sizable vehicle through parking lots and when merging with highway traffic. Cabin comfort is improved thanks to touches such as heated front seats and second-row climate controls.

Subaru Ascent

The base trim comes with tri-zone automatic climate control, manually adjustable front seats, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and roof rails. The Subaru Starlink infotainment system includes a 6.5-inch touch screen, six speakers, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, four USB ports, Bluetooth, and satellite radio.

Standard safety features include a rearview camera, a rear-seat reminder, and EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. This safety suite contains forward automatic emergency braking, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, and a head-up display.

Pricing starts at $31,995.

Subaru Ascent Premium

The Subaru Ascent Premium ($34,395) gets an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, stain-resistant cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and second-row climate controls.

Infotainment upgrades include an 8-inch touch screen and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Additional standard features include remote engine start, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist.

Subaru Ascent Limited

Leather-trimmed upholstery is added to the $39,345 Subaru Ascent Limited, and shoppers get the choice of a bench seat or a set of captain's chairs in the second row. Interior upgrades include a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, and second-row sunshades.

The Limited also gets proximity keyless entry, push-button start, two additional USB ports, a power liftgate, reverse automatic emergency braking, and cornering headlights with automatic high beams.

Subaru Ascent Touring

The top-of-the-line Ascent Touring has a starting price of $45,045. It gets upgraded leather upholstery and trim, ambient lighting, ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, and a panoramic moonroof.

Additional upgrades include navigation, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a household-style power outlet, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a rearview mirror camera, and a front-view camera.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer offers and incentives on our Subaru deals page.

The Final Call

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is a great choice for shuttling a full crew of people and their gear. It has a spacious cabin and a wealth of safety features. Standard all-wheel drive helps the SUV stay planted, even when road conditions are dicey.

It places in the middle of our midsize SUV rankings mainly because many of its specs are middle of the road. For instance, rivals such as the Volkswagen Atlas have larger cabins, and the Mazda CX-9 has sportier driving dynamics.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

Read the full 2020 Subaru Ascent review on U.S. News & World Report for more details, photos, specs and prices.


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