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2021 Subaru Ascent Review

The 2021 Subaru Ascent boasts a comfortable ride, adult-friendly seating, and plenty of tech features. However, its subpar predicted reliability rating drags it to the lower half of our midsize SUV rankings.

Pros & Cons

  • Roomy seating
  • Spacious cargo area
  • Generous standard features list
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Below-average predicted reliability rating

New for 2021

  • Steering-responsive LED headlights with automatic high beams now standard
  • Adaptive cruise control gains lane centering and lane keep assist

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Subaru Ascent's #13 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Subaru Ascent has a score of 7.7 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 30 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.7

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.6
Performance: 7.3
Interior: 8.0
Safety: 9.8
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Subaru Ascent?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

 Is the Subaru Ascent a Good SUV?

Yes, the 2021 Ascent is a good midsize SUV. This Subaru's standard all-wheel drive gives it excellent road grip, and the suspension system is tuned for a relaxed ride over rough roads. Inside, the Ascent can accommodate adults in all three rows, and every trim is equipped with an array of advanced safety technology. On the downside, it has one of the worst predicted reliability ratings in the class.

Why You Can Trust Us: 21 Reviews Analyzed

To give you a complete overview of the 2021 Ascent – and make your car-shopping experience easier – we analyzed 21 Subaru Ascent reviews alongside performance specs, interior dimensions, and more.

This 2021 Ascent review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Subaru Ascent?

Though the Ascent is certainly worth buying, there are several alternatives that you should investigate first. Consider the Ford Explorer if you'd like a stronger engine or the Toyota Highlander for a higher predicted reliability rating and a more high-end cabin.

Find a 2021 Subaru Ascent for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Subaru Ascent: What's the Difference?

There are not many differences between the 2020 and 2021 Ascent. For 2021, Subaru adds lane centering, lane keep assist, and steering-responsive LED headlights with automatic high beams to the standard features list.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Ascent »

Here are the key changes for the Subaru Ascent over the last few years:

  • 2019: brand-new model
  • 2020: rear-seat reminder added to standard features list
  • 2021: gains a few new standard safety features

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2019 Ascent and 2020 Ascent reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Subaru Ascent Cost?

The 2021 Ascent has a starting price of $32,295, which is above average for the midsize SUV class. The midlevel Premium and Limited trims start at $34,795 and $39,595, respectively. The top-of-the-line Touring trim starts at $45,445.

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

Subaru Ascent Versus the Competition

Subaru Ascent vs Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer and Subaru Ascent have several things in common. Both have a balanced ride, good fuel economy, and plenty of cargo space. However, the Ford’s engine lineup is more potent than the Subaru's, and the Explorer is available in a hybrid variant while the Ascent is not. On the other hand, the Ascent has a more affordable starting price and slightly nicer cabin materials.

Compare the Ascent and Explorer »

Subaru Ascent vs Honda Pilot

Both the Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent offer ample passenger and cargo space and a cushioned ride. Both also suffer from a subpar predicted reliability rating. These midsize SUVs have several differences as well, the biggest of which pertain to performance. The Pilot is powered by a V6 engine with 20 more horsepower than the Ascent's turbocharged four-cylinder. The Honda delivers slightly more enjoyable handling dynamics, while the Subaru has better low-end torque and little turbo lag. The Ascent comes standard with all-wheel drive but gets similar fuel economy estimates to the front-wheel-drive Pilot. When equipped with AWD, however, the Pilot gets slightly better fuel economy.

Inside, the Ascent boasts a nicer cabin than the Pilot, with more soft-touch surfaces and additional infotainment features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Stick with the Subaru if you want standard all-wheel drive and extra standard infotainment tech. For slightly better performance, opt for the Honda.

Compare the Ascent and Pilot »

Compare the Ascent, Explorer, and Pilot »

Ascent Interior: Roomy and Comfy

Ascent Cargo Space

This Subaru is more than capable of carrying your family's vacation luggage. The Ascent provides 17.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the last row, 47.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 86.5 cubic feet behind the first-row seats. Those are above-average figures for the class. There's also a storage compartment under the cargo floor and roof rails to stow additional cargo. A power liftgate is standard.

How Many People Does the Ascent Seat?

There's seating for up to eight people in the standard setup that has rear bench seats. Models with second-row bucket seats (available in all but the base trim) seat seven. No matter which configuration you go for, the Ascent has lots of passenger space, especially in the first two rows. The third-row seats provide plenty of support and can comfortably accommodate adults on shorter commutes.

Ascent and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row outboard seats, as well as an upper tether and one lower anchor for the second-row middle seat. The third row has one complete set on the driver’s side and upper tethers for the other two third-row seats. The Ascent’s LATCH system is easy to use.

Ascent Interior Quality

The Ascent has a handsome cabin with high-quality materials. A simple layout with features like stain-resistant upholstery make it perfect for active families.

Ascent Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Ascent comes standard with a decent number of standard features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The Starlink infotainment interface features user-friendly touch controls, and there are physical knobs that make it easy for the driver to change audio and climate settings.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, six speakers, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and four USB ports (two in both the first and second rows)
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, a Wi-Fi hot spot, two USB ports in the third row, navigation, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system
  • Additional standard features: tri-zone automatic climate control and keyless entry
  • Other available features: second-row climate controls, remote engine start, proximity keyless entry, and push-button start

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

Read more about interior »

Ascent Performance: Powerful, Economical, and Capable

Ascent Engine

This Subaru is powered by a turbocharged 260-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). This powertrain is strong, and it delivers quick acceleration.

Ascent Gas Mileage

The base Ascent gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, which is above average for the class and especially impressive considering the Ascent comes standard with all-wheel drive. The Limited and Touring trims deliver 1 less mpg in the city and on the highway.

Ascent Ride and Handling

The Ascent drives like a smaller vehicle and provides accurate steering, composed handling, and a comfortable ride, even over bumpy roads. It isn't the most exciting SUV to drive, but the Ascent's balanced ride should please most shoppers.

Ascent Off-Road Performance

One thing that makes the Subaru Ascent stand out from the competition is its standard all-wheel drive. It also has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, hill descent control, and Subaru's X-Mode system, which optimizes traction and reduces wheel spin on slippery terrain. All these components make the Ascent capable of some light off-roading.

Ascent Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Ascent can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Ascent Reliability

Is the Subaru Ascent Reliable?

The 2021 Subaru Ascent has a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five.

Subaru Ascent Warranty

The 2021 Ascent comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Ascent Safety

Ascent Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Ascent an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. It earned five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2021 Ascent the highest rating of Good in all six crashworthiness tests.

Ascent Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • forward automatic emergency braking
  • pre-collision throttle management
  • adaptive cruise control
  • lane centering and lane keep assist
  • steering-responsive LED headlights
  • automatic high beams
  • lane departure and sway warning
  • rearview camera
  • rear-seat reminder

Available advanced safety features:

  • reverse automatic emergency braking
  • blind spot monitoring
  • rear cross traffic alert
  • lane change assist
  • rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • rear-vision mirror camera
  • front-view camera
  • LED fog lights

Read more about safety »

Ascent Dimensions and Weight

The Ascent is 16.4 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,430 to 4,603 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Subaru Ascent Built?

Subaru builds the 2021 Ascent in Indiana.

Which Subaru Ascent Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Subaru Ascent comes in four trims: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. All trims come with a 240-horsepower four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive.

The Ascent may have an above-average starting price, but it offsets that with a lengthy list of standard features. As a result, the base trim is a fine choice for most shoppers. If you would prefer captain's chairs in the second row, however, you'll have to step up to at least the Premium trim, which also comes with additional comfort features.

Subaru Ascent

Starting at $32,295, the base trim includes a Starlink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, six speakers, satellite radio, four USB ports, and Bluetooth. This Subaru also comes with tri-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, and keyless entry. Several advanced safety features are also standard, including the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology suite, which consists of adaptive cruise control with lane centering and lane keep assist, steering-responsive LED headlights with automatic high beams, lane departure and sway warning, forward automatic emergency braking, and pre-collision throttle management. A rearview camera and a rear-seat reminder are also standard.

Subaru Ascent Premium

The Premium trim starts at $34,795 and gains an 8-inch touch screen, a Wi-Fi hot spot, stain-resistant cloth upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, second-row climate controls, remote engine start, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. Second-row captain's chairs are an additional $1,460.

Subaru Ascent Limited

The Limited trim (MSRP: $39,595) adds leather upholstery, 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. It also gains two USB ports in the third row, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, reverse automatic emergency braking, and fog lights. You can add second-row captain's chairs at no extra charge.

Subaru Ascent Touring

The Touring trim starts at $45,445. It adds navigation, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, ambient lighting, a panoramic moonroof, 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 incentives on our Subaru deals page.

See 2021 Subaru Ascent specs and trims »

The Final Call

With its roomy cabin, comfortable ride, and standard all-wheel drive, the 2021 Subaru Ascent is a good choice for families. Its predicted reliability rating is below average, however, which prevents it from being a top contender in the midsize SUV class.

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

  • "The 2021 Subaru Ascent brings that special sauce of Subaru goodness to the midsize 3-row SUV/crossover scene. These ingredients include standard all-wheel drive (AWD), great safety ratings, well-considered cabins and (we anticipate) strong resale values." -- Autotrader
  • "The Ascent is Subaru's best three-row SUV to date. We like its standard all-wheel drive, useful technology features and solid build quality. A roomier third-row seat and a smoother-shifting transmission would make it better, but overall this is an appealing family hauler." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The … Subaru Ascent is the largest Subaru ever with three rows of seating and room for up to eight passengers. It fills a hole in the brand's lineup, making it possible for growing families to stay with Subaru rather than looking elsewhere when it's time to haul the kids and their friends around town." -- Boston Globe (2019) 

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 8, 2020

Falling Sales: The Ascent places in the lower half of the midsize SUV class in terms of sales. It has a long way to climb to catch class leaders like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee; each is outselling the Ascent by more than 3 to 1. In addition, Ascent sales have declined by 17 percent in 2020 compared to the same span in 2019.

Research more buying advice »
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