2020 Subaru Ascent a promising upstart among 3-row SUVs Featured

Posted On Sunday, 21 June 2020 04:25 Written by
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Photo courtesy of Subaru Photo courtesy of Subaru One perk of the 2020 Ascent is its generous cargo space, especially with the 2nd and third rows down.


Year two is an important one for brand new vehicles. They may get a pass in the debut year if sales underperform, but numbers need to start picking up if a vehicle is going to have a long future within a brand.

For example, the Subaru Ascent.

In 2019, Subaru moved beyond their familiar wagon territory to unveil the Ascent, a three-row SUV, and it returns with some minor upgrades for 2020, looking to grow its clout in the segment.

I recently spent some time in a 2020 Ascent, and I’m back with a full report on how it stacks up vs. heavyweights like the Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Honda PIlot and Toyota Highlander.


The Ascent that I tested featured an attractive Abyss Blue Pearl paint job. The exterior design, while not breathtaking, holds up well in the segment.

On the inside is where the Ascent shines. It’s quite roomy, easy to get around inside the vehicle, and features high-end materials despite not being a luxury ride. The Ascent is well-designed for both driver and passenger comfort and overall user-friendliness.

One upgrade for 2020 is the top-level Touring version now offers power, folding exterior mirrors with built-in turn signals. Inside you get a healthy 6 USB ports — 2 in front, 4 in rear — which is good for charging devices on road trips, as well as a 120v AC outlet.

The Ascent offers strong storage for the segment, 17.6-cubic feet of storage with all of its seats up, but 86 cubic feet with 2nd and 3rd rows folded down. This will come in handy for hauling purposes.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of passengers, you can opt for either 7 seats (with comfy Captain’s Chairs in the middle row), or 8 seats (bench seating in 2nd and 3rd row). I would recommend the 7-seat setup for comfort and maneuverability, if you don’t need the extra seat. 

One thing to note is that the third row is a bit tighter than rivals, so it’s best left for smaller children if possible.

The Ascent offers quality interior materials, such as leather trimmed seating and wood pattern trim. Up front, there’s a 10-way power driver seat with memory and size support, a 4-way passenger seat, ventilated and heated front seats, heated leather steering wheel and leather shift knob. A panoramic power moonroof with retractable sun shade is also offered.

And if you weren’t sure yet that this ride is family-friendly, you have a total of 19 cup and bottle holders in the Ascent, along with reading lights for the second row, three-zone auto climate control, and other creature comforts.


All versions of the 2020 Subaru Ascent have the same power plant: A 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine boasting 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. This is paired with a high-torque CVT with 8-speed manual mode.

The sounds coming from under the hood are a bit noisier than I’d like to hear on this type of vehicle, but it’s not anything too extreme and won’t ruin the ride. And there’s lots to like about the performance of the Ascent. 

This can be a fast SUV when you need it to be, but it’s not the most powerful in class (many rivals offer V6 or stronger options). That’s not the selling point here, though, as it’s about the whole package. The Ascent handles incredibly well and offers a quiet, balanced and steady ride — and that’s what families tend to want, not a hot rod.

My zero-to-60 time was about 7 seconds, and the Ascent provided responsive braking.

Also, all Ascent trim levels come with standard all-wheel drive, something most rivals of the Ascent can not claim, so that’s a high point. You also get four-wheel independent suspension and a generous ground clearance of 8.7 inches, which will appeal to adventurous types. And the Ascent can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Subaru is among the most decorated automakers in terms of safety awards and recognition, and that shines through on the Ascent. In fact, both technology and safety are strong among the high points of the Ascent, with a generous amount of standard features in both departments.

Regarding infotainment, I found Subaru’s system, with its 8-inch screen, very easy to use. Voice controls work very well, including recognition of addresses for the navigation system. I never had to repeat myself. There was even a helpful secondary screen above the main one that came in handy by displaying directions and other important information in large type.

Touch controls on the infotainment system are marked clearly and a breeze to master, with separate icons for Phone, Map, Media, Apps, Starlink and more. Among the apps available are MySubaru, Pandora, and aha. You also get Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility for phone mirroring.

Now standard in 2020 is an alert system — called Rear Seat Reminder — which helps to prevent people from forgetting about any people in the back seats by beeping a warning and displaying a message on the instrument panel.

Now let’s talk safety. The system that Subaru uses to keep its driver safe is called Eyesight, and it’s among the best in the business.

This driver-assistance system, using multiple cameras, features a bevy of systems that work tremendously well to ensure safety, including:
• Automatic emergency braking
• Lane departure warning (very helpful system, but it can be overly aggressive in some scenarios; thankfully you can turn it off)
• Adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist
• Reverse automatic braking system
• Blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert
• Rear vision camera with adaptive guidelines

Airbags are aplenty, including a frontal airbag system, driver side knee airbag, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, and seat side airbags.

The Ascent also features automatic rain sensing wipers, a 180-degree front view camera, automatic power door locks and seat belt pretensioners, and a LATCH system for child safety in the second and third rows.

An optional Harman Kardon sound system with surround sound and 14 speakers is offered, and you get Sirius XM Radio free for 4 months. Surprisingly, the sound system was decent but not amazing, especially at higher volumes when I found it to be a bit tinny.

To sum it up, the tech options are tremendous, and people moving up in size within the Subaru family will be happy to hear that safety was not sacrificed on this three-row SUV.

Regarding fuel mileage, the Ascent’s official numbers are 20 city/26 highway/22 combined. These numbers came through as accurate in my time driving the vehicle, and are very competitive for the segment, another high point for the Ascent.

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is offered in four trim levels: Base, Premium, Limited, and Touring.

The vehicle I tested was a Touring model and priced at just over $46,000, and its base price starts about $32K. On the lower end, it’s priced pretty close to most of the competition. But on the high end, it’s actually a bargain when compared to the maxed-versions of some of its competitors, which can run up to $10K or more higher.

Warranties on the Ascent include:
• 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty
• 5 year/60K powertrain warranty
• 5 year/unlimited miles rust perforation
• 3 year/36K 24/7 roadside assistance


In its second year in the three-row SUV battlefield, the Subaru Ascent delivers some improvements and remains a strong offering that will appeal to fans of the brand who are looking to move up to a larger vehicle and want to stay within the Subaru family, and should also bring some converts to Subaru.

The Ascent stays true to Subaru’s heritage, while moving it to a whole new category of vehicle, which is an admirable accomplishment … and this vehicle is worth a test by anyone considering a three-row SUV who wants a safe, enjoyable family vehicle.

AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2020 Subaru Ascent 
  • Price as tested: $46,055 (starts at $32K) 
  • Best feature: Versatility, standard AWD, safety and technology features 
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars 
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Subaru fans looking to upgrade to a larger, family-friendly ride
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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