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  • Chris Teague

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is a Big and Comfy Cruiser

The Subaru Ascent debuted last year, and took over the large spot that was left in the brand’s lineup when the funky Tribeca departed five years before. The three-row crossover is every bit the Subaru and has the quirky personality that has made people return to the brand over and over.

The biggest problem here is that there are just so many other absolutely great crossovers on sale now. The Kia Telluride has taken the market by storm, and for good reason, but that doesn’t mean the Ascent is bad by any means.

If you’re dead set on buying a Subaru and need three rows, the Ascent is your only choice. That’s not a bad thing though, because as only choices go, the Ascent is a strong option. It’s roomy, comfortable, and packs plenty of usable cargo space.


It’s incredibly easy to bemoan the presence of a continuously variable transmission in any vehicle, but Subaru does it as well as anybody. It turns out that piling years and millions of R&D dollars into something will eventually make it tolerable. That said, the Ascent’s 2.4-liter Boxer four-cylinder tends to wail under hard acceleration, due mostly to the CVT. The engine produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, which is adequate, but passing and accelerating to highway speeds leaves a bit to be desired.

The Ascent is quiet, compliant, and smooth on the road, and did a good job at soaking up almost all of what early-spring New England could throw at it. Standard all-wheel drive helps, as does decent rubber on the 20-inch wheels.


The 2020 Subaru Legacy got a giant infotainment screen that nearly rivals the footlong unit in Ram’s new trucks, but the Ascent hasn’t gotten that benefit yet. Even so, the 8.0-inch infotainment screen is bright and easily visible from nearly any angle. Subaru’s STARLINK system runs well on it, and my Touring-trimmed tester also came with navigation, though the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will take care of that duty for most people.

Subaru is known for safety, which means that its EyeSight safety tech is standard on every Ascent model. That brings adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure alerts, sway warnings, and lane keeping assist. The top Limited and Touring trims get high beam assist, reverse automatic braking, blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and the Touring trim comes with a 180-degree camera.


The Ascent’s front seats are adjustable to a high degree, which allows for a comfortable driving position that should satisfy most people. The seating position remains high in almost every setting, which allows for great outward visibility and a low-fatigue driving experience. My test vehicle came with captain’s chairs in the second row and easily accommodated two car seats. Loading kids in and out can be difficult if there are full-size car seats in place, as the somewhat low roof can lead to some bumped heads.

Injured kids aside, the Ascent is built to move people and does so just about as well as anyone. The third row is cramped, but I’ve yet to find a “way-back” that is comfy for a fully grown adult. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to store small items, and the rear cargo area is generously sized as long as the third row is folded down.

It may not have the swagger of the Kia Telluride or Hyundai Palisade, but the Ascent is a solid choice for anyone needing a safe three-row crossover. Subaru’s safety record is among the best in the industry and there’s room for more people than most owners will ever need to tote around. Sounds like a great combination for a kid-hauler to me.

I cover autos and technology for several outlets online and in print. My goal is to bring the complex and sometimes confusing automotive world into focus for everyone. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.



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