Once upon a time, Subaru tried its hand at making a three-row SUV for families. It was called the B9 Tribeca in some markets, or just plain Tribeca in the US. The only thing weirder than its name was its looks, so Subaru axed the Tribeca in 2014 and set to work on a replacement SUV from the ground up.

The result: the Subaru Ascent, an SUV that fits families and comes loaded with practical features.

Based on a stretched version of the Subaru global platform, the Subaru Ascent is a three-row SUV that takes space and safety seriously. There’s a versatile interior that boasts an impressive 86.5 cubic-feet of space with all the seats down. A three-passenger bench second-row is standard, but twin captain chairs are available for added flexibility, so you can opt for seven or eight-seater versions. While the third row may be a tight fit for some, it should be plenty big enough for kids.

The Subaru Ascent is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder that has plenty of power for a vehicle of this size. Subaru’s CVT provides a smooth ride around town, with just the right kick-down while passing. A capable all-wheel-drive system with off-road X mode is standard across all trims. That should go without saying, but many of the Ascent’s competitors are still available as a standard front-drive version, and their pricing reflects that. So don’t be fooled by the fact that the Ascent’s starting price isn’t lower.

Subaru assembles the Ascent in its Lafayette, Indiana factory for the North American market.

What’s New for 2020?

As an almost brand new model, Subaru isn’t making any big changes with the Ascent, however, one addition is the Rear Seat Reminder system. This new standard safety feature is built to keep people from forgetting pets or little ones in the back seats, via a message on the dash. Some other minor updates include one-touch controls for the interior lights on the Premium level and above. The available power-operated tailgate gets a vehicle lock button for 2020. And finally the top-of-the-line Touring trim gets power-folding mirrors.

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Subaru Ascent fuel economy

There is only one engine available on the Subaru Ascent, and it’s only available with an all-wheel-drive platform. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine and CVT riding on 18-inch wheels should get an estimated 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway or a combined average of 23 mpg. On models with 20-inch rims combined fuel economy is reduced to 22 mpg. 

All Subaru Ascent models use standard 87 octane gasoline. 

Subaru Ascent safety rating

It’s not surprising that the 2020 Subaru Ascent in the top Touring or Limited trim earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick Plus. Base and Premium trims receive a lower rating due to the IIHS’ new headlight tests, which aren’t as good as the upper trim LEDs. Subaru packs the Ascent with their EyeSight Driver Assist technology suite. This suite includes features like adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, pre-collision throttle management, and a heads-up display showing driver alerts. 

Subaru Ascent features

The Subaru Ascent goes beyond safety features and offers a lot of bang for your buck. Subaru makes its STARLINK infotainment system, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, available in either a 6.5-inch or 8-inch touchscreen variation. Depending on your trim, other features will include a power moon roof, a power tailgate with memory, three-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, USB charge ports, voice-activated navigation, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, power-adjustable seats, a 14-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system, and leather seating. 

Subaru Ascent pricing

Getting into the base-level 2020 Subaru Ascent should cost you $31,995, which is unchanged from the previous year. Getting eight-passengers starts at $34,395. Premium trim starts at $35,855 before destination. Higher-end Limited trim begins at $39,345. The top trim Subaru Ascent Limited begins at $45,045. All prices don’t include $1,010 in destination and delivery charges. 

Subaru Ascent competitors

The midsized SUV market is a crowded one, but a popular one. Most competitors offer a competitive three-row SUV like the Subaru Ascent. Competitors include the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Ford Explorer, VW Atlas, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Kia Sorento, and the Nissan Pathfinder. 

Standing out in this crowd is getting harder, but the Subaru Ascent does just enough to make it worth considering. Its interior feels more spacious than most and has a better design. In the cupholder wars, few best the Subaru Ascent’s 19. 

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Detailed Specs

Engine / Turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower / 260
Torque / 277
Drivetrain / All-wheel-drive
Transmission / Continuously Variable (CTV)
Seating capacity / 7 or 8
Cargo capacity / 17.8 cubic feet / 86.5 cubic feet maximum
Towing capacity / 5,000 pounds

Our Final Verdict

Subaru didn’t have to do much to improve on its original midsized SUV. Instead, it’s created a thoughtful, well-priced and well-equipped midsized SUV with one of the more spacious interiors in its class. An innovative new turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine and CVT offer the right amount of power for the vehicle. As a package, the Subaru Ascent does a lot of things right.