Unlike the Tribeca, the Ascent looks like a Subaru and nothing else.
Long before the current Ascent, Subaru produced another mid sized SUV in their lineup that most people never even knew existed. Considering how polarizing the front end was, I can’t imagine how the B9 Tribeca, sold from 2005 to 2015, was have been forgotten so quickly by the general public. This was not the sales success story that Subaru had hoped for. During this ten year period, Subaru sold only 5,765 units across Canada. Going back to the drawing board, Subaru knew that changes needed to be made in order to remain competitive in this fast growing segment.
Model year 2019 marked the introduction of the Ascent, which was met with much critical acclaim across North America. As of September 2019, 3,027 models have been sold to Canada. Considering Subaru is a lower volume automaker when compared to the likes of Honda and Toyota, this number is still excellent. After looking at these sales numbers, it looks like Canadians have taken a liking to Subaru’s latest offering!
This particular tester is the 2020 Subaru Ascent Convenience, the addition of a base model to the lineup. We were eager to see how the entry-level model would compare to the plethora of three-row crossovers on the market, most of which have transaction prices well into the $40,000 range and are jammed with options including massive screens and 20-inch wheels. Surprisingly, the Ascent Convenience holds up pretty well and remains the perfect option for those that need seating for eight and are willing to forego the frills in favour of a solid powertrain and legitimate value.
Unlike the Tribeca, the Ascent looks like a Subaru and nothing else. If you saw one on the road with all the badging removed, you would know this was made by Subaru. There is nothing offensive in the design and Subaru aficionados will love it for the simple two-box styling, easy to operate controls and rock solid build quality.
Power comes from a 2.4-liter turbocharged horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine. It pushes 260 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 277 lb-ft. of torque between 2,000 and 4,800RPM. Matched with one of the better CVTs on the market, the Ascent delivers a 0-100km/h time of 7.2 seconds, which isn’t that far behind its immediate competitors with V6 powerplants. With the engine motivating 4,420 pounds of weight, the Subaru Ascent is not the quickest vehicle off the line, but when on the highway, there is more than enough passing power without white knuckle driving.
The flat-four engine is smooth and works well with the transmission. Subaru provides a 5,000-pound tow rating, which is about average for the class. The steering while vague, is light for easy maneuverability in and around parking lots and city streets. There are no selectable drive modes to tighten up the steering wheel or suspension. Paddle shifters are standard if you find the need for more control of the transmission and surprisingly, they work quite well unlike others that have just been added for the sake of inclusion.
Like most of the Subaru lineup, the Ascent comes with Subaru’s famous all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment. This enhanced system improves traction by using lower gear ratios to provide extra power to the wheels that have the most grip, which is perfect when driving in low-friction scenarios such as wet and snow-covered roads. 18-inch alloy wheels are standard along with all season tires, however for the winter season, we would strongly suggest a set of proper winter tires as we recommend for all Canadian drivers.
During our week with the Subaru Ascent, we averaged 12.0L/100km in combined driving. This is significantly higher than the 11.6L/100km city and 9.0L/100km highway ratings. This can be attributed to cold weather and a heavy bias towards city driving. The 73-liter fuel tank requires only 87-octane regular to operate optimally, which is a pleasant surprise considering the turbocharged nature of the engine.
The Ascent Convenience comes with heated seats up front, three-zone climate control, and a 6.5-inch infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and available satellite radio. An impressive feature is the inclusion of 19 cupholders in this interior, along with four USB ports. Higher trim levels get two more in the third row, an omission from the Convenience. The only real challenge we found was the lack of power operation for the tailgate, which we believe should have been included. This will be missed by those who are on the shorter side, or when carrying an arm-full of groceries.
The interior of the Ascent is cavernous to say the least, especially for the Forester owner that has decided to move up to something that can accommodate a growing family and pertaining needs. Cargo in the rear with all seats up is 504-liters on the Convenience package, while higher trim levels get 498-litres. With the third row folded down, space increases to 1345-litres. Some recently released competitors have more interior space, however, none come close when you consider the entry price point for the Ascent. My six-foot three frame had more than ample head and leg room up front.
Seated directly behind the driver’s seat, leg room was not an issue when trying to sit behind myself. While adequate enough for the segment, the third row is best occupied by children. The Ascent Convenience package comes with eight-passenger seating, as captain’s chairs are not available. In the driver’s seat, all controls are easily accessible with a simple and clean layout. There are no gimmicks with technology to confuse the user, a real anomaly in today’s market. Buyers can jump right in, without having to scroll through a three-inch-thick car manual just to figure out how to use the infotainment.
Subaru’s EyeSight technology is also standard on the Convenience, and includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, pre-collision brake assist and braking, and pre-collision throttle management. A rear-view camera is included, along with a power eight-way driver’s seat. Factor all of this in including standard all-wheel-drive, and the $36,695 price tag starts to look really good. All of the Ascent’s rivals including the Honda Pilot (reviewed here), Mazda CX-9, and Toyota Highlander are priced considerably higher, especially when all-wheel-drive is added to the mix.
Typically, there is a price premium for the Subaru product versus its Japanese counterparts. This isn’t so with the Ascent – it’s one of the least expensive three-row crossovers with all-wheel-drive on the market. The Kia Sorento (reviewed here) comes close and has more comfortable driving dynamics, but its AWD system is nowhere near as sophisticated as the Subaru’s. The Subaru Ascent is a good crossover, period. With great safety features and reliability that a growing family would appreciate, there is limited competition that can go head-to-head with Subaru’s offering.