2020 Subaru Ascent

By June 8, 2020

The three-row 2020 Subaru Ascent is a well-designed and very safe family vehicle with standard all-wheel drive at a reasonable price. The Ascent can go rugged when it needs to—and with the seats folded there’s a vast 86 cubic feet of cargo space.

Since it was totally new last year, for 2020 its changes are only a rear-seat reminder, available power-folding sideview mirrors, and a few other small tweaks. No cupholders have been added for 2020, but that’s okay, 19 seems like enough.

The Ascent’s 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine uses 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque to deliver good acceleration with an impressive passing punch. Some models can tow 5,000 pounds, not bad for a family crossover. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) does its best to keep the Ascent from guzzling too much fuel.

The powerful turbo engine, unlike many, runs on regular fuel, so the not-great mileage is a bit easier to take; it’s EPA-rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined. That’s with the 18-inch wheels on Base and Premium versions; the models with 20-inch wheels drop by 1 mpg.
Automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control (Subaru calls this package EyeSight) comes standard on every Ascent.

The NHTSA rates the Ascent at five stars overall for safety, with four stars in the rollover risk calculations. The IIHS gives the Ascent its top “Good” rating in every crash test, and Limited and Touring trims earn a Top Safety Pick+ award.

Model Lineup

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is available in four trim levels: base, Premium, Limited and Touring. Prices range from about $33,000 (including destination) to about $46,000.

Standard equipment on the $33,000 base Ascent includes fabric upholstery, four USB ports, a 6.5-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The $35,400 Premium adds an 8.0-inch touchscreen, blind-spot monitors, power driver seat, heated front seats, tinted windows, and stain-resistant fabric upholstery. Opting for a 7-seat version incurs no extra charge.

For $46,000, the Touring gets leather upholstery, a moonroof, heated rear seats and steering wheel, cooled front seats, Harman Kardon audio, and more.


The Ascent’s low beltline makes for a tall cabin with lots of glass. The unpainted lower trim tries without much success to make it look rugged, which is ironic because in fact it is fairly rugged.

At the front, the grille is angular; and at the rear, high-mounted taillights are separated by a chrome strip. All the trims look the same, except the alloy wheels can grow from the standard 18 inches to available 20-inchers. The top Touring model has a bit more chrome that doesn’t improve its looks. And the base only comes in four base colors: black, white, gray or, for a bit of flash, silver.


That tall greenhouse makes the cabin feel open and provides good outward vision. The standard 6.5-inch touchscreen on the base model is quite small, but every other model has the 8.0-inch display with a sharp screen and fast response time. Navigation is optional, but Apple and Android do a better job than the Subaru’s system.

The cloth seats on the base model feel tough, and there are soft-touch materials throughout. The firm front seats on all models but the base have a good range of adjustment, except the passenger seat lacks height adjustment.

The sliding rear bench seat has nearly 39 inches of leg room when it’s all the way back. and a base that moves forward and backward at the tug of a lever. Captain’s chairs come standard on the Touring and are a no-cost option on Premium and Limited.

Access to the third row is easy even with the second-row bench, which uses a simple tug-and-pull system that moves it. Behind the third row there is 17 cubic feet of cargo space, about as much as a big trunk. With the third row folded that increases to 47 cubic feet, and with the second and third rows down that’s about 86 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

The 260-horsepower 2.4-liter turbo-4 is mated to a CVT and all-wheel drive. The engine is powerful for its size, and can sound gruff under hard acceleration and is rougher at idle than a V-6. But it teams well with the CVT and with 277 pound-feet of torque, it provides good passing power even with passengers aboard.

Under hard acceleration, the CVT feels like a conventional automatic with stepped gears that keep the engine noise low.

Light steering helps to keep the big Ascent manageable in town. Its 38-foot turning circle is smaller for an SUV of this size, which makes it easier to maneuver into tight parking spaces.

The Ascent is smooth out on the highway. The ride quality is excellent. The standard 18-inch wheels have wide sidewalls that absorb bumps, while the bigger 20-inch wheels don’t make the ride much stiffer.

With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a standard off-road mode, the Ascent is quite capable in mud and snow. The all-wheel-drive system reacts quickly to slippery pavement, muddy trails and snowy driveways.

Final Word

The 2020 Subaru Ascent offers basic virtues in a three-row family crossover, including outstanding safety. Its gas mileage could be better and its powertrain smoother, but its value is undeniable.


—By Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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