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Sight Lines, Space and More
Subaru has a penchant for excellent visibility: The Forester compact SUV topped the list in our comparison of rear visibility among small SUVs three times in a row, and the current-generation Impreza earned the highest visibility rating among eight compact sedans we tested head-to-head. So it goes for the Ascent, whose large windows, thin roof pillars and useful technology (top trim levels get a camera-based rearview mirror) make sight lines excellent.
It’s hard, however, to get excited about too much else inside. Dashboard styling feels chaotic, with undersized controls and designed-by-committee modularity. Missing features — even as options — include a height-adjustable passenger seat, wireless smartphone integration and anything larger than an 8-inch touchscreen; many competitors offer one or more of those extras, with touchscreens as big as 12.3 inches. Subaru’s 19 cupholders mean second- and third-row passengers can enjoy bladder-bursting volumes of Mr. Pibb or umpteen storage nooks, but the all-important open storage in the front console is too small for family duty.
2022 Subaru Ascent | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
Size is a nagging issue elsewhere, too. The front seats are spacious, but the second-row captain’s chairs feel too small, with modest seating height that could leave some adults’ knees uncomfortably elevated. In the third row, raised stadium seating makes for the opposite problem: While passengers’ knees will be in better shape back there than in most slammed-to-the-floor third rows, they’ll pay the price in headroom. Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way: SUVs like the Atlas, Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride have adult-friendly second and third rows.
Our independent accounting of cargo volume found 23.6 cubic feet behind the Ascent’s second row — short of the Toyota Highlander (24.0 cubic feet), Palisade (26.2) and Atlas (29.9). The Ascent’s volume behind the third row (10.3 cubic feet) compares more favorably with the class. See our cargo space results for all mid-size three-row SUVs.
Should You Buy an Ascent?
Standard features for 2022 include tri-zone automatic climate control, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four USB ports, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and hands-on lane centering. Climb the trims and you can get two more USB ports, StarTex or leather upholstery, power seats with heating and ventilation, and a panoramic moonroof. That’s all typical fare in this class. The same goes for the Ascent’s excellent crash-test scores — commendable, to be sure, but less differentiating than they once were (the Highlander, Palisade and Explorer also earned top scores).
Pricing for the 2022 Ascent ranges from $33,420 for a base model to $46,570 for a factory-loaded Ascent Touring, the top trim level. For families needing all-weather capability, that’s a strong value across the board. The base model considerably undercuts rivals that charge extra for AWD, and even a factory-loaded Ascent avoids spiraling into the $50,000-plus stratosphere, where a few others easily reach.
That, plus the Ascent’s excellent visibility, form the best arguments for its consideration, but you’ll sacrifice a lot in terms of drivability and space. Judging by sales popularity — where the Ascent ranks as the least popular of Subaru’s SUVs and a bit player in the three-row class — not many consumers are taking the deal.
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