Subaru Ascent: Which Should You Buy, 2020 or 2021?

2021 Subaru Ascent

Most significant changes: Adaptive cruise control included with standard EyeSight safety package; standard adaptive LED headlights

Price change: Increases of $340 on base model, $290 on Limited, and $440 on Premium and Touring trims; destination charge is $40 higher

On sale: Late summer

Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? 2021. More standard safety features offset the modest price increases.

Major changes for the 2021 Subaru Ascent are adaptive cruise control on all models as part of the standard EyeSight safety suite and all trim levels now have standard adaptive LED headlights that swivel in the direction of turns.

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The adaptive cruise control includes lane centering and lane keep assist, and the adaptive headlights include automatic high beams. The only other change of note for Subaru’s three-row mid-size SUV is that the second and third rows gain standard seat belt reminders. The 2021 models should arrive at dealers later in the summer.

The Ascent was introduced for 2019 as Subaru’s largest SUV and a competitor for the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and other three-row SUVs. All Ascents have standard all-wheel drive, a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 260 horsepower and a continuously variable automatic transmission. All models also have three rows of seats that accommodate seven or eight, depending on how the second row is configured.

Price increases for 2021 range from $290 on the Limited to $440 on the Premium and Touring. The destination charge is also up $40 to $1,050. The base Ascent now starts at $33,345 (all prices include destination), $340 higher than for 2020. The Premium model starts at $35,845, the Limited at $40,645  and the Touring at $46,495. Subaru simplifies shopping by offering only three option packages, two on the Premium and one on the Limited.

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Subaru crams as many as 19 cupholders, several USB ports and a truckload of safety and convenience features into the Ascent. The interior, though, has less third-row space and cargo room than some competitors. The turbocharged engine also lacks vigor on the highway and when pulling a trailer that tests the listed 5,000-pound towing capacity.

On balance, though, the Ascent is a credible entry among three-row SUVs and worth considering, especially if safety features are a priority — and it’s the newly standard safety features across the model lineup that make the 2021 a better buy. 

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