Can the small Subaru Ascent replace a do-it-all SUV?
Two weeks before I got to drive this SUV, a friend of mine bought one to replace her Tahoe, which she’s used for years to haul her family of 6 around and to pull a small food truck trailer. My interest was piqued for sure. How could she expect this much smaller SUV to do all her Tahoe did? So while we twinned for a few days in our deep blue machines, I learned as much as I could about the 2021 Subaru Ascent.
The Little Blue TARDIS
My kids called this one the TARDIS, claiming “it’s bigger on the inside” than it looks from the outside — a reference to the time-traveling phone booth from Doctor Who that can contain the world within it. And they were right. I don’t know if it was the light-colored seats, the design and placement of features, or a combination of the two, but it was one of the roomiest feeling SUVs we’ve driven.
Available with either a bench or captain’s chairs in the second row, the 2021 Subaru Ascent can seat either 7 or 8 passengers. The model we drove had captain’s chairs, and we really liked that configuration. We especially liked the little grab handles on the seat backs that let 3rd-row passengers have something to hold and steady themselves as they entered and exited the 3rd row.
AWD and Ready to Go!
I drove a minivan for a few days before I drove the Ascent, and let me tell you, this little SUV felt like a racecar after that. It’s not that the van was bad, it’s just that this SUV has a significant amount of pep and a delightful response to the depression of the accelerator pedal. While most Subarus have more of a crossover shape and very low profile, the Ascent is a little taller, but it feels firmly grounded even in tight corners, and the AWD gave me a lot of confidence on the road and off. We left the pavement, crossed a field, and parked on the dam of a lake to watch a fireworks show, and you’d have thought the SUV was a goat the way it scrambled up the hill without breaking a sweat.
Features We Loved
There we so many small things we loved about this car. Did you know there are little seatbelt clips to hold the rear seatbelts to the walls so they don’t rattle when not in use, or that even the third row offers USB charging and multiple drink holders? Another big plus about this particular model: two-toned floormats that are super easy to clean and look great, too. There is extra storage down under the floor of the cargo space, extra drink holders in every door, easy-to-use LATCH for child seats, and rear climate controls in the second row.
What You Need to Know About the 2021 Subaru Ascent
Starting at just $32,294, the base model offers 21-27 miles of driving per gallon of fuel thanks to its 2.4 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine.
The Ascent Premium and Limited trim levels walk you up a couple of thousand dollars each as you get a few more options like captain’s chairs in the second row, leather upholstery, blindspot detection, automatic reverse braking, and things like body-color matching mirrors.
The vehicle tops out at $45,445 for the Touring trim level which comes standard with things like 20″ alloy wheels, chrome accents, fog lamps, a power tilt moonroof, etc.
The added options do increase the curb weight of the vehicle which in turn can bring the fuel economy down just a little, but the Touring is still rated at 26 hwy/20 city, which isn’t bad at all.
The base model has a 2,000 lb maximum towing capacity, but thanks to a transmission oil cooler the higher trim level models of the Ascent have a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lb. That’s enough for a lightweight camper or small boat!
Disclosure: Subaru provided the Ascent for me to drive. All opinions are my own.