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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

2020 Subaru Ascent

This week we are reviewing the 2020 Subaru Ascent in the Premier trim. Our vehicle was assembled at the Lafayette plant in the Indiana and has an MSRP of $50995.00 CAD

Fun Factor: 7

Can it Family: 9

Fuel-Friendly: 7

HWY-warrior: 7

Karaoke Friendly: 7

Baby-friendly: 8

City Cruising: 6

The Subaru Ascent has been one of the surprises for us this year; from the outside, it doesn't look like much, especially in that crystal black silica colour we drove. Once the doors opened, and we got in the cabin, we were welcomed into a refined interior, so much so that we could have been fooled into believing we were in a German luxury brand. When we picked up our vehicle from Subaru to test it, started the engine and drove away, we were under the impression that we had a 6-cylinder pushing us forward. We've tested quite a few 7+ passengers SUV recently, and some even felt sluggish with a 6-cylinder. Finding out we had a turbocharged flat Four-Cylinder boxer engine producing 260hp and 277 lb-ft of torque surprised us as the power delivery is linear and felt ample to move us around. While the CVT doesn't deliver sportiness, it pushed us to 100km/h from a still stand in 7.9 seconds in the snow! While those numbers may not seem impressive, some of its competitors achieve this type of result on dry pavement. Under better conditions, dry pavement and good summer tires, we would expect the result of the Ascent to be around 6.9 seconds to 100km/h. Handling is also something that surprised us; most large SUVs are not communicative when it comes to handling; in the Ascent, its pleasantly balanced and the suspension is on the softer side being able to smooth out most of the road imperfections. The whole driving dynamics feel more like a raised-up station wagon than an SUV. This resulted in making the Ascent quite relaxing to drive and did not disappoint when roads were buried in snow.

The Ascent we're reviewing was equipped with the captain's chairs in the 2nd row giving the possibility to seat 7 passengers. From these up to 6 can be used by adults, those in the 3rd row are more adequate for children or teenagers if you wish to use the 3rd row fully. Our kids enjoyed the accessibility of passing through the captain's chairs to access the 3rd row without having to move a seat forward. The front seats are incredibly comfortable to the point that they put the seats in the Q7 to shame, considering the price difference. Additionally, those seats are heated and cooled; they take time to get warm; once warm, the temperature is good even in coldest winter days. As for the cooling feature, it cools quite well, but it produces a constant unpleasant noise when in use. The 2nd-row seats offer exemplar comfort and heated seats. One of the particular features of the Ascent is its 19 cup holders; the 2nd row has 2 in the middle at ground level making it quite hard for young children to reach, do not worry they still have access to 3 other cup holders each on the doors. You have access to USB ports all over the car; there are 8 of them all around. As for the trunk, when the 3rd row is in use, an umbrella or compact stroller will fit, to fit any bigger stroller, you will need to fold one of the rear seats to have space for other things.

In our 500km test, we averaged 10.5L per 100km; in the city, we observed 13.2L per 100km. We must mention each time we took the Ascent for a drive that mother nature wanted us to drive through a snowstorm. While this was extremely fun, it may have resulted in a higher fuel economy, especially in the city. Finally, on the HWY, we experienced an average of 8.5L per 100km. Subaru announces the following fuel consumption for the Ascent 11.6L per 100km in the city and 9.0L per 100km. Subaru recommends 87 octane, as we were unsure during our test, and our vehicle didn't have a sticker; we fueled 91 octane for most of our test. We conducted our test while outside temperatures oscillated between -2C and -19C.

The Ascent has been quite surprising when driving on the HWY; it has been one of the easiest SUV's to drive. Especially for those coming from a smaller vehicle after your family has grown. You will not feel like you're driving a bus. The only fault we could give it is its loose steering that has a little too much play, in our opinion, especially when it comes to smaller corrections. On the other hand, when it comes to sharp turns, the Ascent takes them with ease. Visibility around the cabin is good, even for smaller drivers; the blind spot detection system will further assist in making sure your occupants and others on the road are safe. While this system is available in all models except with the base model, the Subaru EyeSight system is available on all models. The system will brake the vehicle in different circumstances before a collision occurs or even alerting you when a crash may be imminent and may also help you break so that an accident can be avoided. It also includes features such as the lane keep assist that we found to ping pong a little too much and, in combination with the cruise control still requires steering inputs and isn't yet optimized for a handsfree experience. The road noise inside the cabin at HWY speed was acceptable, and a conversation with passengers even in the 3rd row was possible. The strength of Subaru products is how they drive in poor conditions. We may get some heat for saying this from the Jeep community; however, after driving a Jeep pickup recently, we felt that even though the Ascent isn't a true off-roader, it got us out of snow faster. Its as if the Ascent was a miniature tank during snowstorms.

Our Ascent was equipped with a 14-speaker Harman Kardon that sounded delightful and offered adjustability to embrace most music styles without any issues. This system is available in the Limited models and above; all other models get a 6-speaker system that we haven't tested at this time. As for the infotainment, all models come with an 8-inch touchscreen except the base model, which comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen. The system isn't our favourite as it requires a longer learning curve to become familiar with and sometimes lags. Strangely inside Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the screen looks crisp and works well without a hiccup in our test.

In contrast, when using the integrated Starlink infotainment, the screen looks dated and quite pixilated. A nice little touch is the

2nd screen above the main that shows things such as the fuel consumption, outside temperature, it shows you the AWD system at work, it helps declutter the main screen and keep things visible without looking into your cluster.

Getting car seats inside the Ascent is simple as the doors open quite wide, it becomes a little tricky after. The ports are covered with Velcros straps; these are hard to pull off and once removed, the anchors are still quite far in. The seats in the second row move back and forth so even larger car seats will fit without any issues. The good thing with the captain's chairs is that you don't need to move the seat forward or limit yourself on how many car seats are installed in the 2nd row to gain access to the 3rd row still. The 3rd row only has Isofix ports for one car seat; any additional seat will need to be anchored only using the rear tether. For young kids getting into the vehicle by themselves, the door will require to be opened for them as the door handle is positioned quite high; getting into the vehicle isn't too complicated as the frame makes it easy to enter into it. Attaching seat belts in the 2nd row is also quite simple since the seat belts are positioned in a way that passengers can grab them with ease. For those sitting in the 3rd, getting the seat belts buckled is a little more difficult as the buckles are placed in between the seats.

As mentioned above each time, we got to test the Ascent in the urban jungle; we got hit with a snowstorm. This had the advantage of really showing us the superiority of the symmetrical AWD system that Subaru uses. Not only was it fun to drive it on unplowed roads, but it also felt stable as if nothing could stop it. Trying to park in an unplowed parking spot is not going to be an issue; it will get it done effortlessly.

In our premium trim Ascent, we also got a front view camera; all other models will have a rear-view camera of decent quality. Additionally, with the lane keep assist feature we spoke about above, not only will it be able to stop the vehicle while driving, but it will also brake automatically in reverse to avoid fast oncoming objects, or even a child running. In our real-life test, we found this to be practical in busy parking lots, such as Costco's.

Why would we buy the 2020 Subaru Ascent or what we like about it: Easy to drive, feels like a much smaller vehicle, good fuel economy on the HWY, EyeSight standard on all models, comfortable seating, rides nicely in bad weather.

Why we wouldn't buy the 2020 Subaru Ascent or what we didn't like about it: 3rd row is cramped if used daily, trunk space limited with the 3rd row up, infotainment not always easy to operate.

Subaru has lent us this vehicle for one weeks as a press vehicle, we have no affiliation with Subaru Canada, and the above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the vehicle referred above.

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