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2021 Subaru Ascent vs Forester

2021 Subaru Ascent vs Forester
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2021 Ascent vs Forester - How do they stack up? What are the differences?

If you're searching for a reliable and well-built SUV, then look no further than Subaru. From the classic two-row configuration of the Forester to its popular three row Ascent counterpart, both vehicles are designed with families in mind - boasting five available trim levels between them! Whether it's offroad adventuring or fuel efficiency that your family needs; both SUVs can do what many others cannot, guaranteeing great performance along each journey.

Size and Styling

As a three-row SUV, the Ascent needs to have the space to accommodate so many seats. It has a length of 196.8 inches, making it nearly 15 inches longer than the Forester is. The Ascent is about five inches wider and three inches taller than the Forester is, too. Both models, though, have the exact same ground clearance of 8.7 inches so that they can easily drive over many types of obstacles.

Since the Ascent is larger in just about every dimension the Forester is, it's going to offer more interior room. With ample shoulder and head room, Ascent passengers will feel quite comfortable. Up front, Ascent drivers and front passengers have 42.2 inches of leg room. This is comparable with the 43.3 inches of leg room found in the first row of the Forester.

However, since the Ascent has to squeeze in that third row, Subaru has had to make some decisions regarding leg room. In the second row, the Forester has more space than the Ascent does. It has 39.4 inches of leg room here, compared with 38.6 inches of leg room in the second row of the Ascent. In the third row of the Ascent, there is 31.7 inches of leg room. This third row isn't terribly small, but it's far from being spacious. Children should be fine back there, but adults may not be too enthusiastic about these seats.

Since the Ascent is the larger SUV, it's going to have a greater cargo volume. Its maximum cargo capacity when all the rear seats have been folded down is 86.5 cubic feet. The base trim of the Forester has 74.3 cubic feet of space, and all the other trims have maximum cargo capacities of 69.2 cubic feet.

Sometimes, people have to transport long, narrow pieces of equipment. In this situation, just one seat could be folded down instead of the entire back row. Both the Ascent and Forester have second rows with 60/40 configurations to allow for this to happen. The third row in the Ascent, which can accommodate three passengers, also has that 60/40 configuration.

Other than the size difference, it can be hard to tell the Forester from the Ascent when looking at these vehicles from the outside. They have similar stylings, which include LED Steering Responsive Headlights and available LED fog lights. Both start with regular black or body-color side mirrors, with the higher trims having mirrors with integrated turn signals.

In the Touring trim of the Ascent, its side mirrors have a power-folding function. That trim has chrome door handles as well. This little detail can make the SUV look more sophisticated.

The Subaru Forester and Ascent provide a variety of options when it comes to moonroofs - the panoramic version is standard on the Touring trim of the Ascent, while its two mid-level trims have this feature as an available option. When looking at wheels, however, the nicest versions are found in higher level trims of both vehicles - 18 inch models for all three top tier Foresters and 20 inches with those same tiers on their Ascent counterpart.

Drivability

If you need a vehicle to handle heavy loads, the Subaru Ascent is certainly worth considering. Its 2.4-liter turbocharged engine puts out an impressive 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque - enough strength for pulling a huge 5,000 pounds! On the other hand, if hauling isn't your main aim behind getting into new wheels then its sibling Forester might just be right up your alley with its slightly smaller but still quite capable 182 horsepower plus 176 pound-feet of torque output along with 1,500 pounds maximum tow capacity – more than sufficient for carrying small boats or gear around town.

Subaru pairs their engines with Lineartronic continually variable transmissions for precise control and efficiency. The Forester trims have manual modes accessible through steering wheel paddle shifters, great for those special occasions where drivers want to take the reins. Though it may not be as efficient gas-wise, Ascent boasts more power than its counterpart at 27 highway miles per gallon compared to the Forester's impressive 33 highway mpg - a major fuel economy upper hand!

Both models have symmetrical all-wheel drive. This type of drivetrain can be useful when dealing with slippery conditions as well as when cornering. The best part is that the driver doesn't have to make any adjustments; instead, the vehicle can sense issues with traction and can then make the necessary accommodations.

X-MODE is a program that further optimizes traction. It can kick into gear when the conditionare particularly challenging. All Ascent trims have X-MODE, and four out of the five Forester trims have this feature.

Likewise, every Ascent comes stander with Hill Descent Control. This can limit the vehicle's speed when it is traveling down a steep hill. Every Forester, with the exception of the base trim, has this program. All Foresters and all Ascents, though, do have traction control and active torque vectoring to improve handling.

Comfort, Options and Performance

The Subaru Ascent and Forester come with plenty of luxurious amenities, such as heated front seats on almost every trim level. However, the top trims of each model boast a few extra features like ventilated front seats in the Ascent and Leather or Sport Cloth seating along with power-adjustable driver's seat in both models. Plus you can even get cozy while driving thanks to optional heated rear seats and steering wheels.

Subarus are supplied with plenty of amenities, but the Ascent really steps up its game. Its top-of-the line trim offers heated and ventilated front seats while standard equipment also includes a warming wheel - even in the lower trims’ cloth or leather seating that can be adjusted electronically for comfort. The Forester has almost all these features too, although it relies on upgrading to reach those heights such as heating rear rows and activating heated steering wheels automatically at higher levels.

People appreciate convenience, and fortunately, the Ascent and Forester can be loaded with systems that make things so much easier. In the SUVs, there can be a keyless access with push-button start. There can also be numerous storage compartments, multiple USB ports in all the rows of seating, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. The Ascent has an available auto-dimming rearview mirror that has a compass and the ability to connect with a home's security system or garage door. Plus, the Ascent has a standard power rear gate that can remember a preferred height and close automatically. That same type of liftgate is standard on two Forester trims and optional on two others.

To keep passengers comfortable, there's automatic climate control. The Forester's Limited and Touring trims have dual-zone systems so that the driver and front passenger can choose their own preferred temperatures. All of the Ascents have climate control with three zones. Most Ascents have second-row controls so that those in the back can control their own heat or air conditioning.

To keep people connected, Subaru has given the Ascent and Forester impressive multimedia systems. These come with touchscreens, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth, so there are many ways to to keep oneself entertained. All trims of these vehicles, expect for the entry-level trims, have Wi-Fi capability.

A 6.5-inch touchscreen is found on the first trim of the Ascent and the first three trims of the Forester. All of the rest have eight-inch touchscreens that may be preferable because they're easier to interact with. Navigation and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link are standard on the Ascent Touring and Forester Touring, as are Harman Kardon sound systems. The one on the Forester has nine speakers, and the version that can be found in the Ascent Touring consists of 14 speakers.

Buying Tip:

To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.

Safety

Every Forester and Ascent comes with a suite of advanced safety features designed to help keep drivers out of harm's way. The EyeSight Driver Assist Technology package not only provides pre-collision braking for protection in the event of an impending frontal collision, but also lane departure warning systems that ensure passengers stay safely within their boundaries as well as adaptive cruise control complete with lane centering capabilities so your Subaru can maintain proper distance from other vehicles on the road. Experience peace-of-mind knowing these cutting edge technologies are looking after you.

As a bonus, all Forester and Ascent trims have automatic high beams. These can turn on when the roads are really dark and no other headlights are detected. When other vehicles are present or when there's enough light from street lamps or other sources of light, those high beams would turn themselves off.

The Forester has a driver distraction mitigation system as well. Its able to sense when drivers aren't looking at the roads, and if so, it'll send out a warning.

The Ascent doesn't have that distraction mitigation program, but it does have other things that work in its favor. First, it has an available front-view camera. It can be useful when parking, as it provides a 180-degree perspective of what's in front of the SUV. Half of the Ascent trims have reverse automatic braking to ensure that bumps and scratches don't occur when backing up. Only the top trim of the Forester has this type of automated braking.

With both models, most trims have blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. With these features, drivers can have an extra pair of eyes looking out for other vehicles. They're included with the top three Ascent trims and top three Forester trims.

Which Model to Choose?

With the Subaru Ascent, you could fill up a carpool of seven people while still having plenty of room for cargo! For those who need less seating space and are more budget-conscious, opt in to the Forester. It starts at an affordable $24,795 but can go all the way up to its Touring trim level of just under $35K - still much cheaper than ascending into luxury with 7 seats on board thanks to the Ascent's starting price tag of over $32K that increases significantly for its top range option costing close to almost five thousand dollars extra. Decisions - decisions… which model best fits your lifestyle needs?

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