The Subaru Ascent blazes a different trail through Subaru’s SUV lineup. It’s the brand’s largest SUV, with room for up to eight people and classic Subaru looks. Subaru has dropped the styling a bit and the features have been updated for 2023, helping it compete in the hyper-competitive three-row SUV market. But others are overtaking the Subie to compete for three-row SUV supremacy, including Hyundai with the new Palisade, Chevy’s Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder and the big VW Atlas.
The 2023 Subaru Ascent is the only three-row Subaru SUV
The 2023 Subaru Ascent starts at $33,895. For that, you get the standard perks Subarus are known for, like all-wheel drive, EyeSight driver aids, and good old-fashioned tall-wagon bathrooms. But with the Ascent, you get something other Subarus don’t offer, a third row and seating for up to eight. Granted, this isn’t a minivan, but it does have a respectable rear legroom of 31.7 inches, which means adults can sit in the back. However, that legroom affects cargo space when the seats are up. It does, however, have a whopping 76 cubic feet of room in the rear with all the seats folded down.
Although the Ascent’s price is low, you can get one as luxurious as an Audi or Infiniti in Onyx or Touring trims, which start at $46,295 or $48,195, respectively. That said, the base 8-passenger Ascent comes with all the perks you need, but you might want to upgrade to the Premium trim for $37,995 if you want heated seats, second-row captain’s chairs and other perks. It comes with a 260-horsepower four-cylinder engine and good reliability ratings from J.D. Power.
The Nissan Pathfinder was all-new for 2022 and brought back off-road good looks
The Nissan Pathfinder has been completely redesigned for 2022 and now starts at exactly $35,000 in base S trim. The Nissan comes with a plucky 284-horsepower V6 and a 9-speed automatic transmission, helping to keep it in the power band longer. Although four-wheel drive is available, for $35,000, you’ll have to stick to the front-wheel drive version. It has a digital driver display as well as a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Pathfinder S seats eight and with the seats folded 80.5 cubic feet of space. However, that third row has a relatively tight 28 inches of legroom, limiting its capacity. If you can stretch your budget past the $35,000 mark, the $42,820 Rock Creek package has a different off-road suspension and four-wheel drive, making it the spiritual successor to the ’90s Pathfinders many of us we love.
The Chevy Traverse is the (larger) American alternative to the Ascent
The Traverse has a dynamic V6 that tops this list for power, with 310 horsepower. It also has a huge cargo hold, which also tops this list, with 98.2 cubic feet of space. That beats even the great VW Atlas. It also tops the others on this list with 33.5 inches of rear-seat legroom. It starts at $34,520 and comes standard with seating for eight. The base version is fairly minimal and covered in plastic, but it does have a sliding second row, a 7-inch touchscreen, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Chevy Safety Assist driver assistance software is standard. But, to get adaptive cruise, surround cameras, or Amazon Alexa compatibility, you’ll need to upgrade to the RS or LT trim to get much more. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option.
The VW Atlas is the stylish German alternative to the Subaru Ascent
Sure, you can get a Volkswagen Tiguan for much less that has similar features. But to get a rear seat the size of an adult human (like in the Ascent), you’ll need to hop in the big VW Atlas. But, to stay around $35,000, you have to stick to the base Atlas SE, which starts at $35,150. That’s okay, though, because the base model comes with many features that are options on others, like heated seats and a leatherette-wrapped steering wheel. However, its 2.0-liter four-cylinder can be overwhelmed by the big SUV.
Atlas, as its name suggests, carries a lot. In this case, it can hold up to 97 cubic feet of stuff with the seats folded, which is a significant amount more than the Ascent.
The Hyundai Palisade received a major update for 2023
The 2023 Hyundai Palisade packs a lot of value into this $35,250 entry-level three-row SUV. Unlike the Subaru, the Palisade has the traditional two-box look of an SUV, but that also means you get a hefty 86.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity and standard seating for eight. It also comes with a 12.3-inch screen and navigation as standard. One cool feature, even on the base model, is the one-touch sliding second row, which makes it easy to get into the rear seat.
The Palisade offers 31.4 inches of rear-seat legroom, putting it on par with the Ascent. However, the Hyundai comes with a much more powerful 290-horsepower V6 that is rarely overwhelmed by this big SUV.
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