The 2022 Subaru Ascent is a practical and family-friendly SUV that’s now offered in a more stylish blacked-out Onyx trim.
While not class-leading, the large Subaru SUV carves out its niche in a very competitive segment with its immense practicality and simple, fuss-free operation, which all comes at a reasonable price.
Practicality is where the 2022 Subaru Ascent shines. It offers wide door openings, tons of second-row legroom, and ample headroom, so even those in the third row have lots of space.
The second-row captain chairs slide forward and back to either split up legroom between both sets of back seats, or to make more room for cargo. Handles on the captain’s chairs give passengers in the third row something to grab onto to help them exit or move around.
Cupholders and cubbies abound throughout the cabin. The centre storage console is one of the largest I’ve ever seen. In the trunk, there’s a huge underfloor storage compartment and a place to stash the cargo cover when it’s not in use.
There’s 458 L of space behind the third row, which expands to 1,193 L with the third row folded. With the second and third rows stowed, a generous 2,061 L is available. The seats are also simple to move around and fold to make more room for cargo. A small child might not be able to move the second-row seats themselves, though, as the captain’s chairs are a bit heavy and require a good shove to move out of the way.
User Friendliness: 8/10
I’m grateful for the Ascent’s use of hard buttons instead of touch-capacitive controls. All the controls are where you expect them to be, and mostly everything is clearly labelled, with only a couple requiring me to do a Google search to find out what they were for.
Smartphone mirroring is included in the Ascent but requires a wired connection; and I wish there was an easy shortcut to toggle between Android Auto and the audio controls, for example. Still, the Ascent is simple to use and very user-friendly. Its infotainment touchscreen could stand to be updated to be faster and more responsive, with cleaner navigation and more modern graphics, but it works well enough.
In terms of features, the Subaru Ascent doesn’t offer anything flashy, but all the basics are here. Where competitors are bringing massive touchscreens, motorized interiors, digital gauge clusters, head-up displays, and more connectivity than ever, the Ascent offers a relatively basic but tried-and-true feature set. While I would love some tech to get excited about, the simple features offered helps maintain the Ascent’s bargain price.
Headroom in the first and second rows is excellent, and even the third row isn’t too bad for short trips unless you’re tall. The seats themselves started to feel uncomfortable after about an hour of driving, and the materials used don’t feel very high-quality.
The Ascent comes standard with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, but they never get hot enough, occasionally leading me to wonder if they were even turned on. Heated second-row seats are included in the top Premier trim.
Someone told me they mistook the Ascent I was driving for a minivan, which tells you a lot about its style. While I think that statement is a disservice to some minivans, because they can be super stylish these days, I get their point. Even in this blacked-out Onyx trim, the Ascent looks dowdy compared to some of its beefy, rugged rivals that have sharp creases and interesting details that keep the eyes moving.
Inside, the piano black trim gets dusty quickly, the faux carbon-fibre trim looks cheap, and the mishmash of different trim pieces makes the interior style look somewhat disjointed. There’s a lot of hard plastics used inside, too.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The Subaru Ascent is officially rated for 11.7 L/100 km in the city, 9.0 on the highway, and 10.5 combined. After about 725 km of driving on mostly highways – and my tester outfitted with winter tires – the Ascent was returning 10.9 L/100 km, which is decent for a vehicle of this size with a permanent all-wheel drive system. The Ascent runs on regular-grade gas.
The 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx comes standard with the brand’s full suite of safety technology, including reverse automatic emergency braking, rear and side vehicle detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-centring assist, lane-keep assist, an alert that tells you if the vehicle in front has moved and you haven’t responded, pre-collision braking, automatic high-beam headlights, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The only safety feature the topline Ascent Premier adds is a handy front-facing camera, but every model except the most entry-level one comes with all the advanced safety equipment listed above, which is very impressive for the price.
The 2022 Subaru Ascent is powered by a 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine that outputs 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, which gets sent to all four wheels all the time via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). I was worried that this combination wouldn’t be up to the task of moving this huge vehicle convincingly, but I was pleasantly surprised with the performance. It accelerates with some decent conviction, and never feels slow or bogged down.
During a snowstorm, the full-time all-wheel drive system combined with a good set of winter tires added a ton of confidence. Even when I tried to break traction on purpose, the Ascent was unbothered, plowing through slippery, snow-covered roads as if it was a warm summer day.
Driving Feel: 6/10
The steering in the Ascent is unnecessarily light, which is a bit unnerving as a driver because I have little feedback to tell me what the front wheels are doing. This doesn’t give me much confidence while behind the wheel. There’s also a big dead spot in the middle of the steering, which means the Ascent seems to drift around a lot, requiring constant corrections while driving.
The lane-keeping and lane-centring assists also don’t help matters because the system pings the SUV from side to side instead of gently keeping it centred, so in general, the Ascent feels sloppy.
Although the Ascent’s steering feels light, it’s a large vehicle and can feel cumbersome to navigate around tight city parking garages despite its great visibility and large windows. The Ascent also didn’t feel very intuitive to drive, with a jumpy throttle response and handling that required a lot of second-guessing and correcting.
The base 2022 Subaru Ascent starts at $37,295 plus a non-negotiable $1,875 destination fee. The well-equipped Onyx model driven here lands in the middle of the Ascent lineup and starts at $44,995. The Ascent represents a strong value among its peers and is a great pick for a three-row SUV if budget is a concern.
The 2022 Subaru Ascent gets the job done at a reasonable price. This SUV gives you what you need and nothing more, so it ends up feeling a bit average. The Ascent doesn’t give you too much to get excited about and there’s nothing it offers that’s truly outstanding or ground-breaking, but there’s a lot to be said about its family-friendly practicality and no-frills approach. There’s a certain honesty to a vehicle like this, and its impressive winter performance makes the Subaru Ascent even more compelling.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo H4|
|Peak Horsepower||260 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||277 lb-ft @ 2,000–4,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.7 / 9.0 / 10.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||458 / 1,193 / 2,061 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx|
|Price as Tested||$46,970|