2019 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Ascent: Compare Cars

December 24, 2018
2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

At first glance, the 2019 Subaru Forester and 2019 Subaru Ascent look like variations on the same theme—medium and large crossover SUVs.

There’s a lot that ties the two together, but there’s plenty that separates them and helps them appeal to different buyers.

MORE: Read our 2019 Subaru Forester and 2019 Subaru Ascent reviews

It’s hard to say which model we prefer since the two Subarus cater to different buyers. The Forester rates 6.4 out of 10 points and we give the Ascent 6.8 points mostly on account of its more spacious interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Admittedly, we named the 2019 Forester our Best Car To Buy 2019 for its serene nature, tremendous value, and spacious interior. The 2019 Ascent hits most of those points, too, with the added benefit—for some buyers—of a standard third row of seats.

Either way, both crossovers are low on compromises and high on reasons to add them to your shopping lists. The Ascent and Forester were both new for the 2019 model year with clean, crisp lines that won’t raise any eyebrows. The Forester Sport trim level adds some orange trim to spice things up, but it doesn’t really change the crossover SUV’s personality.

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

Inside, the crossovers share a convenient control layout and both come well-equipped for the money. The Forester’s interior isn’t dressy in base or Premium trims. Limited and especially the Touring trim pile on more pleasing surfaces and attractive leather, plus a bright 8.0-inch touchscreen in place of a 6.5-inch touchscreen in lower trims. Outboard passengers will find excellent space and a largely unobstructed view out, while even the second row’s middle-seat passenger has decent leg room. The Forester’s extra-wide tailgate—power on many versions—opens to reveal as much as 76 cubic feet of luggage-swallowing volume with the rear seats folded.

The Ascent shares the Forester’s good infotainment software. Both crossover SUVs come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility plus Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports (four in the Forester and seven in the Ascent). With its longer wheelbase and wider body, the Ascent does an even better job of handling passengers in its front two rows. The standard third row is easy to access with the second row scooted forward. Ascent buyers have a choice between a three-seat bench or a pair of captain’s chairs with a narrow pass-through for no extra cost.

Where the Ascent misses is in its relatively compromised rearward vision. Big roof pillars and hefty head rests mean that drivers need to rely more on mirrors,optional parking sensors, and surround-view cameras than in the Forester.

Subaru Forester and Subaru Ascent performance, safety

Underhood, the Ascent’s 2.4-liter turbo-4 provides ample acceleration. It mates well with the standard continuously variable transmission, although we think an extra layer or two of sound deadening would help its cause. The Forester uses a 2.5-liter flat-4 that’s larger but lacks a turbo. Even though its 182-horsepower rating isn’t burdened by as much weight as the Ascent, the Forester won’t win many drag races.

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Fuel economy tips in the Forester’s favor, too. It’s rated at a miserly 29 mpg combined compared to 22 or 23 mpg combined depending on the Ascent trim level.

Both vehicles handle competently and confidently, albeit without much of the driving joy Subaru has pumped into its sportier models. On either, sticking with lower trim levels means smaller wheels wrapped by tires with taller sidewalls that absorb bumps better.

Subaru’s crossover SUVs are formidable four-wheelers, at least compared to most competitors. The Ascent and Forester boast 8.7 inches of running ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, and most versions have an X-Mode traction control setting designed for use in dirt, mud, and snow.

We think both crossovers are extra-safe choices. They’ve done well in crash tests and come standard with a suite of collision-avoidance technologies including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. Blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are optional.

In terms of value, the Forester’s the clear-cut winner. A well-equipped Forester Premium costs less than $30,000. You won’t find an Ascent for less than $33,000 and the Premium trim level with a power liftgate costs around $36,600.

If seating more than five isn’t essential, we say stick with the right-priced Forester.

Summary

6.8
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Ascent isn’t another quirky hatchback-wagon-crossover thing—it’s a mainstream hit and Subaru will be better for it.
6.8
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Forester is a well thought-out crossover SUV with exceptional space, a great ride, and standard AWD without a fuel-economy penalty.

Styling

6.0
Expert Rating
The outside won’t thrill, but the 2019 Ascent’s interior is all chill—that’s a good thing.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Forester has all the charm of a hiking boot on wheels, if that’s your thing.
Read More

Performance

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Ascent is surprisingly bright, with comfortable road manners and decent fuel economy to boot.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Forester’s well-isolated feel makes it a great adventure companion.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Ascent does family duty like no other Subaru. That’s probably the point.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Forester has a spacious, well-organized interior.
Read More

Safety

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Ascent earns excellent crash-test scores.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Forester hasn’t been crash tested yet, but it’s especially well-equipped to avoid an impact.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
Life’s rich, but you don’t need beaucoup bucks to drive a well-equipped 2019 Ascent.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Subaru Forester is priced well for a compact crossover SUV.
Read More

Fuel Economy

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Ascent is competitive with other big family haulers of its ilk, but there’s no hybrid powertrain yet.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
By crossover SUV standards, the 2019 Subaru Forester is a miserly machine.
Read More

MSRP

from $31,995
from $24,295

Invoice

from $30,027
from $22,915

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

23
29

Engine

Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded H-4, 2.4 L
Regular Unleaded H-4, 2.5 L

Drivetrain

All Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
All Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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