2019 Subaru Ascent vs. 2019 Honda Pilot: Compare Cars

January 7, 2019
2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Like a playroom on wheels, the 2019 Subaru Ascent and 2019 Honda Pilot are ready for family adventures.

The Ascent and Pilot are three-row crossover SUVs equipped for whatever kids young and old may throw at them. If cupholders and USBs are at the top of your shopping list, the Ascent’s got 19 places to stash juice boxes and up to eight places to lose a charging cord. Meanwhile, the Pilot offers an in-vehicle PA system that broadcasts the driver’s scolding voice to misbehaving third-row passengers.

With the Ascent and Pilot, there’s a lot more to the story than just three rows of seats, four wheels, and reasonable prices.

We rate the Ascent at 6.8 out of 10 and the Pilot at 7.0, a margin so close that it might as well be a draw.

MORE: Read our 2019 Subaru Ascent and 2019 Honda Pilot reviews

The Ascent and Pilot have a lot of similarities. They’re sized about the same—roughly 196 inches from bumper to bumper. Inside, they come standard with seating for eight but offer seven-seat versions with captain’s chairs in the second row for a demilitarized zone between warring children. Captain’s chairs are more widely available on the Subaru; a seven-seat Ascent Premium costs about $36,600 but the least-expensive Pilot with captain’s chairs costs $42,800.

2019 Honda Pilot

2019 Honda Pilot

2019 Honda Pilot

2019 Honda Pilot

2019 Honda Pilot

2019 Honda Pilot

Both crossover SUVs have good room in the first two rows and can handle adults in a pinch in their third rows. With the third row upright, the Ascent has about 18 cubic feet of cargo space while most versions of the Pilot have about 16.5 cubes. Fold the third row and that figure balloons to about 47 cubic feet in both crossover SUVs. The Ascent’s maximum cargo capacity with both the second and third rows flat is about 86 cubic feet and the Pilot can lug about 84 cubes in most configurations.

Underhood, the Ascent uses a 2.4-liter turbo-4 rated at 260 horsepower paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with standard all-wheel drive. The Pilot makes use of a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 280 hp teamed to a 6-speed automatic transmission in LX, EX, and EX-L trims. A 9-speed automatic comes on Touring and Elite trims. Front-wheel drive comes standard on the Pilot and all-wheel drive costs $1,900.

The Ascent’s CVT teams well with the turbocharged engine for smooth, quick acceleration despite its hefty 4,500-pound curb weight. We like the 6-speed automatic transmission in most versions of the Pilot more than the available 9-speed, which can sometimes feel confused at lower speeds. Either way, a drag race between these two crossover SUVs would be close.

Both crossover SUVs are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds with optional trailering gear.

Fuel economy is also a tight race. Both the Honda and the Subaru run on regular unleaded and are estimated to average between 21 and 23 mpg combined depending on the trim level and drive wheels.

Subaru Ascent and Honda Pilot safety and features

Both automakers know that safety sells when it comes to crossover SUVs. Active safety tech we consider essential such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control is standard on the 2019 Ascent and 2019 Pilot. Blind-spot monitors are standard on all but the base Ascent and the Pilot LX, too.

Surprisingly, neither crossover SUV is available with a surround-view camera system, although a forward-facing camera useful for parking is included on the Ascent Touring.

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

Federal and independent testers heaped praise on both crossover SUVs in crash tests, although the Ascent nudges ahead slightly by earning a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS compared to the Top Safety Pick (minus the plus) for the Pilot. The difference is in the challenging passenger-side small-overlap frontal crash test where the Ascent scored the top “Good” rating and the Pilot earned “Acceptable.”

Outward vision is generally good in both crossover SUVs, although the Ascent’s beefier rearmost roof pillars hinder over-the-shoulder vision.

Both crossover SUVs start at about $33,000. At that price, the Ascent gets the edge for its standard all-wheel drive and 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The base Pilot LX is front-wheel drive and uses a comparatively outdated 5.0-inch display for its audio system without advanced smartphone capability.

Stepping up to the $35,500 Pilot EX brings an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s Apple- and Android-ready plus heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and keyless ignition.

The $35,200 Ascent Premium also includes an upgraded 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and power adjustment for the driver’s seat, making it a stronger value given its standard all-wheel drive.

Easy-clean leather upholstery comes on the $38,800 Pilot EX-L but requires stepping up to the $40,000 Ascent Limited. However, the Pilot’s lack of standard all-wheel drive makes it more expensive when similarly equipped.

Our advice: Carefully shop both crossovers. They’re both at the top of their game.

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.
7.0
Expert Rating
Subtle upgrades make the 2019 Honda Pilot a must-see for three-row crossover shoppers.

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
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Honda Pilot bridges the gap between crossovers and minivans.
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 Honda Pilot rides well and its V-6 engine provides it with good acceleration.
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
9.0
Expert Rating
Few crossover SUVs handle passengers and their gear better than the Honda Pilot, although no model feels luxurious.
Read More

Safety

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Ascent earns excellent crash-test scores.
Read More
10
Expert Rating
The 2019 Honda Pilot comes standard with a high level of advanced safety tech.
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
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Honda Pilot wants for little, except in spartan Pilot LX trim.
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
4.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Honda Pilot’s fuel economy is average for a three-row crossover.
Read More

MSRP

from $31,995
from $31,450

Invoice

from $30,027
from $28,760

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

23
22

Engine

Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded H-4, 2.4 L
Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.5 L

Drivetrain

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