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What’s Wrong With The Subaru Ascent? It’s The Only Model Dropping Behind

Subaru reports the 2021 Subaru Ascent sales for April. Why is the family hauler the only model in the all-wheel-drive lineup with negative sales compared with last year?


Is the 2021 Subaru Ascent a good three-row SUV? The Subaru Ascent family hauler checks all the right boxes for three-row shoppers, but why are sales of the Ascent so dismal? Subaru of America reports the 2021 Subaru Ascent sales for April, and they are up slightly over April 2020. Subaru reports 4,398 sales compared with 3,954 last year.

The surprising number is the Ascent sales year-to-date. Subaru has delivered 18,871 Ascent SUVs to customers in 2021. But last year, 19,578 models were sold through April 2020. That's 3.6 percent less than a year ago. Every other Subaru model is up from the pandemic year. But Ascent is the only model that is dropping behind.

2021 Subaru Ascent, pricing, features, specs
photo credit: Competition Subaru

Why aren't more shoppers choosing the Ascent 3-Row SUV?

When the Ascent first launched in 2019, the new 3-Row SUV was a success, and customers responded. Subaru did well in picking up its loyal customers who traded in their Forester and Outback for a larger vehicle. But Subaru has failed to gain new customers from other brands.

Subaru is doing well with its niche customers who use a 3-Row SUV for more than a family and grocery hauler. Subaru Ascent comes standard with all-wheel-drive, 8.7-inches of ground clearance, and X-Mode for off-pavement excursions. The Ascent fills a niche with features no other 3-Row has to offer, so it's a surprise Subaru isn't selling more of them.

2021 Subaru Ascent, pricing, features, specs

What does the Subaru Ascent need to lure away customers from the competition?

Reliability has been Ascent's most significant issue. Consumer Reports had the 2019 Ascent on its 10 Least Reliable Cars list and lost their recommendation due to reliability issues. With an all-new model, it's not unusual for vehicles to have "bugs" that need to be fixed.

The Camden, N.J. automaker seems to have corrected the transmission issues in the 2020 and 2021 Ascent models. But it could take time to convince new 3-Row SUV buyers it's a reliable vehicle.

What is the price of the 2021 Ascent?

The 2021 Subaru Ascent base starts at $33,345, and Premium trims begin at $35,845. The upper Limited starts at just over $40,000, with a starting price of $40,645. The top-trim Touring has a starting MSRP of $46,495.

The rest of 2021 will tell the story if the 2021 Subaru Ascent will recover and be a success or continue to drop behind.

You Might Also Like: The 2021 Subaru Ascent Family Hauler Is A Surprise 3-Row SUV Best Value Pick

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Jane (not verified)    May 5, 2021 - 11:01PM

Not surprising that Ascent’s main customers are existing Subaru drivers. If we hadn’t already loved the Outback , we may not have switched to Ascent because it lacks curb appeal and design. It’s not bad, it’s just not anything that would catch the eye.

Keith Theiss (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 8:21AM

Came down to Honda Pilot and the Subaru Ascent
.why I didn't buy Subaru1- price,2 -i hate 4cyl turbo engine ,3- curb appeal,4- transmission problems.
I own a Subaru outback also and love it .Just think they could do a better job all round with the ascent

David Gold (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 9:18AM

I am a Subaru fan. Owned many over the years.
I have heard the name Ascent. About all I know except for talk of issues. People will not buy something they do not know exists and it has to have some attraction.

E.C. (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 10:07AM

Could it be there aren't as many to sell? I just bought one, but I had to go to 3 different dealerships to find one! I almost had to custom order to get one. (I'm switching from Toyota... Tried the Highlander, and didn't like it. The only thing that I dislike about my Ascent is the milage. Switching from my 2010 Prius' 48mpg so the 23mpg hurts my soul.)

Austin Richey (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 10:35AM

As a Subaru Sales Rep, sales are down last month for one major reason that was not mentioned. No stores have many on the lot. We had 5-10 Ascents come in for April and it was like that all over Houston and many other places. Is it a little bland looking? Absolutely. But is it one of the best 3 row crossovers? Hands down, yes!

Angus MacDonald (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 11:54AM

I’m a Subaru fan (have a new Outback Touring XT) but did not consider the Ascent because of its meh design. It looks very bland.

George Splett (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 12:22PM

We bought a 2019 Ascent for my wife. Never owned a Subaru SUV before. Had a couple recalls but never experienced any issues before or after they were dealt with. The Ascent has plenty of power, lots of room and a terrific turning radius for a large vehicle. I disagree with a previous comment on style. We find the Ascent quite attractive.

Narm (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 12:53PM

I bought a 2020 Touring in June 2020. Had it until September 20th. I hit a deer and it caught fire. Could not buy another one at the time because of what happened. Went with a Highlander. Am considering going back to the Ascent in a few years as it was the perfect size coming from a minivan. Crossing fingers that the majority of the bugs will be fixed.

Mary Ann (not verified)    September 30, 2021 - 10:58PM

In reply to by Narm (not verified)

Very curious to know why you would choose the ascent over the Toyota Highlander. We looked at both of these vehicles and bought the ascent, however, we wish we would have considered the Toyota hybrid Highlander because of the gas.

Vickie (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 12:56PM

My 2020 Subaru ascent is the first new vehicle I've owned in my life, I've always had blazers or pickup trucks, I'm really liking the ascent there's nothing I could really complain about it. If there's any improvement it would be the shape of the front seats, which are much better than the Toyota seats, what I'd like to see is the headrest back a little bit they make them for hunchback people and I am more of a person who sits up straight, but it's not really bad to deal with compared to the Toyota's. Our family is also owned many Toyotas

Edwin M Honeycutt (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 1:07PM

There have been limited special offers and incentives along with low inventory (at least here in N. Texas. We looked and loved it. The incentives were better on the Outback and Crosstrek. We've bought two Outbacks and 1 Crosstrek since the release of the Ascent.

jnico (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 2:54PM

The Honda pilots have 3 seats in the second row at their touring team level, subaru does not. pilots have bullet-proof engine/transmission. I've owned 2 subarus, with a total of 3 engines and 3 transmissions. subarus are trash, cheap trash.

Gary Delano (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 11:24PM

In reply to by jnico (not verified)

I worked for Honda before moving to Subaru and can tell you that the pilot is far from bulletproof. I like the pilots and own one currently. But Subaru has finished ahead of honda in consumer reports for years. The ascent is more fun to drive, has far better off road capability, better mpg, and better resale value for a reason. I would bet your Subarus were 2014 or older or wrx/sti related as we never see motor replacements in other models. Never. I always tell people looking at pilot vs ascent to measure intent. Pavement only kid haulers work great for Honda. All weather and off road Lifestyle is more geared toward ascent. Also eyesight is far superior to the terrible single camera system at Honda. I disagree w the trash statement but can see why you love Honda. My 2009 pilot is amazing. Tho I would take a 21 ascent over it any day

Henry (not verified)    May 8, 2021 - 11:51AM

In reply to by jnico (not verified)

I have owned four Subaru Foresters. Two I sold to CarMax for the same amount I paid for them three years later. Yes they were low mileage, but any car you drive off the lot loses 20% of value. That speaks to quality, not trash.

Gary (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 3:15PM

Lol. So many critics use the 19 ascent to hammer them when the issues from 19 are obviously updates and stem from towing. As a Subaru salesperson, I can tell you they dropped solely because of lack of inventory. They are the fastest sold unit on our lot and are truly impressive vehicles. You can't sell what you don't have. I would have guessed a much bigger drop based on how hard it is to get one right now.

Dciacob (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 3:26PM

I was in the market for a 3 row SUV when the Ascent launched .. and was planning on buying one. I didn’t because of the lack of a 6cyl engine.

Jaazz (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 4:53PM

Low sales was because there were few to buy and what was left on the lot was not the colors/etc. that people preferred. Now there are none and can't even be ordered.

Michael korbobo (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 10:19PM

What's wrong with Subaru ascent? Simply it's a Subaru. To many issues over the years.Honda Toyota better cars.

abu Zayd (not verified)    May 7, 2021 - 2:52AM

Subaru should market the Ascent to other markets like the Middle East, where there is still a loyal customer base!

Joe (not verified)    May 7, 2021 - 8:20AM

We own an Outback and were very excited that the Ascent would replace our minivan when the time came. Well, the time came after a couple of years of the Ascent and the reliability, essentially, eliminated it from contention. We went with a Palisade instead - comparable price, MUCH better expected reliability, bigger interior, slightly better fit and finish. Yes, it has a clearly inferior AWD system (even when compared with our old Outback that doesn't even have Xmode) but it is good enough.

When the Outback dies, I will consider the Ascent but Subaru better have figured out the reliability.

Keil Miller Jr (not verified)    May 9, 2021 - 6:13AM

In reply to by Joe (not verified)

Does x-mode make a huge difference? I got a 2021 Forrester base model, and had no issues pulling off the side of the road in the snow. No adventures yet. First awd car, usually had 4x4 diesel pickup. Hoping they make a Forrester with higher lift, and I will trade current Forrester.

Rod (not verified)    May 7, 2021 - 2:46PM

Underpowered if one lives a windy state. Needs at minimum 280 hp and ideally 300 hp. Gas mileage is horrible if driving into only a mild headwind.