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Subaru is one of the most reliable car brands out there, so its vehicles are understandably popular. It has a varied lineup with some unique options, like the BRZ that still offers a standard manual transmission. The 2022 Subaru Outback remains one of the only modern station wagons you can buy stateside.
Subaru also offers more conventional vehicles, including the beloved Forester SUV. While less popular, the Subaru Ascent is a decent option for drivers who require a few extra seats. Still, there are quite a few reasons why the Forester is the better vehicle overall.
The Subaru Forester continues to stay on top
Like most years before it, the 2022 Subaru Forester got a high rating from critics at Car and Driver. For this model year, it gains square exterior light housings, new safety features, and a rough-ready Wilderness trim. The same powertrain is carried over from 2021, a four-cylinder capable of 182 horsepower with a CVT and standard AWD.
C/D wasn't very impressed with the engine from a performance standpoint, and the Forester's handling is equally unexciting. This SUV continues to shine when it comes to fuel economy, rated at 26/33 mpg city/highway. C/D testers got 32 mpg during their highway drive, which is still great for real-world testing.
The seats inside are supportive and very spacious, including all three chairs in the second row. The Forester's cargo volume measures 33 cubic feet, enough to fit 11 carry-on suitcases. Folding down the second seat raises that figure to around 76 cubic feet.
While C/D testers thoroughly enjoyed their luxurious Touring model, they warned that the base model feels bare-bones in comparison. The Premium model, which only costs $3,000 more, includes things like a sunroof and a power-adjustable driver's seat. They also thought that the Forester's new exterior styling cues look better on the Outback.
How does the Subaru Ascent perform?
Even though it's a bigger vehicle, the Subaru Ascent still only gets a four-cylinder engine. It makes 260 horsepower and comes with a CVT just like the Forester. It's an ample amount of power for city driving, but Car and Driver said the SUV noticeably struggles on the highway.
The engine makes a lot of noise while merging or passing, which can get annoying combined with the CVT's mechanical whining. Road and wind noise are also amplified at higher speeds.
Still, C/D liked the compliance of the Subaru Ascent's ride, even with 20-inch wheels. There's no noticeable body roll and the steering feels surprisingly light for a vehicle in this weight class. Testers also appreciated the standard AWD.
The Subaru Ascent can seat up to eight riders instead of five, but keeping every seat up severely compromises cargo space. Additionally, the third row is too cramped to accommodate bigger riders for long periods. But the driver will appreciate the raised seating position, which provides excellent visibility from all angles.
Like the Subaru Forester, the Ascent's most desirable features are only standard or optional on higher trims. The Standard or Premium trims aren't so bad with available flat-folding second-row captain's chairs and standard Velcro cargo straps. Every Subaru Ascent also comes with an abundance of driver-assist technology.
Which Subaru is better for you?
Both of these SUVs come with Subaru's standard hallmarks of dependability, AWD, and plentiful safety features. The Subaru Forester is preferred by critics for its more agreeable ride quality, but the Ascent is better for big families.