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Subaru Ascent vs. Hyundai Santa Fe

1. Overview

The Hyundai Santa Fe comes in both FWD and AWD models with a 2.4L petrol and 2.2L diesel engine, with 6-speed automatic and 8-speed automatic transmission respectively. With electronic control AWD, it is also suitable for mild off-roading. X-MODE in Subaru and AWD lock in Santa Fe are useful for off-roading in slippery conditions.

Subaru Ascent: AWD is standard in all variants. It has a 3.6L petrol engine with CVT transmission. It is very much suitable for off-roading with X-MODE for Hill Descent Control.

The Subaru Ascent is a newcomer in the segment and is an 8-seater SUV. The Hyundai Santa Fe is almost a decade old in the segment and falls in the mid-size SUV segment, and is a 7-seater. Both SUVs are purpose-built family cars with lots of cargo space and high safety standards. The Subaru Ascent is a large car-based SUV made in the US, whereas the Hyundai Santa Fe is a mid-size unibody crossover SUV in the mid to large segment.

1.1. Introduction

Automobiles have always played a significant role in human history since their invention. The very purpose of inventing them was to use them as a mode of transportation and in order to travel faster in less time. Soon after the invention of cars, manufacturing companies started competing to make better cars. They started researching and increasing technology to come up with the most efficient vehicle, one which would be fully equipped in technology, safe to use, elegant in design and of course faster. This led to the invention of many better versions of cars over the years. And from then to present, the technology utilized in cars has advanced so much that the same companies which started working in the start have come up with vehicles which excel beyond human expectation. One such competition that we have from two big companies namely "Subaru" and "Hyundai". Both the companies have a name in the automobile industry and have introduced cars that are far beyond expectations. One can go on and compare both the vehicles at length but we would be looking into the comparison between the car models introduced by Subaru which are "Subaru Ascent" and that by Hyundai "Hyundai Santa Fe" and then try and arrive at a conclusion as to which is the better car.

1.2. Key Features

The Ascent comes standard with Subaru's exclusive RAS, a mandatory feature for areas with four seasons. The RAS can be felt through the steering wheel and the more controlled brake feel, not to mention the added traction when setting off from a stop. Any driver can appreciate the improvement in vehicle controllability and the increased safety from the added tire contact. The Hyundai HTRAC system can also direct up to 50% of available torque to one rear wheel. A driver using one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake can accomplish something similar.

There is sometimes no substitute for the real thing. Case in point, an 8-passenger vehicle that actually seats 8 passengers. Many vehicles claim to seat 8, but the 2nd row bench is a tight squeeze for 3 adults, and the 3rd row is kids-only. (Grown-ups will not hear the end of it) No such worries with the Ascent, even fully grown friends to act as witnesses. It's available with either a second-row bench or captain's chairs to provide seating for up to 8 passengers, and a 3rd row that can accommodate 3 adults in true comfort.

Both the 2019 Subaru Ascent and the Hyundai Santa Fe may be classified as crossover SUVs, but there are many features that distinguish them. Subaru's engineers have taken note of this and also have examined the competition, and feel confident that potential buyers who take a close look will easily see how the Ascent offers a new level of comfort and convenience for families on the go. Let's highlight a few that may not be as readily apparent on a spec sheet.

2. Performance

The Santa Fe is no all-wheel drive slouch though, with the HTRAC E-WD system which transfers power to rear wheels when required, for superior cornering and more stability under slippery conditions. The AWD lock also permits a 50/50 front-rear power distribution in adverse conditions, which would set it above the entry-level all-wheel drive vehicles. However, the Ascent is just able to offer more in terms of severe weather and off-road capabilities due to the more suitable ride height and proper off-road features.

Handling and suspension are definitely better with the Subaru Symmetrical AWD system and X-Mode for extreme conditions should you come across them. Ground clearance is also substantially higher at 220mm compared to the Santa Fe at 185mm, and together with the Ascent's higher tow rating, this would make it the better choice for someone who enjoys camping or spending time in the outdoors.

Subaru Ascent has the more powerful standard powertrain at 260 horsepower, while the Santa Fe stands at 185 horsepower. The Ascent also offers a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 277 ft/lbs of torque from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm, which translates into better acceleration and more efficient power delivery compared to the 234 ft/lbs of the Santa Fe. The more powerful petrol engine would also be overkill for the SUV, making it less rewarding and more fuel-hungry with a combined fuel economy of 11.1L/100km, compared to the 8.8L/100km for the Ascent. This is especially because the Santa Fe is not offered as a turbo diesel, creating quite a significant edge in terms of performance between the two Subaru Ascent vs Hyundai Santa Fe choices.

2.1. Engine Power

First things first, by comparing the Subaru Ascent vs. Hyundai Santa Fe, you might want to know what is under the each of their hoods. Subaru Ascent's come with a 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine. The Subaru Ascent has a good deal of low-end grunt that will make you forget about the old B9 Tribeca. Their 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque makes the Ascent able to tow up to 5,000 pounds, a cool 500 pound more than what the Santa Fe can pull which is another good selling point. Whereas with the Santa Fe, you have two options. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter inline 4 making 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. This engine is said to have good acceleration although it isn't class leading. And then there's the 2.0T sport and ultimate trims. This twin-scroll turbo 2.0-liter inline-four has an estimated 235 hp and 260 lb-ft, which may be more comparable to the Ascent. The punch of the turbo generates over 30 percent more peak torque than the standard 2.4-liter engine throughout the rev range, continuously delivering smooth and assertive power. This feature may vary depending on the country the Santa Fe is being purchased.

2.2. Fuel Efficiency

Between the two vehicles, there are disparaging fuel efficiencies on offer, and the reasons behind them are numerous and telling from a design perspective by the manufacturers. The Subaru consumes 11.5L per 100km, whereas the Hyundai undercuts it significantly at 7.3L per 100km. This relates to the engines, whether we like it or not. The size of the engine in the Santa Fe is a 2.2L Turbo Diesel, whereas the CVT Ascent has a 2.4L boxer engine design. These figures of engine size are indicative of a large difference in power and torque, which will be discussed later in this review. Yet, it is particularly surprising that the more torque and power-oriented car has a lesser fuel efficiency rating. This is not often the case, but there is a major exception in this instance. Boxer engines are actually very fuel efficient compared to traditional inline engine designs. This is because the alignment of pistons allows for a constant fluid motion and balanced weight distribution when the engine is running, which leads to less fuel consumption. So how is this possible? Well, the answer lies in Hyundai's engine technology and quest for global recognition. The 'R' series engine from Hyundai is a prime example of such progress. This engine is revolutionary for the company in terms of performance, fuel efficiency, vibration and noise levels, and it is the product of ongoing technological development in order to establish a successful brand image in the automotive industry. This compares to the Santa Fe's previous J series engine in which all R&D was conducted in South Korea from 1995-1999. Now, despite the class differences in these engines, the deciding factor in fuel efficiency is the design and build type. The Subaru's engine, being more expensive and higher in class, is family-oriented and viewed

2.3. Handling and Suspension

On balance though, some buyers will feel that the ride-quality trade-off for the Santa Fe's better handling is not worth it, and consider ride-comfort to be more important. This is one area where it may be worth considering the Ascent, as despite its lack of dynamic prowess, it does provide a very comfortable and smooth ride, absorbing bumps well and with little road or wind noise in the cabin. Step into a higher-spec model, and Hyundai offers self-levelling suspension for the rear, but in general the Santa Fe's more compact and focused design means that ride comfort is not a particular strong point, with some harshness over sharp imperfections. This is exacerbated further in the seven-seat model, where the longer wheelbase and extra weight mean that the rear suspension is more prone to bottoming out over larger bumps.

One difference, it is very clear in this comparison. Despite being a bigger car, the Santa Fe provides, on the whole, a more engaging drive. Through corners it displays less body roll, and is much more composed than the Ascent, which feels top-heavy and inclined to understeer. The more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension of the Santa Fe is also a factor in this, providing superior control over the Ascent's simpler MacPherson strut setup. Further enhancing the Santa Fe's handling, especially in slippery conditions, is the option to have all-wheel drive. The Ascent comes with the same feature as standard, but where Subaru has a reputation for building some very capable off-roaders, the Ascent is not one of them, with more emphasis on on-road traction and handling, the result being only average ability when the going gets tough. That is not to say the Santa Fe is a rock-hopper, but for general all-weather capability it is likely to be more effective.

3. Interior and Comfort

With a car that can carry the whole family and some cargo to the lake or to grandma's, comfortable seating for everyone is a must. The Ascent delivers with second-row captain's chairs or a bench seat, with space for up to eight passengers, while Santa Fe has two rows with space for five. The Ascent's 19 cupholders mean everyone's drinks can be safely stowed, with a spill-proof liner in the third row that can hold an entire juicebox worth of liquid, try as your child might to test this feature. Both Ascent and Santa Fe have standard three-zone automatic climate control, a feature we love for the rear passengers. Subaru's base Ascent includes an adventure-ready spread of tech features such as multi-function display with USB ports in all three rows, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for easy smartphone integration. On the convenience side, power windows with auto up/down in the front and rear, a one-touch turn signal for effortless lane changes and power side mirrors come standard. Optionally available features include an 8" Multimedia Navigation, Harman Kardon QuantumLogic surround sound audio, and a panoramic moonroof. Hyundai's base Santa Fe includes an array of safety and comfort features such as blind spot collision warning and rear cross traffic alert. Technology upgrades available include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a 630-watt 12-speaker sound system, a bit of an upgrade from the Ascent's available audio.

3.1. Seating Capacity and Space

As for the third row, it's more suitable for adults in the Subaru, and more conducive to long stints when five footers have pushed the second-row seats all the way back in their tracks. Moreover, we know there are some three-row families looking for a mid-sized SUV that offers third-row seating as a way to squeeze in an occasional (and very short) ride-along friend in a pinch. Those parents will be happy to know that the Ascent can accommodate three child safety seats across the third row. A third-row seat is included in all Santa Fe XL trims, but it's impractical for all but small children and takes a toll on third-row toe space. Oh, and all the parents need to know that there are LATCH/ease-of-entry issues in the Santa Fe XL. Specifically, the outboard second-row seats' inner seatbacks must be unlatched and moved forward to access the third row, but these seatbacks don't lock into position after being released. Good luck with that in practice. LATCH and car seat installation in the Ascent is simple.

First, a couple of the basics. Both of these vehicles are available with seven-passenger seating capacity, though the Subaru is available with either a second-row bench seat or the dual captain's chairs that our Touring trim tester had. Opting for the captain's chairs reduces the Ascent's seating capacity to six. Second-row captain's chairs are not offered on the Hyundai. Both the Ascent's second-row bench and the Santa Fe's 60/40-split/folding second-row seats offer convenient adjustment fore and aft to balance second- and third-row legroom. In the Ascent, a child can more easily gain access to the third row even with a child safety seat installed in the second row, and second-row occupants will find more third-row legroom.

3.2. Technology and Infotainment

The Santa Fe comes with a standard size 7-inch touch screen with 6 speakers on the lower trims, and the higher ultimate trim with an available 8-inch touch screen and a 12-speaker Infinity audio system with QuantumLogic® and Clarifi® music restoration technology. This system isn't as crisp or solid-sounding as the Ascent's Harman Kardon audio, but is a little better than average for this class of vehicle. Both screen sizes have a rather small and minimalistic look, and the response to the touch of the screen is just a little less responsive than the Ascent's. With all being said, the infotainment does look a lot like what we find in the Ascent, and it comes stocked with Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™. Although the Santa Fe is the same size as its predecessor, it gets away with a 283mm longer wheelbase, providing a more roomy cabin and versatile cargo space. This is likely a display of effective utilization of space within the frame of the vehicle, which adds to the overall quality of the vehicle.

The available 500-watt equivalent, 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system is comprised of 12 speakers and a subwoofer and it sounds fantastic. This system is loud, clear with deep bass, and also features a GreenEdge amplifier; some features to help reduce power consumption and have a minimal effect on the vehicle's MPG. The standard audio system is comprised of 6 speakers, and there are also available systems with 6 speakers and 8-inch display or 4 speakers and the Starlink™ 6.5-inch display audio system depending on trim level. All feature Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™, and Pandora integration, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming connectivity, and rear vision cameras.

The Ascent's Starlink™ multimedia systems feature an available 8-inch touch screen; my favorite feature. The 2019 Subaru Ascent comes with an available 8-inch high resolution touch screen and is the first Subaru to come with in-car Wi-Fi. The screen is very responsive and has a bright and clean look to it. Additionally, the touch screen has multi-gesture functionality that allows the display to react to swiping and pinching the way smartphones and tablets do, so it is easier to navigate the screen.

3.3. Interior Design and Materials

The interior design of cars is as important as the specs and engine. It adds to the cosiness and elegance of the vehicle and provides an enriching experience for the riders. The Ascent has been praised for its stylish and comfortable interior by many car experts. It is available in seven and eight passenger formats. The seven passenger version has second row captain's chairs which makes getting to the third row very easy. Although the third row is a bit tight for two adults, it is still more spacious compared to the Santa Fe. The Ascent has a lot of cargo space and it has been recognized as the vehicle with the biggest cargo space in Subaru's history. The Santa Fe has a very sleek and modernized design. Although it doesn't have as much space as the Ascent, it has more than enough room for the riders. The second row seats can tilt and slide, giving the third row a decent amount of space. The Santa Fe has an interesting feature, which is a new family of infotainment systems with an available 8.5-inch display offering the ability to accommodate a local brand free audio system with the ability to accept two smartphones simultaneously. Although this is a very interesting feature, as a 7-8 passenger SUV, the Ascent has made more effort in being more spacious and comfortable for its riders. Looking at design and capacity, the Ascent has executed it perfectly with trying to give the most space possible for its riders even having different preferences in the second row seats.

3.4. Safety Features

The Ascent comes with the EyeSight package of active safety technology, which includes lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic pre-collision braking. The latter scored a 'superior' rating in third-party testing. Visibility is also good, making parking maneuvers a breeze with its tight turning circle. For those with young children, Subaru has included a rear seat reminder system which is effectively an alarm to remind you to not leave young children in the car. The Ascent has a full complement of eight airbags, with front, front side, driver's knee, and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows. For those who need to install child seats, there are up to eight tether anchors and all are easily accessible. Subaru has forecast a 5-star ANCAP (Australian New Car Assessment Program) safety rating for the Ascent due to its comprehensive safety package. Hyundai's Santa Fe also is well specified in the safety department, with AEB being standard across the range, as well as the inclusion of driver attention warning, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and a reversing camera. These items contributed to a 94% safety assistance score when tested by Euro NCAP. The Santa Fe has a 93% adult occupancy score from Euro NCAP testing, which ranks it well for competitive large SUVs. Curtain airbags cover all three rows, and on highlander trims, there are slightly extra airbags including one for the driver's knee. The Santa Fe also has a 5-star ANCAP rating, and it too was fitted with a rear seat reminder system. In terms of installing child seats, there are seven ISOFIX points, and all trims have tether anchors. All of the above are impressive safety features, but what makes the Santa Fe stand out in this category is the availability of these key items at a significantly lower price point compared to key segment rivals.

4. Price and Value

4.3. Warranty Coverage Both companies offer a similar 3yr/36,000 mile basic warranty. However, Hyundai takes the win with their 5yr/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, which surpasses the Ascent's 5yr/100,000 mile powertrain coverage. This provides added reliability to the Santa Fe at little cost to the consumer. Overall, the Hyundai Santa Fe provides a lot of value with its standard features and warranties, which are not reflected in the base price.

4.2. Standard Features The new Santa Fe includes quite a bit more standard features in comparison to the Ascent, which helps provide more overall value to the consumer. The Santa Fe includes standard features like heated exterior mirrors, automatic headlamps, and a rear lip spoiler, which are not included on the Ascent. The Hyundai offers key features like LED daytime running and tail lamps, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist systems.

4. Price and Value 4.1. Base Price Comparison The new Hyundai Santa Fe has an initial price tag of $25,750, which is lower than the $31,995 on Ascent. However, the Hyundai includes more standard features right from the base model. Hyundai offers a little more value when it comes to the standard 2.4 I4, including safety features like blind spot and lane departure warning. Subaru does, however, include AWD right from the beginning, which provides safety and capability in all weather or road conditions. This is an additional $1,700 on the Santa Fe.

Subaru Ascent vs Hyundai Santa Fe

4.1. Base Price Comparison

The suggested retail price for the base 2019 Subaru Ascent is $31,995, the starting price for the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is $25,750. The Subaru Ascent comes with All-Wheel Drive and the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology on all trim levels. This is not the case for the Hyundai Santa Fe as All-Wheel Drive is an additional $1,700 on each trim level and the Hyundai SmartSense is only available on the highest Ultimate trim. The All-Wheel Drive system and EyeSight Driver Assist Technology are well-appreciated safety features that are offered at a better value on the Subaru Ascent. In terms of powertrain, the Subaru 2.4L 4-cylinder Boxer engine with direct-injection is more powerful and efficient than the Hyundai 2.4L 4-cylinder GDI engine. Both the Subaru Ascent and Hyundai Santa Fe offer 3 years or 36,000 miles New Vehicle Limited Warranty as well as 5 years or 60,000 miles Powertrain Limited Warranty. The Subaru Ascent gets ahead of the Hyundai Santa Fe when it comes to additional services as Subaru offers a standard 3 years or 36,000 miles complimentary added security which includes roadside and emergency assistance. Also for increased resale value, Subaru vehicles are eligible for a Guaranteed Trade-In Program (GTP) which offers a trade-in amount for the next Subaru vehicle and can be applied for 8 years from the original vehicle's warranty start date. With the intent to keep the vehicle long-term, these additional services give Subaru a greater advantage in the long run.

4.2. Standard Features

Standard features allow you to consider the accessories that you would like to include on your vehicle. Both of these vehicles have similar standard features including air conditioning, CD player, and power windows and door locks. However, the Ascent has some standout standard features that make it a more attractive choice. The Ascent comes standard with Subaru's symmetrical Full-Time All-Wheel Drive system. This is an important safety feature that may be implemented as standard on Santa Fe competitor now that Hyundai is involved heavily in global rally sports. A 260 horsepower 2.4-liter, 4-Cylinder Boxer Engine is also standard on all Ascents. The Santa Fe comes with a 2.4-liter engine or a 2.0-liter twin scroll turbo. However, the larger 2.4-liter engine does not come as standard on the Santa Fe until you reach the Preferred or higher trim levels. This means that the Ascent provides more power, torque, and a better standard driving experience. The final standout standard feature for the Ascent is 19 cup holders. 19 cup holders in a vehicle may seem excessive but for large families or carpooling situations this simply cannot be beaten. The Santa Fe is also a 7-passenger vehicle but only has 12 cup holders. Overall, the standard features of the Ascent are superior to the Santa Fe and provide a safer, higher performance standard, and more practical vehicle at the standard trim level. This is important to consumers who are interested in purchasing the base model of a vehicle as standard features will be the only features on the vehicle and will not require any further investment.

4.3. Warranty Coverage

Subaru’s plan is to have its customers know that they will have assistance throughout their entire warranty period as evidenced by the higher duration in bumper to bumper coverage and same mileage in roadside assistance. This is especially important for Subaru's goal to garner customers from their competitors including Jeep, Ford, and Hyundai. Long after purchase it will hit these customers with a higher mileage, larger vehicle designed for families with active lifestyles in outdoor and off-road activities. For these types of activities, all the bells and whistles and electronic features on their vehicles will likely be used to the fullest extent, often resulting in more maintenance and repairs being needed. Therefore having the longest and best coverage of these repairs is an important factor for comparing vehicles.

The Santa Fe’s basic warranty only covers 60 months/60,000 miles compared to the Ascent’s 36 months/36,000 miles. Side note, this is the longest offer for the Santa Fe which shows that Hyundai does not plan to cover many repairs after this period. The powertrain warranty also covers 10,000 fewer miles than the Ascent. Subaru’s corrosion warranty also doubles Hyundai’s coverage at 5 years/unlimited distance. The Ascent wins again in this category with a better coverage of 3 years/36,000 miles compared to the Santa Fe’s 3 years/36,000 miles.

The Subaru Ascent’s warranty covers the following: Powertrain: 60 months/60,000 miles Bumper-to-Bumper: 36 months/36,000 miles Corrosion: 60 months/unlimited distance Roadside Assistance: 36 months/36,000 miles