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Toyota Highlander vs. Subaru Ascent

This s a silver Subaru Ascent on display at a car show.

There is nothing as frustrating as looking at the available Sports Utility Vehicles line and finding two almost completely similar vehicles from two different manufacturers. The Toyota Highlander has long been one of the most loved SUVs on the market, but the Subaru Ascent has been wowing audiences since 2017.

The Subaru Ascent has a smaller engine that struggles to provide the same efficiency as the Toyota Highlander. The shape of the Accent gives it more internal space, with a few key features being improved to offer greater quality, while the Highlander only catches up to this with higher-end models.

There are several features that both of these SUVs share, and with the new updates coming to the Accent in 2022, it has received a complete upgrade of its internal features. Further, the Highlander is currently one of the best SUVs on the market, with engine options that other manufacturers cannot match.

On The Outside

This is a brown Subaru Ascent on display at the car show.

The Highlander and the Accent are two vehicles that are so amazingly similar to each other that only the sharp eye can find the differences. With the grander design and height of the lights being similar, the chrome accents and the alloy wheels are the first real differences.

As standard, the Accent has roof racks, whereas these are optional extras on all models of the Highlander. The Highlander has a larger front bumper scoop but smaller fog light scoops that make it a sleeker overall design than the more rugged design of the Accent.

Both vehicles have full LED lights in the front and the rear that can be added onto grills as optional extras. The Accent has a bar on top of the side skirts that make it a bit more rugged than the rounded edges the Highlander sports, with the only other noticeable difference being window shapes.

If you want a sleeker look, then the Highlander is exactly what you should be expecting from your SUVs. The Subaru Ascent sticks to the older designs of SUVs that have been updated to have a more rounded shape than an overall sleek look that has become favored over the last few years.

Step Inside

When moving to the inside of these SUVs, you will find the options, the trims, and the seats are wildly different, with many options to choose from. Knowing how many seats both have and what comes standard with the SUVs will help you choose something that is both large and comfortable.

Seating And Upholstery

This is a close look at the upholstered interior accents of a Toyota Ascent.

The Highlander’s higher options all have eight seats as a standard, with only a few of the base versions stuck with the normal five-seater options. While the Accent has the same options, with the base model only having five seats, with most upper-tier models happily sporting eight seats for larger groups.

It is interesting how similar the seating and upholstery options are with these two SUVs, with both having standard cloth upholstery as standard. However, faux leather, full leather, and leather trim are options that can be added when configuring your Highlander or Accent.

Even with the highest-level trim, when all the seats are being used, the SUVs have little to no cargo space for anything that may be bought. Further, the extra seats take away from the total storage even when packed away, making those with smaller families more inclined to choose the options with more cargo space.  

Cargo Space

When you choose an SUV, you will most likely need to transport many things from one point to the other, whether that be groceries or children. The Highlander has a total of 84 cubic feet when all the seats are down, 50 cubic feet if you fold only the third row down, and only 16 cubic feet when all eight seats are up.

The Accent puts up a worthy fight by providing a total of 86 cubic feet when all the rear seats are down while providing only 47 cubic feet with the third row down. The Accent has a bit more space at the minimum, giving 17.8 cubic feet when the third row of seats is up.

Features And Infotainment

This is a view of the back seat area of the Subaru Ascent interior.

This is, unfortunately, where the Accent loses out on the newer, updated Highlander, coming standard with an auxiliary port, cd player, and HD radio. The Accent has several optional things, like the premium audio system, but it does not have Wi-Fi features. Fortunately, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and just smartphone integration come as a standard.

The Highlander has several things as a standard that the Accent has as optional, including the addition of Wi-Fi. With the standard audio system already being the top-of-the-line audio that you can have fitted to the car without upgrading almost anything.

Under The Hood

Under the hood, the two SUVs are performing in almost entirely different levels, with the Subaru Ascent having to work a lot harder than the Toyota Highlander. Despite weight around the same, the two can do a lot of different things with their power.

Engine, Drivetrain, And Transmission

This is a close look at the engine of the Toyota Highlander under the hood.

The Subaru Ascent has a standard four-cylinder 2.4-liter 260 horsepower engine that has been fitted to a fully automatic CVT gearbox. The engine has been turbocharged to ensure strong enough to punch in its weight class without seriously lagging behind the rest.

As usual, the Toyota Highlander has a V6 3.5-liter hybrid engine that delivers just under 295 horsepower linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This makes it a strong and efficient engine that is easily capable of pushing the SUV forward at tremendous speeds and pulling a lot of weight.


No one will be buying the Toyota Highlander or the Subaru accent for their performance or speed, but both can achieve decent speeds when on the highway. Further, they will comfortably pull almost 5000 pounds without being affected too much in performance.

At The Pumps

This is a close look at the engine of a Toyota Highlander.

When we start measuring the total fuel efficiency of both of these vehicles, we need to start considering the way they have been built. The Accent has a smaller engine that has been made strong enough to handle the large body, giving it 27 mpg on the highway and only 21 mpg when in the city.

However, because the Highlander has a hybrid option and the engine can provide much more power without having to use too much fuel. They easily achieve 21 mpg in the city and an overwhelming 29 mpg when driving on the open road.

If you purchase an SUV while trying to be as efficient as possible, the Toyota Highlander with its hybrid engine will always be the best option. No other manufacturer is currently making a hybrid SUV, with few fully electric SUVs on the market at the moment.

Safety First

Subaru and Toyota are known for making extremely safe cars with the Accent and the Highlander sporting airbags on every surface that can take it. Both have achieved high marks from everyone who has crash-tested them, with no faults yet found in the designs.

Pricing Comparison

This is a silver Toyota Highlander TRD on display at a car show.

The Highlander starts at a competitive price of only $35k, without the hybrid engine and several creature features omitted. However, the most popular models easily reach up to $50k when you have added every possible feature that Toyota has made available for the SUV.

This is a blue Subaru Ascent on display at a car show.

The Ascent starts extremely competitively, going lower than most other SUVs on the market at only $32k with the standard model. Easily reaching a high of $50k when you are choosing the top model with every standard feature added and then every creature feature added on top of that.

And The Winner Is…

The Subaru Ascent has several features that have been standard with it since it was first introduced in 2017 that are only now starting to show up from other manufacturers. While Highlander’s latest update means that it now leads the SUV market in everything from efficiency to standard interior features.

The clear winner between these two vehicles is the Toyota Highlander as it is not only more efficient despite having a larger engine, it has more standard features included. We would recommend getting it if you are hoping to have something that can easily and comfortably beat other SUVs on the road.


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