My wife’s car when we started dating was an early 1980’s Subaru DL sedan. It was nicely screwed together, but pretty basic and boring, as befits a young, underpaid working person.

But there have been a lot of times when I wish we had never traded away that dependable little Subie for something flashier. It was an unspectacular little performer that never let us down.

And that reputation was hard earned. I remember when shopping for my first new car in 1970, I had my heart set on a Triumph sports car, but our local dealer had just taken on this new brand called Subaru. And the little GL sports coupe offered so much more equipment for the money. But of course, I chose one made by the folks who never got into computers because they couldn’t make them leak oil.

Subaru has done just fine without our business, and now are a roaring success, particularly out west where their “go anywhere” character is especially welcome.

And now, after scores of Imprezas, Outbacks, Foresters and such, they have entered the mid-sized, 3-row seating class of SUV with the new Ascent.

And while there are folks in other, flatter parts of the Grand Old Republic who may or may not need all this off-road capability, they end up buying them anyway. Better to have it and not need it than visa-versa.

And in a world of Highlanders, Pilots, Explorers, Durangos and Traverses, the Ascent is a very competitive entry.

The looks are, frankly, forgettable. But then again, none of these vehicles are fashion statements. They are stylish, all-wheel-drive boxes and as such, the Ascent is as pretty as any.

Inside though, Subaru has done a magnificent job creating a lovely perch from which operate this latest contestant in the family crossover stakes.

Quality materials, stitched together with care, and a dash layout that is logical and a far cry from the busy, multi-button monstrosities in some vehicles that look less like a dashboard and more like Tokyo at night.

The Ascent rides on Subaru’s global platform that underpins other models, and power comes from the traditional flat-four engine layout, like an old Beetle or Porsche, but punched out to 2.4-liters, turbocharged and inter-cooled to produce 260 horsepower and enough grunt to handle western winters.

A continuously variable automatic transmission is the only one available.

Prices start in the mid-$30,000 range, and end up in the mid-40’s. So, this is the family hauler of today, even in parts of the country where a minivan might make more sense. But honestly. Who wants to be seen in a minivan?

The Subaru Ascent is a first rate entrant in this growing segment, and a force to be reckoned with for everyone else.