The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is Ford’s more affordable, mainstream foil to the big Bronco 2-Door and 4-Door. It’s a car-based small crossover, not the body-on-frame Wrangler competitor that the standard Bronco is. Despite Escape-based underpinnings, though, this isn’t an Escape with a Bronco badge on it. Ford went to great lengths to make the Bronco Sport a worthy off-road companion, allowing it to punch far higher off-road than any Escape does.
It’s meant to be the car for outdoor adventurers who frequently find themselves trekking back into areas that a typical car or crossover wouldn’t make it through, but still be usable as a comfortable daily driver for the work week. The big Bronco-inspired design means it looks the part, and our time behind the wheel gives us confidence that Ford nailed the fine tuning for what a Bronco Sport should feel like on the road. There are neat touches like the optional steel-look wheels and bottle opener in the hatch, plus a massive aftermarket accessory catalog that help it stand out from the homogenous crowd of other crossovers this size (which, by the way, is smaller than the Escape and in an in-betweener class that includes the Kia Seltos and Jeep Compass). Hardcore off-road enthusiasts should wait for the regular Bronco, but the Bronco Sport might be all the SUV many folks need.
What’s new for 2021?
The Bronco Sport is a completely new model for 2021.
What are the Bronco Sport interior and in-car technology like?
The Bronco Sport feels like a little truck inside. You sit in an upright position and gaze over a long, straight hood with two large power bulges. Its interior design reveals the Bronco Sport’s shared DNA with the Escape, but there are abundant differences that make the cabin unique. The air vents are higher, straddling the shared 8-inch touchscreen, freeing up space for a handy shelf for a phone or something else small. There are also nifty touches like the rubberized, graspable adjustment prongs on those air vents, plus high-quality pieces like the spongy soft-touch dash and sturdy GOAT Modes dial (that would be Go Over Any Terrain, the Bronco term for off-road drive settings). Admittedly, there are plenty of cheaper plastics throughout, and although Ford’s use of color and fabric choices elevates the cabin in upper trim levels, the rather utilitarian design prevents any semblance of a premium atmosphere. Is that a bad thing? You decide.
Beyond the multiple storage solutions up front, there are numerous features as you move rearward for weekend hiking and camping warriors. Certain trim levels get zippered pockets and MOLLE straps on the front seatbacks (how has no one thought of these before?), the liftgate has two LED camp lights and big grab handles that can double as a place to hang wet items, and the raised roof rails are the robust real deal (not raised rails or fake rails with fixed attachment points). Plus, there’s also the extensive outdoor lifestyle option and accessory list, which includes in-vehicle dual-bike storage capability and rubberized easy-to-clean flooring.
The infotainment system is Ford’s previous-generation software (the big Bronco, F-150 and Mach-E get the newer Sync 4) and is not the quickest unit out there, but it’s still easy to use and presents well. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included as standard, but at least in the case of Apple, so many functions are restricted while driving (particularly selecting songs and playlists) that it’s almost better to just use the native Sync 3 interfaces. Four USB ports are standard. A 4.2-inch central screen in the cluster is too, but higher trims offer a larger 6.5-inch screen in between the physical gauge set. More luxury features get tacked on at the higher trim levels like a B&O premium audio system, wireless phone charger and sunroof.
How big is the Bronco Sport?
While the Bronco Sport may ride on the Escape’s platform, it’s a good deal smaller than the Escape in overall size. It measures up closer to larger subcompact crossovers like the Jeep Compass, Kia Seltos and Chevy Trailblazer. The small size is great for off-roading in tight situations, but it’s less family friendly than many other more road-oriented crossovers.
Despite the Bronco Sport being on the smaller side, it’s big inside. You can comfortably seat adults in the back as the 36.9 inches of rear legroom is comparable to the Mazda CX-30, and a touch smaller than the Jeep Compass. Still, a rear-facing child seat is a tight fit, so this isn’t the best choice for families despite having plenty of cargo capacity to do the job. Indeed, its 32.5 cubic feet of space behind its raised back seat not blows away crossovers that are similarly sized on the outside and rivals those that are much bigger like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. In fact, you have to slide the Ford Escape’s back seat far forward in order to match the Bronco Sport’s luggage-carrying capability. How is it possible? Credit the square, tall shape. We dig deeper into the Bronco Sport’s cargo capacity in our luggage test.
What are the Bronco Sport fuel economy and performance specs?
The base engine in most trims (Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks) is a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder that produces 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive comes standard. Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. This is lower than most competitors. Basically, when it comes to aerodynamics, boxes are not better.
You get the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with the Badlands and First Edition trim. This engine puts out 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. It’s also mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, but it adds a torque-vectoring rear differential to the rear axle for better off-road performance. Fuel economy drops to 21/26/23 mpg with the bigger engine.
What’s the Bronco Sport like to drive?
The Bronco Sport is charming and different in this class of largely similar driving experiences. Nobody will mistake it for an Escape from the driver’s seat. The controls have a truck-ish feel to them. The steering has a hint of play/liveliness, making for a small truck feeling on the road, but still possesses the precision we’ve come to expect from Ford’s cars and crossovers. The wide brake pedal has that heavy feedback we tend to associate with full-size trucks like the F-150. This little crossover is truly trying its best to masquerade as a serious off-roader in a pint-size package.
The 1.5-turbo is not especially quick, but is peppy and has the gravely bulldogish growl that’s typical of a three-cylinder. The transmission just melts into the background, which is just as well for a vehicle like this — it neither frustrates nor wows. As standard powertrains go, you can do a lot worse in the compact crossover realm. That said, you can also do a lot better and go with the 250-hp 2.0-liter found in the Badlands, which is further paired with an upgraded, torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system that’s as much a benefit on road as it is off.
Regardless of trim level, there’s an extra bounce and stiffness to the on-road ride you don’t get in other crossovers this size, likely the result of its shorter wheelbase and off-road-ready suspension. That doesn’t translate into corner-carving prowess, as the Bronco Sport is a little sloppy when you start to push. More on-road-intended competitors like the Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-30 have both superior ride comfort and better handling. So too does the Ford Escape. When off-road, though, the Bronco Sport shines and is way better than you might expect. Each GOAT mode (Go Over Any Terrain) makes the Bronco Sport drive noticeably different by altering the all-wheel-drive torque split, transmission shift points, traction control/stability control settings, throttle tuning, brake tuning, and steering weight. It’s also important to note that the Badlands has an extra inch of ground clearance over the other versions. While inching along a trail, we could hear an Outer Banks and Big Bend Bronco Sport bottoming out in places where our Badlands was just fine. Its torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system was also beneficial when driving in sand.
What other Bronco Sport reviews can I read?
Our first drive of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport where we go over everything about the new model and tell you our first impressions.
Our review of the Badlands trim, which is more than just the most off-road-ready trim level. Its more powerful engine and more sophisticated torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system are beneficial no matter where you’re driving.
The First Edition was basically the more rugged and powerful Badlands with the more luxurious interior of the Outer Banks. That includes Cyber Orange paint, which is otherwise exclusive to the Badlands.
How much is the Bronco Sport price and what features are available?
For the most in-depth trim level and pricing information, check out our Bronco Sport trim level breakdown where we go into great detail on how the trims are different both aesthetically speaking and in how they’re equipped. Ford organizes the Bronco Sport trims different from any other vehicle in its lineup save the Bronco 2-Door and 4-Door. For a brief overview, continue below.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport starts at $28,155 for the Base model, including the $1,495 destination charge. For this, you get halogen headlights, a manual liftgate w/flood lights, roof rails, manual driver seat adjustment, single-zone manual climate control, carpeted floor mats, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment (w/Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), a six-speaker audio system and a suite of driver assistance features we’ll detail in the safety section below. It’s only available with the 1.5-turbo.
If you want the 2.0-turbo, the cheapest entry point into that is the Badlands trim at $34,155. It comes with a huge array of off-road goodies like the torque-vectoring rear diff, additional transmission and rear-drive coolers, bash plates, front tow hooks, all-terrain tires and unique Badlands suspension. More luxury/convenience features are along for the ride, too, including full LED headlights and foglights, rubberized flooring, additional power points (including a 110V), power driver seat, heated front seats and the ability to spec a wide array of other options.
Below is the full pricing structure for the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport. Again, you can find a full breakdown of features here in our Bronco Sport trim level breakdown, plus specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.
- Base: $28,155
- Big Bend: $29,655
- Outer Banks: $33,655
- Badlands: $34,155
- First Edition: $39,995
What are the Bronco Sport safety ratings and driver assistance features?
Every Bronco Sport comes with the Ford Co-Pilot360 driver assistance suite as standard. This includes forward automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, lane-keeping assist and auto high beams. An Assist+ package is available that adds adaptive cruise control, lane centering assist, evasive steering assist and speed sign recognition.
No independent crash testing agencies have tested the Bronco Sport as of this writing.