2021 Ford Bronco Sport Review | Bronco for the masses

Zac Palmer
·9 min read

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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’s the Bronco Sport’s 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 some key differences help take it above and beyond. 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).

Then, there are the features that weekend hiking and camping warriors will like. You can spec MOLLE straps for quick item access, rear campsite lights in the liftgate, in-vehicle dual-bike storage capability and rubberized easy-to-clean mats everywhere. And those are just some highlights of the extensive outdoor lifestyle option and accessory list.

Ford makes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on the touchscreen that runs Sync 3. It’s 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. 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 moonroof.

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. Plus, the 32.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity is huge for maximum storage when heading into the wild. The Bronco Sport’s square, tall shape helps make it one of the most utilitarian vehicles at its size — it’s nearly as cavernous as the Escape despite being more than half a foot shorter.

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What’s the performance and fuel economy?

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. 

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. 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 peppy, but not especially quick, and the three-cylinder doesn’t sound half bad under load. The transmission just melts into the background, which is just as well for a vehicle like this — it neither frustrates nor wows. There’s an extra bounce and stiffness to the on-road ride in the standard Bronco Sport you don’t get in other crossovers this size — we’ll note that we still haven’t driven a Badlands trim and its unique suspension on-road. The standard Bronco Sport is not so stiff as to be uncomfortable, but you can tell there’s an off-road-tuned suspension underneath. 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, the Bronco Sport 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. We only drove the 2.0-turbo off-road, but found it to have more than enough power for the task. The trick rear differential is a total hoot in loose sand, too, letting the Bronco Sport drift about to our heart’s content.

What more can I read about the Bronco Sport?

2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Drive | Worthy of the name

Our first drive of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport where we go over everything about the new model and tell you our first impressions.


2021 Ford Bronco Sport trim breakdown | How the five trims differ

We break down all five trims of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport — Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs Jeep Cherokee, Compass Trailhawks | How they compare on paper

We compare the Bronco Sport with its closest off-road-ready competition, the Jeep Compass and Jeep Cherokee.


We compare 2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport specifications to their ritzy Land Rover competiton

Our on-paper comparison of the Bronco Sport and big Bronco 4-Door with their Land Rover equivalents.


Everything we know about the 2021 Ford Bronco

In case this wasn't the Bronco you were looking for, here's the big one.

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What features are available and what’s the price?

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, specs and local pricing here in our trim level breakdown.

  • Base: $28,155

  • Big Bend: $29,655

  • Outer Banks: $33,655

  • Badlands: $34,155

  • First Edition: $39,995

What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?

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.

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