2021 Ford Bronco Sport: 6 Things We Like, 3 We Don’t

2021 Ford Bronco Sport: 6 Things We Like, 3 We Don’t

01/09/2021

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport blends a rugged-looking exterior with standard four-wheel drive and impressive off-roading credentials. Yet to many SUV shoppers, the Bronco Sport is just the smaller, more user-friendly and ultimately less macho version of the larger and similarly brand-new Bronco. The bigger Bronco is the one with the removable doors and mud-loving road manners designed to challenge the Jeep Wrangler for go-anywhere bragging rights.

… Except during our time with the Bronco Sport, we concluded it could be the better choice for many SUV shoppers. Easier to maneuver and with a handsome interior, the Bronco Sport comes loaded with sought-after tech and safety features. Sure, the larger Bronco is a brute when the road turns into a rocky, muddy mess, but the Bronco Sport has a surprising amount of off-road prowess — more than enough to challenge rivals like the Jeep Cherokee or even the Land Rover Discovery Sport

Be certain to read our complete review of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport by following the related link above. For a summary of things we liked most about this square-shaped SUV — plus a couple of items that could use some more work — keep reading below.

Things We Like

1. Feels Big, Drives Small

The Bronco Sport shares part of its underlying structure with the Escape. As we point out in our review, this relates to lots of mechanical bits the average SUV buyer would never see or care much about. The Bronco Sport is shorter than the Escape both in terms of overall size and wheelbase. The square-cut exterior gives the Bronco Sport a unique look, and from behind the wheel, it feels bigger than it is; that’s a good thing in terms of headroom, outward visibility and the rugged appeal that comes with driving a traditionally styled SUV.

We discovered the Bronco Sport counters this broad-shouldered first impression with steering that’s agile, a ride that’s comfortable and proportions that make tight parking maneuvers — or adventures on narrow trails — a cinch.  

2. Plenty of Power

The Bronco Sport’s base engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder that delivers 181 horsepower and 190 pounds-feet of torque. It comes coupled to an eight-speed automatic, standard four-wheel drive and an electronic Terrain Management System with five different settings. We think it provides more than enough performance to satisfy SUV shoppers. Optional is a 250-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that comes standard in the Badlands and First Edition trims. This provides a solid dose of extra power, but it’s nice to know that upgrading engines isn’t essential to getting the most out of the Bronco Sport.

3. Different Trims, Different Personalities

The Ford Bronco Sport is offered in five trim levels: Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition. We spent much of our time with the Badlands variant, a model aimed directly at the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. Fitted with off-roading gear like beefier all-terrain tires and a raised suspension, the Bronco Sport Badlands is ideal if you plan on regularly venturing off paved roads. The Base and Big Bend lean more toward value and everyday comfort thanks to features like an 8-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and lengthy lineup of active safety features. The Outer Banks trim is posher, with luxury touches like leather seats and 18-inch wheels. The First Edition is fully loaded — but if you’re interested, it’s too late: This limited-edition run has already been spoken for.

4. Off-Road Capability

The Bronco Sport doesn’t live in the shadow of its big brother when it comes to off-road driving. This is particularly true in the Badlands variant, though all Bronco Sports come with four-wheel drive and push-button settings to allow a driver to tackle all sorts of driving conditions.

5. Industrial Chic Interior

The cabin is another significant step away from the Escape. We said it’s “more industrial” and “rugged,” two traits we think SUV shoppers will enjoy. It’s also more colorful: Ford allows customers a choice of interior color schemes that veer away from the black and gray cabins of many rivals.

6. Smart Details, Lots of Standard Features

It’s worth reiterating the Bronco Sport comes with the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of active safety features and tech touches like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Granted, the 8-inch touchscreen is eclipsed in size by some competitors, but the menus and graphics are intuitive.

One other clever item we enjoy is the flip-up glass rear window. This allows you to add or remove objects in the trunk without needing to raise the entire tailgate. Anyone who’s accidentally emptied groceries onto the ground when lifting a rear hatch will love it.

More From Cars.com:

  • 2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport First Impressions: More Capable Than Expected?
  • 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door and 4-Door: Jeep Has Some Homework to Do
  • 9 Ways the 2021 Ford Bronco is Not a Jeep Wrangler
  • 2021 Ford Bronco Sport: When You Want a Bronco but an Escape Makes More Sense

Things We Don’t

1. Cabin Quirks

The square lines create lots of headroom, but the Bronco Sport isn’t cavernous when it comes to rear legroom; if you need to haul lots of long-limbed people around, the Bronco Sport comes up short. During our time with it, we also found the front seats awkwardly shaped and sized, particularly in the Badlands variant.

2. Where’s the Latest Ford Multimedia System?

Like the Escape, the Bronco Sport must make do with the Sync 3 system and doesn’t get the brand-new Sync 4 that’s in the latest 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck, for example. It’s odd that a brand-new model would be launched with a multimedia system that’s not the automaker’s latest and greatest.

3. It’s Not the Biggest and Baddest of All Broncos

This is more a problem for Ford’s marketing department than a criticism of the SUV itself. Because it shares a name with the bigger Bronco, comparisons will be made between the two Fords. The Bronco Sport is smaller and cheaper, but it’s not to be discounted as “Bronco-lite.” Capable both on-road and off, the Bronco Sport takes the fight to competitors from mainstream brands, and it makes some luxury-branded SUVs seem wildly overpriced.

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