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2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs. 2020 Jeep Compass Trailhawk: Compare Crossover SUVs

July 16, 2020
2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

The Bronco is not the only Ford hungry to take a bite out of Jeep’s off-road dominance. The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport squares off against the 2020 Jeep Compass Trailhawk in a battle of compact crossover SUVs that seat up to five and promise to be comfy on the streets but loaded with off-road treats. 

Though the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is born of the Ford Escape with shared powertrains and technology, it has been raised and influenced by the 2021 Ford Bronco to have bona fide off-road capability. The Jeep family tells a similar story with the Trailhawk model, which aspires to be like the Wrangler even though it’s based on the Jeep Compass, which is a common compact crossover with little to no-off road ambition.

The 2020 Jeep Compass earns a TCC Rating of 5.3, but the pricier, better-equipped Trailhawk would bump up that score if it were tested separately. We won’t have a score for the 2021 Bronco Sport until it’s tested late in the year. For now, here’s how these dual-natured compact crossovers compare on paper. 

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

Styling

Both models measure 173 inches in length, and the 17-inch wheels of the 2021 Bronco Sport are pushed more to the edges than the 17ers on the 2020 Compass Trailhawk. This gives the Trailhawk an edge when it comes to breakover angle and not scraping the underbody when crawling over rocks or curbs.

But the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport looks cooler, at least until you get to the rear. With its rounded headlights, flat door panels and hood, boxy edges, round wheel arches, and big Bronco-stamped grille it looks more like a classic Bronco than a modern Escape. The liftgate eschews the full-size spare tire on the Big Bronco for flip-up glass that makes everyday living a little easier. But the butt on the Bronco Sport has a squared-off roof line vaguely like a Land Rover that increases cargo room but is clad with an incongruous triangular slab that separates the rear windows. It’s a goiter on an otherwise handsome design.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

The Trailhawk wears its Jeep pedigree more subtly and more like a Grand Cherokee, with a modern seven-slot grille but with rectangular headlights instead of the Wrangler’s classic globes. The Trailhawk comes with two-tone color options on the roof and hood decal. Twin red tow hooks in the front and one in the rear, as well as black cladding over the squared off wheel arches complete the more harmonious but more common design. 

Performance

The Bronco Sport costs $28,155 for a base model with all-wheel drive, while the Compass Trailhawk costs $31,345.. Five trim levels on the Bronco Sport, as well as options and packages on both models tempt shoppers near the $40,000 range.

The first choice for the Bronco Sport will be whether to get the base 1.5-liter turbo-3 that makes 181-horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque with an 8-speed automatic transmission, or to opt up to a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 245 hp and 275 lb-ft. That 8-speed gets paddle shifters and a transmission cooler. 

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

Even with the uprated engine, towing capacity maxes out at 2,200 pounds in the Bronco Sport. In upper Badlands and First Edition trims with the larger engine, the all-wheel-drive system has a more sophisticated twin-clutch rear differential that can split the torque between each rear wheel for maximum grip. Those more off-road oriented models also get Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes added to the five standard drive modes, and an off-road suspension with larger tires and 8.8 inches of ground clearance instead of 7.8 inches on the base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trims of the Bronco Sport

The Compass Trailhawk simplifies some choices, with 8.5 inches of ground clearance and just a 2,000-pound towing capacity from its lone engine. Its 2.4-liter inline-4 makes 180 hp and 175 lb-ft, and comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission with a low first gear that simulates a 20:1 crawl ratio. It comes with hill descent and five drive modes. Off the trail and on the road, the extra gears can be indecisive and don’t help fuel economy much, with an EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined. 

The Bronco Sport should beat it based on the 26/31/28 mpg of the Escape AWD with the smaller engine, but it hasn’t been rated by the EPA yet. 

Seating, safety, and other features

Both models are similar in length but the 2021 Bronco Sport is two inches wider, and nearly six inches taller, which translates to more cargo volume. With the larger turbo-4, the Bronco Sport has more than 32 cubic feet with the rear seats up compared to 27 cubic feet in the Compass Trailhawk. Fold down the seats and the Sport opens up to 65 cubic feet to the Trailhawk’s 60 cubic feet. That boxed-off end makes a difference. 

The Compass Trailhawk comes reasonably well-equipped but without key safety features offered as standard on many new cars, including the Bronco Sport. Basic safety features such as automatic emergency braking require two packages that total nearly $2,000. Shame, Jeep, shame.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

2020 Jeep Compass

Yet it comes with plenty of convenience and tech features, including a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, at least two USB ports, XM radio, dual-zone climate control, power windows and doors but not a power liftgate, and keyless start and entry. Available features include leather bucket seats, reversible cargo mats, heated and cooled front seats, and more. 

The 2021 Bronco Sport comes standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams. Also standard are an 8.0-inch touchscreen also with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, four USB ports, flood lights, and more. 

The Bronco Sport gets the edge inside with better standard content, more room, and more than 100 accessories for the off-road set. It gets the edge on paper, too.


Summary

5.3
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass is smartly sized and priced but lacks in key areas like safety and efficiency.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport carves out a new all-terrain niche for one of the most beloved off-road names in auto history.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass is a miniature Grand Cherokee from a looks standpoint, and that’s okay with us.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass is comfortable to drive and capable off road, but its more popular drivetrain is a letdown.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass is reasonably comfortable and spacious for four adults.
Read More

Safety

3.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass expands available safety features, but mixed crash test results are cause for concern.
Read More

Features

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass is better value at the bottom of the range with key options like safety tech now available.
Read More

Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Jeep Compass manages around 25 mpg combined regardless of powertrain choice.
Read More

MSRP

from $22,280
from $26,660

Invoice

from $22,112
from $26,260

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

26
- TBD -

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded I-3, 1.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Four Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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