The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport stands out from all the other new small crossovers new that were not good enough to qualify for The Car Connection's Best Car To Buy 2021. This dual-natured crossover SUV honors its namesake with the ability to hustle around town and get there efficiently on the highway, and bust out from the workaday doldrums with genuine off-road capability.
Smaller than the Ford Escape, the new 2021 Bronco Sport fills a gap between the road-mannered Escape and the larger Ford Bronco overlander, which is a true and compelling competitor to the Jeep Wrangler. The Bronco Sport should sideswipe sales from suburban Wrangler lovers with its boxed ends, tall roof, and cladded bumpers that could be studded with tow hooks on the Badlands trim.
The plastic rubberized look of a hiking boot carries over inside, where function outpaces form with clever storage areas in the center stack, under a rear seat, on zippered seatback pockets latticed with Molle straps, and in the spacious cargo area, where available rubberized floor mats make it easy to wash out the debris from weekend getaways.
Getting away is made possible in part by an 8-speed automatic transmission that hesitates when pressed hard. It moves all four wheels from a choice of either a small but potent 1.5-liter turbo-3 that makes 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque in base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trims, or a brawny 2.0-liter turbo-4 in Badlands and First Edition trims that makes 245 hp and 275 lb-ft. The latter, more off-road capable models come with an advanced twin-clutch rear differential that can send all the rear torque to either wheel, and it comes with two additional drive modes for Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
The tall ride height and upright windows provide commanding views of the road and trail, and even though towing capacity maxes out at 2,200 pounds, the boxy greenhouse with a flip-up glass liftgate enables 65 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seats, same as the Escape, but the Escape can't fit two mountain bikes in back with the front tires removed. Although it can technically seat five, the rear leg room is not as good as the Escape.
Standard features such as automatic emergency braking and active lane control, as well as an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility make for a practical value starting at about $28,000. The standard roof rails and LED floodlights in the liftgate, as well as a built-in bottle opener and carabineer hooks everywhere, emphasize that the Bronco Sport is about much more than being practical on the road. Ford offers more than 100 optional accessories, from a rear underseat storage pocket to 29.5-inch all-terrain tires to ford 23.6 inches of water.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is a welcome addition to a homogenous and oversaturated small crossover field, but will it be enough to outdo our other finalists at the Best Car To Buy 2021?
Follow along as we crown The Car Connection's Best Car To Buy 2021 on Jan. 4, and reveal the best vehicles in 15 categories to help you choose the best cars, trucks, and SUVs. Vote for our annual Driver’s Choice awards and tell us what you think is best in every category. We'll also announce the winners from our sister sites, Motor Authority and Green Car Reports.