2021 Ford Bronco Sport

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
July 10, 2021

Buying tip

For off-roading, pick the Badlands trim. Otherwise Big Bend offers the most value.

features & specs

Badlands 4x4
Base 4x4
Big Bend 4x4
21 city / 26 hwy
25 city / 28 hwy
25 city / 28 hwy

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport carves out a new all-terrain niche for one of the most beloved off-road names in auto history.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport? What does it compare to?

The new Ford Bronco Sport small crossover SUV bridges the gap between the around-town Ford Escape and the off-road Ford Bronco. It can get around any terrain, similar to trail-rated versions of the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Compass, or like the Subaru Crosstrek. 

Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport a good SUV?

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Yes, and that should intimidate Subaru and Jeep. It earns a TCC Rating of 7.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport?

Everything, except the core part of its historic name. The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is based on the Ford Escape platform, but it stands out for delivering off-road capability in a segment that often lacks it.  

The Bronco Sport resurrects square ends, a tall roof, and heavily cladded bumpers that are much more than cosmetic. Durable cladding carries over inside, with functional plastics and clever storage areas from the dash to the tiered cargo floor. 

With a standard 1.5-liter turbo-3 and five drive modes, the base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models can hit the highway or the trail with equal efficiency. 

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 is standard in Badlands and First Edition models. It uses a twin-clutch rear differential that can shift up to 100% torque to either rear wheel, and it adds two more drive modes that adapt throttle and traction settings to the conditions. 

The independent front and rear suspension comes with softer springs on top trims to smooth out judders, jumps, and jounces encountered on hill, dale, or creek. On the road, the ride quality might be a little rougher and louder than the Escape, but it’s a welcome reminder that an escape is one unmarked turn away.

Total cargo volume of 65 cubic feet behind the front seats matches the Escape, but the rear seats are not as wide and roomy. Carabiner hooks and tie downs, available storage pockets under the rear passenger seat, Molle straps on zippered rear pockets, and more than 100 other accessories can outfit the Bronco Sport. 

Crash-test ratings from the NHTSA are great, and the IIHS gives it a Top Safety Pick+. The Bronco Sport can avoid or mitigate crashes with standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams. Options include adaptive cruise control and a front camera. 

How much does the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport cost?

With an expensive destination fee of $1,495, the 2021 Bronco Sport starts at $28,155, but it comes well equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. We’d maximize the space and utility with the Big Bend trim for $29,655 and its rubberized cargo floor mats and additional options. The $39,655 First Edition sold out with a limited run of 2,000 units.  

Where is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport made?

In Mexico. 


2021 Ford Bronco Sport


The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport stands out in a class that’s all too similar.

Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport a good-looking car?

Yes. The Ford Bronco Sport wears a chip on its square shoulders as one of the only small crossovers that looks and acts like an SUV. 

The boxy body draws its lines from the new Bronco and the nameplate’s storied past, looking both retro and new. Up front, eyelet LED headlights flank the Bronco name written in block letters across  a block grille. Turbo-3 models have Bronco lettering on the grille, while turbo-4 versions have black lettering. A lower grille boxed in heavy cladding carries around to the round wheel arches, rocker panels, and rear bumper. The hood flexes twin bulges the size of a 2x6 and features peaked corners that aid vision from inside the cabin. 

Up top, roof rails come standard, and the square roof sets it apart from other small crossovers; a split tailgate with flip-up glass harks to the first generation Ford Escape.  The black roof on Outer Banks trim is a nice contrast. 

Inside, durable textured plastic adorns the dash and cargo area, interrupted only by cloth seats or two-tone leather-trimmed upholstery on higher trims. The rubbery plastic works here, as an easy-to-clean surface in character with the Bronco Sport. Vertical, truck-like vents flank the touchscreen and band of controls, and a shelf perfect for stowing a phone separates the media from the climate controls. A wireless charging pad with USB ports bridges the center stack and narrow console that houses an electronic gear selector dial and a small terrain-management dial.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport


Off-road capable and all-road comfortable, the Bronco Sport is an uncommon compact crossover.

The choice of two small turbocharged engines and two all-wheel-drive systems provides far more variability and customization than the Bronco Sport’s car-based cousin.

We give it a point for its off-road chops and a point for its powertrain to get to a 7. 

How fast is the Ford Bronco Sport?

A small but potent 1.5-liter turbo-3 used in the Ford Escape makes 181 hp and 190 pound-feet of torque to power the base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trims. It balances acceleration and efficiency to satisfy passing moves on the highway and to spring off the line or over rockier terrain. It’s not quick by any means, but it’s no dud either.   

A 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the Badlands and First Edition makes 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque that kicks up plenty of dirt and can spin the 28.5-inch all-terrain tires from a stop on pavement. 

Both engines use an 8-speed automatic transmission. Under heavy throttle, the early gears experience dramatic shifts as if announcing the impending shift instead of just shifting. Under normal driving conditions it’s predictable and well-behaved, and is more responsive than most CVTs.  

The tall ride height and boxy greenhouse provide commanding views of the road from all angles, but at times over rougher pavement the cargo area can rattle.   

Is the Ford Bronco Sport 4WD?

The Bronco Sport comes with a choice of two all-wheel-drive units. The standard system with the 1.5-liter turbo-3 splits power front and rear to adjust for traction needs, and comes with five selectable drive modes, Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand. The more advanced system paired with the 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the Badlands and First Edition uses a twin-clutch rear differential that can send all of the rear-wheel torque to either wheel. It comes with two additional terrain modes, Mud/Ruts for climbing and traversing muck, and Rock Crawl. 

Sand mode allows for hill climbing and deep rut traversing, as well as playing at higher speeds in the sandbox of an old rock quarry or other places we wouldn’t dare take the Ford Escape. The 7.9-inch ground clearance (Base and Big Bend have 7.8 inches) helps the Bronco Sport  ford up to 17.7 inches of water, which is about an inch shy of the Jeep Compass Trailhawk. The 21.7-degree approach angle and 30.4-degree departure angle trails the Trailhawk, but they’re better than the Subaru Crosstrek and Outback. Still, the edges and exhaust system risk getting scraped when riding over boulders. 

MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link rear suspension make for a pliant ride on and off road. Tire and wind noise are louder than the Escape at highway speeds, but that’s in keeping with the off-road mission. 

On top trims, a hill descent control can be set up to 20 mph to take over brake and throttle until the driver presses the accelerator or a button. A front 180-degree camera comes on automatically in the Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes and shuts off automatically above 13 mph. 

Ground clearance increases to 8.8 inches with the optional 29.5-inch all-terrain tires, and water fording capability increases to 23.6 inches. Four skid plates and steeper approach (30.4 degrees) and departure (33.3 degrees) angles protect the underbody for more aggressive off-roading.

Badlands and First Edition also use monotube rear shocks, softer springs, and an isolated front and rear suspension that allows for 8.0 inches of travel. 

Turbo-3 models can tow 2,000 pounds; the turbo-4 can haul 2,200 pounds.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Comfort & Quality

The Bronco Sport puts the utility in sport utility vehicle with clever packaging and versatile space.

With seating for five and a big cargo area, the 2021 Bronco Sport can be used to carpool to practice or to hit the trailhead. Seat comfort is unremarkable but the boxy roof provides plenty of head room front and back. It’s a 7. 

With its manual seats and plastic body panels, the Bronco Sport doesn’t conceal its utilitarian nature. That’s fine, because it’ll make it that much easier to clean off the muck. Higher trims come with leather bucket seats but in any trim and either cloth or leather, the seat bottoms tend toward the short side.

The Bronco Sport is 8.6 inches shorter in length but 4.0 inches taller than the Escape. Rear leg room gets trimmed nearly 4.0 inches to 36.9 inches in the Bronco Sport, and the 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats 5.0 cubic feet less than the Escape. 

Fold down the 60/40 split rear seats, however, and the cargo volume between the two is nearly identical at 65 cubic feet thanks to the Bronco Sport’s squared-off end.  

The Bronco Sport fits things better than it does five adults, and the fold-down armrest is the best use of the middle rear seat. The clever packaging starts up front with a shelf between the touchscreen and climate controls perfectly sized for a phone, and extends to the rear, where the cargo floor can be lowered a couple inches to fit taller items. Side pockets, tie downs, carabiner hooks, and an available storage area in the rear passenger seat help organize things.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport


Standard driver assist features help the Bronco Sport avoid crashes.

How safe is the Bronco Sport?

The NHTSA gives the Bronco Sport five stars overall, and the IIHS gives it a Top Safety Pick+ award. That's good for a 10 here.

Every Bronco Sport comes with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams. Optional features include adaptive cruise control with stop and go, traffic-sign recognition, and parking sensors.  

The boxy greenhouse creates good sightlines front, side, and rear. That’s unusual for a small crossover.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport


Good standard features complement a heap of options on the Bronco Sport.

The 2021 Bronco Sport comes with a good set of standard features and plenty of options. Overall value also earns it a point, but we wish Ford used its newest Sync4 infotainment software on its newest model to earn another point. It’s an 8.  

Standard features on all Bronco Sports include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, four USB ports, a built-in bottle opener, roof rails, and LED floodlights on the liftgate interior that illuminate a broad half circle behind the car when opened.

The 6.5-inch digital cluster standard on Outer Banks shows a mountain lake under the Milky Way before start up. Options include a five-part cargo management system that slides on a track and can be used as a table, washable rubberized flooring, and a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.   

Which Bronco Sport should I buy?

For $1,500 more, we’d skip the base model for the $29,655 Big Bend with its rubberized cargo mats and seat backs, keyless ignition, Molle straps on zippered pockets, and many options. It also has an old feature made new again, with a keypad on the door so you can leave the fob in the car to go for a hike or swim.  

Outer Banks climbs to $33,655 and adds comfort goodies such as heated seats and steering wheel, power front seats trimmed in leather, as well as a black roof and 18-inch black wheels. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Ford Bronco Sport?

The sold-out First Edition tops the charts at $39,655, and combines all of the off-road gear of the Badlands with most of the creature comforts of the Outer Banks. That makes the $34,155 Badlands with the 2.0-liter turbo-4 and all the off-road goodies the most expensive available model. 

In addition to the performance enhancements referenced above, Badlands gets front tow hooks, 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 28.5-inch all-terrain tires, and a front camera with a built-in washer.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Fuel Economy

The Bronco Sport is as capable as it is efficient.

Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport good on gas?

For an all-wheel-drive vehicle with bona fide off-road capability, the 2021 Bronco Sport is very good on gas. The small but potent turbo-3 gets an EPA-rated 25 mpg city, 28 highway, 26 combined. That’s good for a 5. 

The similar Ford Escape gets 26/31/28 mpg, and an all-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee gets 21/29/24 mpg. 

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the Badlands and First Edition trims gets 21/26/23 mpg.

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MSRP based on Base 4x4
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Expert Rating
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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 10
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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