2021 Ford Bronco Sport Flips the Boring Crossover Stereotype

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What kind of off-road stuff does the Bronco Sport get?

Aside from its more expressive styling, the available off-road features might be the reason you choose the Bronco Sport over the Escape. With standard four-wheel drive, along with Slippery and Sand traction control modes, every Bronco Sport model should prove quite capable at navigating tricky terrain.

The Badlands and First Edition trim levels raise the ante with an upgraded 4WD system that incorporates a clutch at each rear axle, allowing it to shunt almost all torque to either rear wheel when the situation calls for it. They also add Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl traction modes, extra powertrain coolers, unique suspension upgrades and all-terrain tires.

Available features include Trail Control. This is a kind of off-road cruise control you can use to have the Bronco Sport accelerate (up to 20 mph) and brake automatically while you just worry about steering. There’s also a front-facing camera to help you watch for objects and other obstructions while off-roading, and it even comes with a washing system to keep mud from obscuring the lens. You can further spec front tow hooks in case you run into a jam.

How does the Bronco Sport drive?

Standard on the base, Big Bend and Outer Banks trim levels is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. You also get 4WD and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Upgrade to the off-road-oriented Badlands or First Edition, and you’ll be rewarded with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 245 hp and 275 lb-ft, plus a more off-road-capable 4WD system.

So far we’ve only driven the Bronco Sport with the 2.0-liter engine. It provides a pleasing amount of power and the eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly. When you’re just cruising around town, the Bronco Sport feels nimble and pretty easy to drive. But the steering is shockingly light and vague, especially on initial turn-in. It only stiffens up midway through a corner. On twisty roads, this uneasy sensation is a problem.

Once you venture off-road, the Bronco Sport shows off its many party tricks. In the fully loaded First Edition trim, which comes with an upgraded suspension and two additional drive modes, the Bronco Sport is admirably playful on light to moderate trails. It not only takes bumps and bends with ease but also willingly encourages you to go faster. We haven’t had the chance to tackle low-speed obstacles or steep inclines, so we don’t know yet how effective the Bronco Sport’s upgraded rear differential is for maximizing available traction.

How comfortable is the Bronco Sport?

You’ll first notice that the Bronco Sport provides a lot of space for driver and passengers, particularly when it comes to headroom. That upright profile easily lends itself to taller folks. Our initial impression is that the second row lacks legroom for adults over long drives, however. It will either take some creative front-seat positioning or a little backseat yoga to keep people comfortable back there. Kids though? No problem.

The Bronco Sport’s ride is comfortable. But at highway speeds, there’s a fair amount of wind noise, and the available off-road suspension can make some noticeable noise when driving over bumps.

How’s the Bronco Sport’s interior?

There are neat little touches sprinkled throughout the cabin and cargo area of the Bronco Sport. Added up, they bring a lot of personality to the vehicle, and it’s something we’d like to see in more crossover SUVs. In the front you have a deep center console, two flat storage trays below the touchscreen and a functional controls layout. In the back there are seatback pouches that zip shut, plus underseat storage and cargo netting on the Badlands and First Edition.

How’s the Bronco Sport’s tech?

The standard 8-inch touchscreen runs on Ford’s Sync 3 operating system. We consider it one of the better systems out there. Still, it would be nice to have the updated Sync 4 system that will come with the bigger Bronco. More disappointing, though, is that integrated navigation is not standard on any trim, even the Badlands and First Edition. This may not seem like a big deal since both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. However, in remote locales where cell signals are scarce, a preloaded map frequently comes in handy. Integrated navigation is optional on the Outer Banks and Badlands trims.

All trims come with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of active safety features, which consists of forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a blind-spot monitor and lane keeping assist. You can also add Co-Pilot360 Assist+ with lane centering, adaptive cruise control and navigation, or Co-Pilot360 2.0 with traffic sign recognition that allows the adaptive cruise system to alter speed based on the observed speed limit.

How’s the Bronco Sport’s storage?

Storage is one area where the Bronco Sport stands out in its class, especially given that it will matter to all owners whether they off-road regularly or not. The Bronco Sport slots between the Cherokee and the RAV4 in terms of cargo space behind the second row of seats, at up to 32.5 cubic feet in some trims, but it certainly tops the class in usefulness and attention to detail. To start, you can load items into the rear by lifting up the entire liftgate as usual. But you can also just flip up the rear window and reach inside — a handy trick that’s not only convenient but also keeps other items from spilling out if you have a full load of groceries, sports equipment or camping gear.

Badlands and First Edition models have an available storage bin under the rear passenger seat where you can store muddy shoes, and the front seatbacks have cargo netting for linking loose items with a carabiner. In the back there are tie-downs, clothes hanger hooks, multiple power outlets and available floodlights. It’s just a very useful and thought-out utility space. Ford is also making more than 100 accessories available, among them an interior bike rack and a cargo management system that transforms into a work table.

Is the Bronco Sport a good value?

Value is always in the eye of the beholder, but that is even more true in the case of the Bronco Sport. Its functional space, technology and standard all-wheel drive make the base model price very attractive at around $28,000 (including destination). That’s about what you’d pay to get into a base version of a Jeep Cherokee or Toyota RAV4.

Materials-wise, there is a lot of plastic inside the Bronco Sport — even on higher trims. That’s not atypical for a small SUV, and Ford instilled it with a lot of style and visually appealing design to keep things interesting. The interior works for us, especially considering what the Bronco Sport is designed to do. If you want leather and premium trim, there’s always the Mazda CX-5.

Edmunds says

This is a genuinely fun and well-executed small SUV that’s bursting with charm. If you’re looking for style, off-road performance or customization from your next small crossover SUV, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is seriously worth checking out.

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