New for 2021, you can think of the Ford Bronco Sport as the more accessible version of Ford's brawnier Bronco body-on-frame SUV. This unibody crossover shares a lot under the skin with Ford's latest Escape, but it has a completely different look and feel. Furthermore, the Sport can be equipped to deliver a shocking amount of off-road capability.
Whereas the "big" two- and four-door Bronco squares off against Jeep's iconic Wrangler, the four-door-only Bronco Sport lines up best against models like the Jeep Compass and Subaru Crosstrek. Powered by either a 1.5-liter turbocharged in-line three-cylinder or an optional 2.0-liter turbo four, the compact Bronco Sport pairs ruggedly handsome, upright styling with standard all-wheel drive and surprisingly competent on-road manners.
Loaded with clever features like a cargo shelf that can be converted into a table and an integrated tailgate bottle opener, the Bronco Sport seems tailor made for outdoorsy types who don't need a heavy-duty, ladder-frame SUV, but who still want more off-road chops than today's typical car-based crossover vehicles. The Blue Oval is emphasizing the model's adventurous look and feel by offering accessory packages geared toward campers, cyclists, and so on.
It'd be tempting to suggest that the Bronco Sport is little more than a typical mall-crawler crossover playing off-road dress up, but the reality is that this vehicle is profoundly capable in the rough stuff, especially off-road-minded trims like the Badlands, which is outfitted with additional ground clearance, knobbier tires and more sophisticated AWD hardware.
This isn't the full-beans Bronco, but rather the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport, a compact unibody crossover meant as a slightly smoother-edged complement to the rough-and-tumble big boy. That might make it seem like it's rife for undesirable compromises, but nope, this blocky little thing lives up to its name, and then some.
No matter where I go, everyone knows what I'm driving. Then again, it's probably not because everybody has been clamoring for Broncos since the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, but rather because the thing says "BRONCO" in big-ass bold typeface across the grille and again on the trunk. Yes, there are some physical similarities between the Sport and the big-boy Bronco, largely around the grille area and in its rectilinear silhouette, but the Bronco Sport does an excellent job as a standalone vehicle. You'll never know it shares some of its underpinnings with the equally compact Escape.
This specific Bronco Sport is the Badlands model, the second-most expensive trim under the First Edition. It's also the one meant to best express the Bronco Sport's off-road aspirations, thanks to extraneous bits like metal bash plates, unique 17-inch alloy wheels and slightly knobby Pirelli Scorpion ATR all-terrain tires. Throw in an extra inch or so of ground clearance -- also part of the Badlands upgrade -- and you've got a crossover that's about the size of a Jeep Compass, except a bit taller and way cooler looking.
The Good ~ Great aesthetics ~ Solid off-road capability ~ 2.0-liter I4 can scoot
The Bad ~ Dirt-friendly suspension is a little stiff ~ Shift dial is kind of meh ~ Tiny door pockets
The Bottom Line The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is one of the most compelling vehicles Ford has built in years.
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