2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks 4×4

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is the little sibling to the all-new Ford Bronco. It has the looks and many of the off-road capabilities of the larger Bronco in a smaller and more affordable package. The Bronco Sport is like a Ford Escape that can tackle tough terrain, and Ford hopes to woo Jeep Compass and Cherokee fans.

Base Price: $32,160
As Tested: $36,045
Horsepower: 181
Mileage: 25 mpg city/28 mpg highway/26 mpg combined

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport has a fun and rugged personality and attracts attention. It generated a lot of thumbs up during my week-long test drive, with folks wanting to know all about it. That’s not something you experience when driving most other compact SUVs and crossover.

The five-passenger 2021 Bronco Sport comes in five trims: base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands, and First Edition. Starting prices range from $26,660 to $38,160. All-wheel-drive is standard on all trims.

Two engines are available. The three lower trims come with a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder that makes 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. The Badlands and First Edition trims get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 245 horses and 275 pound-feet. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Auto start-stop technology is standard on both engines.

The three-banger is surprisingly lively, with enough power for the Bronco to scoot off quickly from a stop and for accelerating on the highway. But plan ahead for passing maneuvers as it can take several seconds to get up to speed, and the engine does make some noise when pressed. The Bronco Sport has civilized manners in town with responsive steering and composed handling, although you will notice bumps and rough roads. There’s no excessive body lean when cornering and the Bronco Sport is easy to maneuver in busy traffic and tight parking spaces. The eight-speed shifts smoothly and quickly.

The Bronco Sport looks like it would be capable of going off the beaten path and it is. Off course, for serious off-roading, you’d want the bigger Bronco or another rival. But Ford says the Bronco Sport was designed with weekend adventures in mind. Ground clearance is 7.8 to 8.8 inches, depending on the trim. All models have an independent front and rear suspension, and G.O.A.T. (goes over any type of terrain) modes. Choose from Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand settings. The Badlands trim adds Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes. Badlands and First Edition models also have an advanced 4×4 system with a twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock feature to allow greater off-road performance. An available front-facing camera with lens washer gives you an extra set of eyes when navigating challenging terrain.

Fuel efficiency is about average for a compact SUV. EPA ratings for my tester are 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with a combined rating of 26. I got 27 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.

When properly equipped, the three lower trims can tow up to 2,000 pounds, and the Badlands and First Edition trims can handle 2,200.

The interior has an airy feel and an appropriate rugged and practical look; however there are lots of plastics which make the cabin look a little cheap. The front is roomy with good leg- and headroom. The rear seats are supportive and comfortable, but the small doors can make it challenging for taller and/or larger passengers to get in. Kids will be fine in back. Controls are easy to reach and use, including the selectable drive modes. The high driving position provides good visibility all the way around.

Standard features include keyless entry, rearview camera, Ford Sync 3 infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, four USB ports and automatic high-beam headlights.

Available features include remote start, push-button start, front-facing trail camera, automatic climate control, navigation, 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, Alexa compatibility, two additional USB ports, wireless device charging, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, moonroof and ambient interior lighting.

Standard driver assistance technologies include blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

Available driver assistance technologies include adaptive cruise control, road sign recognition, and rear parking sensors.

The Bronco Sport has Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system which is user-friendly and still one of the best available with its intuitive menus and quick response times. Physical buttons and knobs make it easy to adjust audio and climate settings. However, it would be nice if the all-new Bronco Sport got Ford’s latest SYNC 4 system.

The Bronco Sport has 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space with both rows of seating in place and 65.2 cubes with the rear seats folded. Ford says there’s enough room to fit two 27.5-inch-wheel mountain bikes standing up. The rear window can be opened by itself which is convenient for loading small items. A hidden compartment under the rear seats, pockets and cubbies accommodate stuff in the cabin. More than 100 factory-backed and aftermarket accessories are available to help you haul gear such as camping equipment, kayaks, surfboards, and skis.

The good:

Solid off-road capability

Standard all-wheel-drive

Rugged good looks

Lots of standard and available features and tech

User-friendly infotainment system

Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

The not-so-good:

Lots of plastics in the cabin

Tight back seats

Doesn’t have Ford’s newest infotainment system

Pricing info:

My tester starts at $32,160. Ford CO-Pilot360 Assist+ is $795 and includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane centering, evasive steering assist, and voice-activated touchscreen navigation. The Outer Banks Package is $1,595. Destination fee is $1,495 bringing the grand total to $36,045.

Bottom line:

The new Ford Bronco Sport has a fun and rugged personality that sets it apart from the sea of compact SUVs and crossovers. It’s got decent off-road chops and room for your gear, as well as civilized manners for driving around town. And you’ll attract attention wherever you go!