2021 Ford Bronco Sport makes a splash known ahead of bigger Bronco

The all-new Bronco Sport First Edition series in Cyber Orange Metallic Tri-Coat. (Pre-production model pictured.)  Ford Motor Co. photo
The all-new Bronco Sport First Edition series in Cyber Orange Metallic Tri-Coat. (Pre-production model pictured.) Ford Motor Co. photo

Baby Bronco can run wild, too

Here’s how the conversation went down on my social media feed after posting photos of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport.

Me: “I’m driving the Bronco this week.”

Them: “Wow, that sure doesn’t look like the Bronco I know.”

Me: “That’s because it’s the Bronco Sport.”

Them: “I’ll wait for the real Bronco then.”

That’s a somewhat typical, although unfair, reaction to the brand-new Ford Bronco Sport. This new entry in the compact SUV segment is nicknamed the “Baby Bronco” by some people. In a way that fits, but in a way it’s unfair as well.

It starts the Bronco Sport off in the wrong way as the little brother and the lesser of the Bronco relaunch.

Without a doubt, the two-door and four-door Bronco (aka the bigger Bronco) is legendary. We’ve been anticipating its relaunch for what seems like 10 years. The original Bronco is iconic. So then, where does that leave the Bronco Sport?

Certainly not iconic. But having spent some time with the Bronco Sport, I don’t want to brush it aside either. It has purpose and is an excellent new vehicle launch for Ford in a highly competitive segment.

Going against rivals like the Jeep Renegade, Jeep Compass and the Chevy Blazer, the Bronco Sport is important to Ford Motor Co. I have no doubt they will sell a lot of these.

The Bronco Sport has a boxy appearance, but that’s to be expected from the Bronco nameplate. Two areas stand out especially for the Bronco Sport – the grille and the expansive and unique color offerings.

Round headlights, synonymous with Bronco, flank the bold Bronco nameplate stamped on the center of the grille. Slashed, narrow LED lights lead out from the round lights, giving the front end balance and essentially a frame for the nameplate.

The back side has less distinction and styling. The Bronco name is once again displayed in a big font, but the word sport is smaller and below it, showing that Ford is trying to capitalize – smartly, I might add – on the Bronco name.

Roof racks and side rails complete the rugged appearance of the Bronco Sport, as do active grille shutters, bash plates and some really bold exterior colors.

There are two engine options for the Bronco Sport. Standard is a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower. My tester was the Badlands trim which comes with a punchier 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that makes 250 HP and 277 lbs.-ft. of torque.

Many Bronco enthusiasts are V8 purists and will scoff at a three-cylinder engine. Thankfully, I got to experience the turbocharged four-banger and was impressed. Off the line it’s impressive; on the highway it does a great job, too. The eight-speed automatic transmission is good, but I was hoping for the 10-speed transmission Ford has for other SUVs. There is no noticeable turbo lag.

Equipped with Ford’s much touted GOAT mode, which stands for Go Over Any Terrain, the Bronco Sport shows it’s not just the bigger Bronco that can handle different terrains.

Inside, the front seats are comfortable. Having the iconic Bronco emblem on the seats is a nice touch. The same emblem is on the steering wheel, too.

The back seat is small and cramped. Adults will not fit very comfortably and will want for legroom. Head room is OK but getting into the back is even difficult, as the Bronco Sport’s rear doors don’t open wide enough.

It was disappointing Ford did not include its new and outstanding Sync 4 system on this Bronco iteration. Rather, it gets the less-inspiring and less-updated Sync 3 infotainment system.

The Bronco Sport has five trims, each with hip, unique names fitting for an off-road-minded vehicle.

The trims are: First Edition, base, Big Bend, Outer Banks and Badlands. Each trim has exclusive features that will draw consumers in. My tester was the Badlands trim, which in addition to the bigger turbo engine, comes with a locking differential, all-terrain tires, shock absorbers, skid plates and rubberized floor mats.

I love how each trim has its own perks and personality. This is a win for the consumer.

The base Bronco Sport starts at $26,660, which is a little more expensive than the rival Jeep, but take my word that the Bronco Sport is much better and more interesting than the Compass. My Badlands tester had a base price of $32,660. The cool Cyber Orange was a premium color and added $595 to the price, as did Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 Assist and 17-inch carbonized aluminum wheels. The final MSRP of my Bronco Sport Badlands was $36,340.

The smaller three-cylinder engine Sports have slightly better EPA ratings with a 25/city and 28/highway rating. The faster (and dare I say, better) turbocharged four-cylinder has an EPA rating of 21/city and 26/highway.

The Bronco Sport is the first Bronco on the car lots. It beats its big brother to the spotlight and does so in an impressive way. It was smart for Ford to get this baby Bronco out first, in my opinion, because it is an overall quality vehicle that has a lot of merit and interest for many consumers.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

  • 2021 FORD BRONCO SPORT BADLANDS
  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $32,660/$36,340
  • Mileage.......................................... 21 mpg/city; 26 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.0-liter Ecoboost 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 250 hp/277 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Hermosilllo, Mexico

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