There is some serious strategic thinking going on these days at Ford. We covered one example of that in our review of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E. Now comes the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks 4X4.
Ford has built up enormous demand for the Bronco---a larger competitor to the Jeep Wrangler. Traditionally, they (and most automakers) would have introduced that vehicle first, and then followed with the smaller spinoff. But by leading with the Bronco Sport, Ford has tapped into Bronco fever with an SUV that shares the Bronco name but makes its own strong impression.
The 2021 Bronco Sport is possible because it shares the platform of the already-extant Ford Escape. That includes the Escape's standard engine, a 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder.
Yes, three. It's not alone in the market. The Buick Encore GX Essence we tested back in September has one, too---as does the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade. Both of those are 1.3 liters. Ford's is arguably better. Noise, vibration and harshness are at extremely low levels. And thanks to the turbocharging and the Bronco Sport's relatively small size and relatively low weight, the 181 horsepower and 190 pounds per foot of torque are more than adequate for handling mountain roads.
Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, zero to 60 will probably be in the mid-8 second range. EPA fuel economy estimates are 25 city/28 highway.
The cargo area of our tester was lined in sensible hose-it-out material. Perfect for the active lifestyle buyer the Bronco Sport targets.
Rear seat legroom is a little tight. I'm six feet tall, so the driver's seat is set for me to have my legs bent slightly and to be able to drape my wrists over the top of the steering wheel. My wife, who's five foot six, always puts her seat all the way back if we have no rear seat passengers. As you can see, it'd be tight behind me, impossible behind her.
The base price of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks 4X4 is $32,320. The window sticker is at the end of this review, so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are LED fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, a 110V AC outlet, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed heated power front seats, 18-inch machined-face aluminum ebony black-painted wheels, a remote start system, a Shadow Black roof, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual USB ports and a terrain management system with five G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes.
Our tester also had extra-cost options. Because ours was an early build with no prices on the window sticker, I'm basing the prices on Ford's online build tool: $1,595 for the Outer Banks Package, which adds a ten-speaker plus subwoofer B&O audio system, power moonroof and wireless charging and $795 for Ford's Co-Pilot 360 Assist suite of active safety features. With $1,495 destination charges, the as-tested price of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks 4X4 is $36,785.
That price is right in the zone of well-equipped Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s and the Bronco Sport has a style that they don't. By having the little brother come first, Ford has allowed the Bronco Sport to shine.