2021 Ford Bronco
Sport Outer Banks
Pros-All-new. Stylish. Quick. Fairly roomy. Supple ride. Four-wheel drive. Nicely equipped.
Cons-Rather tight behind tall driver. Slight step-up needed. Rather high tailgate opening.
Bottom Line-Delivers what it promises.
The all-new 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is considerably better than the now-classic Ford Bronco of the 1960s and 1970s, without losing some of the beloved throwback charm of the old models.
The new Bronco Sport is the small brother of the larger, more powerful all-new Ford Bronco.
The four-door all-wheel-rive Bronco Sport has a handier size than the larger Bronco for congested areas and comes in various trim levels. It has genuinely rugged off-road prowess with good ground clearance and departure angles and short overhangs for handling sand, snow, mud, rocks and more. On-road comfort is good, although although the Badlands version is a little stiff to give it extra off-road capabilities.
My test Bronco Sport had a stylish rugged look, especially with its optional ($395) Rapid Red Metallic" paint. Two small but prominent parallel hood bulges look as if copied from the legendary 1950s racing-derived Mercedes-Benz 300-SL sports car, which had two flip-up doors. The Bronco Sport has four doors and a large hatch with a pop-open glass top in which to toss small objects if you don't want to bother opening the hatch, which has two hefty pull-down bars for easier closing.
There's a base Bronco Sport model, besides extra-cost Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition models. List prices range from $26,660 to $38,160 for the limited-production First Edition, which may be sold out by now.
I tested the $32,160 Outer Banks version, equipped with the $1,595 Outer Banks package. It promises to appeal to many Bronco Sport buyers because it has attractive leather upholstery and plenty of features. It comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 181-horsepower three-cylinder engine, which produces 190 lb./ft. of torque. Don't let the three-cylinder configuration fool you. This smooth engine has plenty of zip for city and highway driving and works with a responsive eight-speed automatic transmission.
The higher-line models have a turbocharged 2-liter 245 horsepower four cylinder with 275 pound/feet of torque. It also works with an 8-speed automatic, but most Bronco Sport buyers don't really need it.
Unofficial estimated fuel economy for the 1.7 engine is 25 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways. Unofficial economy for 2-liter engine is an estimated 21 city and 26 highways. Horsepower and torque figures are based on use of premium fuel.
My test Bronco sport's steering was quick, but could have used a more linear feel. Handling was good, even when taking on/off expressway ramps at above-average speeds, and the brake pedal had a nice progressive action and high engagement. A driver can choose various driving modes including "Eeconomy," "Normal" and
"Sport." I found the Normal mode best for daily driving. Switch to Sport and you get tighter steering feel and the engine holds revs longer for quicker acceleration.
It should be obvious that Ford designers put a lot of effort into making my test Bronco Sport Outer Banks user-friendly. For instance, both heated power front seats have zip-open storage pouches o their backs, the steering wheel is heated, cupholders are within easy reach and dashboard knobs and hard buttons are well-marked and nicely positioned. The dashboard infotainment touch screen is easy to work, the console shifter dial is a snap to use, there's a wireless charging pad, two additioanl USB ports, and the split rear seat backs fold forward quickly.
Also, there's a large power sunroof, 10-speaker sound system, roof-rack side rails, a deep console cargo bin with a folding leather top that makes a comfortable armrest and a large floor "dead pedal" for a driver to rest his left foot on long trips. The tailgate has LED floodlights in case one is stuck somewhere in the dark, and even the directional signal has a pleasant sound when the directinal signal stalk is activated.
Moreover, there are more than 100 factory backed and aftermarket accessories.
The large outside mirrors are a plus, but thick front windshield pillars can partly block driver vision when the Bronco sport is taking a tight turn.
A slight step-up is needed to enter the quiet, nicely designed interior, but occupants then sit high in upright seating. The front seats offer good side and thigh support and there's decent room for four or five adults, although the rear-seat center is best left to the old-down armrest with cupholders. Also, a passenger behind a tall driver should have a little more legroom, although that's not a problem behind the front-seat passenger.
Cargo room is fairly good, but if above-average cargo space is needed one must flip the rear seat backs forward.
The many safety features include a pre-collision assist system with automatic emergency braking, cross-traffic alert, rear view camera, reverse sensing system and lots of air bags.
My test Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks had a solid, last-forever feel, which is especially comforting for a tough-off-road vehicle.