Ford calls the 2021 Bronco Sport the “Bronco” of small SUVs. By that, they mean it’s the most capable, adventure-ready, unit-body crossover out there. But, not quite up to the pure ruggedness of the truck-framed and larger Bronco coming this summer. 

As evidence, 4-wheel-drive is standard across the board on all Bronco Sports. We think this is a great call, as making it optional would mean we’d have to make a bigger deal about its front-drive based Escape platform.  

The suspension is an independent MacPherson strut-type up front, with an independent double lateral link semi-trailing arm setup in rear; coil springs all around, with a decent 7.4 inches of wheel travel front, 8.1 in the rear.

Following the Mustang Mach-E’s lead, trim levels all break from Ford tradition with unique names like Big Bend, Outer Banks, and Badlands. 

Now, Badlands is similar to Jeep’s Trailhawk in that it’s set up for off-roading to the best possible extent. It comes with a max of 8.8 inches of ground clearance; an inch more than standard; a twin-clutch locking rear differential for even better power distribution for getting out of sticky situations, and additional Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes added to the Goes Over Any type of Terrain Management system.  

Ford obviously spared no expense at making the Bronco Sport a legit off-road capable crossover. From the inside you also sit high with a commanding view of the sculpted hood bulges and whatever’s ahead. Besides sharing a steering wheel, and lower dash design, there’s little common in here with the Escape.  While materials are not disappointing, there are a few oddities, like the lack of available seat memory or a power rear lift-gate option, something you can get in all but the base Escape.  

But, Bronco Sport does improve on the Escape’s functionality, with a unique split lift-gate that allows for easier access when there’s a bike rack mounted in back; and you even get a bottle opener.

Unfortunately, the only way to get the 250-horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine is with top Badlands trim. All other Sports come with Ford’s 1.5-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine. At 181-horsepower and 190 lb-ft. of torque, power is certainly adequate. But some folks will surely crave more, especially if most of their adventures require taking a lot of provisions along for the ride.  

The quality of that ride both on and off road is actually quite fabulous, reminding us of Jeep’s original XJ, only with a solid feel and well weighted steering that the Cherokee never had. 

For our complete road test of the Ford Bronco Sport be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #4035 that begins airing May 7, 2021. For a listing of the PBS public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to and click the “About the Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons on the MotorTrend cable channel. The show can also be streamed on PBS Living through Amazon’s Prime Video.

Much like the Mustang Mach-E, it’s easy to question some of Ford’s decision making when it comes to naming and packaging. But after driving it, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport makes a whole lot of sense.