2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks
2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks in Rapid Red Metallic (a $395 option)

Consumer Guide Test Drive

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks

ClassCompact Crossover SUV

Miles driven: 223

Fuel used: 7.4 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 30.1 mpg

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceC+
Fit and FinishA-
Fuel EconomyB+
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyA
Tall GuyA
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs181-hp 1.5-liter
Engine TypeTurbo 3-cylinder
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Drive Wheels4WD

Driving mix: 35% city, 65% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 25/28/26 (mpg city, highway, combined)

Fuel type: Regular gas

Base price: $32,160 (not including $1495 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Rapid Red Metallic paint ($395), Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ ($795), Outer Banks Package ($1595)

Price as tested: $36,440


Quick Hits

The great: Broad model range and accessory options allow a high degree of personalization; lots of thoughtful, practical convenience features; everyday usability 

The good: Fun, rugged styling inside and out; excellent off-road capabilities for a crossover SUV; respectable fuel economy for a 4-wheel-drive off-roader

The not so good: Rear-sear space shrinks quickly behind tall front-seat occupants; 3-cylinder engine can sound and feel a bit unrefined; pricing gets a bit steep on higher-line models

More Ford Bronco Sport price and availability information


John Biel

Perhaps Ford worries that in case the very name of its newest compact-crossover SUV—Bronco Sport—isn’t enough to draw positive connections to its 1966-77 mini sport-utility then “heritage-inspired” styling will have to finish the job. Even if they do the trick, though, there’s still a world of difference between them—and that’s not even considering the general automotive technological changes of the intervening 45 to 55 years.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks
The Bronco Sport is the smaller sibling of the long-awaited 2021 Ford Bronco, which is set to start hitting dealerships in earnest this summer. In terms of vehicle architecture and intent, the relationship between the Bronco Sport and the Bronco is similar to that of the Jeep Compass and Jeep Wrangler. The senior Bronco and the Wrangler are body-on-frame vehicles intended for serious off-roading; the Bronco Sport and Compass boast impressive off-road chops when properly equipped, but they use crossover-SUV underpinnings that are better suited to everyday on-road driving.

At 172.7 inches long overall, the debut 4-door Sport is 20.6 inches longer than the 2-door (or even no-door roadster) of 1966, and its 105.1-inch wheelbase is 13.1 inches greater. The beam-front and solid-rear axles with rear parallel leaf springs from the “good old days” have given way to a fully independent suspension, and body-on-frame construction is replaced by a unit-body platform. While it originally took six cylinders and 170 cid (2.8 liters) to generate 105 gross horsepower, a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder powerplant produces 181 net ponies in the twenty-first-century vehicle.

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Ford Bronco Sport Cabin
The Bronco Sport’s cabin ambiance is functional yet pleasant in Outer Banks trim. The gauge cluster uses a digital display screen (that boasts lots of “eye candy” animated graphics) nestled between an analog tachometer and speedometer. The rotary-dial gear selector knob is easy to use, as is the “G.O.A.T. Mode” drive-mode selector knob.

The first Bronco Sport that Consumer Guide had the chance to test was plucked from the absolute center of the 5-tier range, an Outer Banks model with a starting price (with delivery) of $33,655 but a full price of $36,440 including options. Base and Big Bend versions lie below it; Badlands and limited-production First Edition jobs are higher up on the pecking order. Starting prices span $28,155 to $39,655.

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Ford Bronco Sport Cabin
The front seatbacks have zippered storage pouches and integrated MOLLE straps for securing loose items. Rear legroom grows scarce as the front seats are adjusted rearward–the driver’s seat is all the way back in this photo.

All come with 4-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission. General standard safety features in the Ford Co-Pilot360 bundle include pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, lane-keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. A Bronco Sport that reaches the Outer Banks level also has 18-inch machined-face Ebony Black-painted alloy wheels; Shadow Black paint for the safari-style roof; black grille; body-color door handles; full LED exterior lighting; heated power mirrors; rain-sensing windshield wipers; leather-trimmed seats with mini perforation; heated front seats with 8-way power adjustment for the driver and 6-way power for the passenger; heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel; dual USB ports inside the center console; ambient lighting; dual-zone climate control; SYNC3 infotainment system; satellite radio; Wi-Fi hotspot; remote starting; and reverse sensing.

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Ford Bronco Sport Cabin
The Bronco Sport’s “safari-style” roofline kicks up to provide a shade more rear cargo space (and headroom for rear-seat passengers). The rear glass can be opened separately from the liftgate–a very handy feature.

The test truck was rounded out with a pair of option packages. Co-Pilot360 Assist+ contributed adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and lane centering, evasive steering assist, touchscreen navigation, and Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link services. The Outer Banks Package inserted a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 10 speakers and subwoofer, HD radio, power moonroof, and wireless charging. Rapid Red Metallic paint was its only other extra-cost feature.

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Ford Bronco Sport Cargo Area
The Bronco Sport’s cargo volume is quite good considering its tidy exterior dimensions–in the Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models, there’s 32.5 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats and 65.2 cu. ft. with the seat backs folded. A rubberized, washable cargo floor is standard, as are integrated carabiner-style retainer hooks in the cargo area’s side walls, and a bottle opener (!) built into the liftgate jamb above the passenger-side taillight.

No hot performer with the turbocharged 3-cylinder engine (consider the 245-horsepower turbo 2.0-liter four in the Badlands and First Edition if you need more of that), the Bronco Sport has a better chance of impressing with its utility, room, and driving dynamics. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost powerplant generates 190 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm, just enough to get the new little Ford around quite adequately, but it is noisy with a jittery idle. EPA fuel-economy projections are 25 mpg for city driving, 28 mpg on the highway, and 26 combined. This tester’s experience pretty much fell in line with that—he recorded 26.2 mpg after going 60.7 miles with 45 percent of it under city conditions. Other CG testers did even better–our aggregate mileage just topped 30 mpg in a majority of highway driving.

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Ford Bronco Sport Wheels
Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks models are powered by an EcoBoost turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Outer Banks models come standard with 18-inch machined-face alloy wheels.

Ford likes its amusing acronyms for the terrain-management system (G.O.A.T.=Goes Over Any Terrain) and suspension (H.O.S.S.=High-performance Off-road Stability Suspension). The bottom three models have a 5-setting G.O.A.T. system with “Sand,” “Slippery,” “Sport,” “Eco,” and “Normal” modes. Confined to dry streets and expressways, this driver divided his time between Normal and Sport, and found the former preferable for most driving. Sport’s concession to performance was to delay transmission upshifts, which sometimes left the engine loudly revving in limbo at the high end of a gear range during surface-street driving. H.O.S.S. tuning targets off-road comfort and capability with soft springing and antiroll bars to improve articulation over obstacles. Perhaps surprisingly, it makes for a decent on-road ride and easy, well-controlled handling as well.

First Look: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Ford Bronco Sport hatch light
All Bronco Sports have a pair of bright, adjustable LED lights built into the rear liftgate–very handy for camping or tailgating, or just loading/unloading groceries or what-have-you in or out of the cargo area after dark.

At a glance, the suspicion is passenger room could be tight, but this 5-foot-10.5-inch-tall reviewer was able to sit comfortably behind a driver’s seat set up for his dimensions. Headroom for four adults is excellent in both rows, even beneath the moonroof. However, narrow rear door openings complicated extracting feet for vehicle exits. Materials are nice at the Outer Banks level, with a good amount of soft-touch stuff where passengers are likely to notice. Driver vision is fairly unobstructed.

Bronco Sports like the one CG tested raise their adventure-vehicle profile through a number of handy touches. Pouches on the backs of the front seats are more or less stationary backpacks. They close with a zipper and are covered outside in MOLLE straps good for securing loose items. The cargo floor base is a sturdy, textured rubberized surface that continues up the back of the 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Cargo tie-downs are built into the sidewalls and dual LED floodlights handy for illuminating after-dark loading operations in the middle of nowhere are installed on the inside of the liftgate.

The rear 60/40-split seats fold at a slight upward angle but it matches the slope of the load floor to form an unbroken surface capable of holding up to 65.2 cubic feet of cargo—as much as 5.1 more than in 4-cylinder models, by the way. The rear window can be opened independently of the liftgate, and there is a little organized small-item space under the cargo floor. A big glove box, modest console cubby, and door pockets hold incidentals. Cup holders reside in the console, door pockets, and pull-down rear armrest.

Those who want optimal driveline and off-roading features can get the Badlands for just $500 more than the Outer Banks. At any price, though, the Sport has the spirit of the Bronco of so long ago even if so many other things have changed.

Real-World Walk-around: 2021 Ford Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks
The new-for-2021 Ford Bronco Sport is positively brimming with personality, and its off-road/adventure-focused features help make it a more-practical vehicle for everyday use as well. Acceleration with the base engine is middling, and rear-seat space can be stingy despite the upright body dimensions, but the Bronco Sport nonetheless succeeds in delivering the style and rugged attitude of its Bronco sibling in a tidier, more affordable package.

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