Test Drive: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks
2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks
Class: Compact Crossover SUV
Miles driven: 223
Fuel used: 7.4 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 30.1 mpg
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||C+|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|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 & 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 Specs||181-hp 1.5-liter|
|Engine Type||Turbo 3-cylinder|
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
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
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.
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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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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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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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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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 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
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
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