Here’s the overwhelming first impression the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport makes upon first climbing aboard: “Whoa, this thing feels big and substantial.” The long, broad, largely horizontal hood with is raised “fender sights” along the outboard edges lend a real sense of size and substance that make you doubt the fact that this trucklet in fact measures 7.8 inches shorter in length than the Ford Escape it’s based on, with a 1.6-inch shorter wheelbase. In fact, the two vehicles’ front overhangs are identical; it’s the Sport’s tail that’s bobbed. The Bronco Sport’s “Safari-Step” roof is 4.1 to 5.3 inches taller than the Escape’s, which enables higher, more upright seating in both rows, and this further “heightens” the impression of Bronco Sport bigness. Baby Bronco, indeed.
Style and Substance
An interesting mix of textures and materials comprise the dash and door panels. The instrument binnacle hood, which extends to behind the screen, is hard plastic with a tiny pebble grain that reads as somewhat cheap. Surrounding that is a nicer soft-touch material that goes for a woven textile appearance instead of an animal-hide grain. This stuff extends to the door panels while that same hard pebble grain plastic surrounds the door handles, separated by an anodized-look trim in various colors that also surrounds the A/C vents, door pulls, the cubby bin under the audio and infotainment controls, and on the center console. A classy stitched soft material covers the door armrests and the center console bin. These bits are generally shared across all models, with the color of the stitching and anodized-look trim separating the trim grades and seat upholstery designs generating more wow factor on the higher trim levels.
Base: We have yet to see a base vehicle, but it features typical budget-car carpeting on the floor and plain black cloth seats fancied up just slightly with contrast white stitching.
Big Bend: The first step up brings the option of two-tone black and slate gray cloth seats with some more interesting cloth weave patterns and light blue stitching. Rubberized flooring with removable carpeted floormats aid cleanup, as do removable rubber mats protecting the cargo area and rear seat backs. There’s a fold-down rear center armrest and zippered pockets on both seatbacks, sized to secure a full-size iPad. Below this on each seat back are military-like MOLLE straps, to which carabineer-equipped gear can attach.
Outer Banks: This level brings sport-contoured cloth-and-leather upholstered seating plus eight-way power for the driver’s seat and six-way manual adjustment for the front passenger seat. The steering wheel is also leather covered and heated. The drama quotient rises with a choice of two color ways: Ebony/Brown pairs light gray worsted-wool-look cloth bolsters and seat-back uppers with ebony perforated leather centers and frames it all with brown leather seat side panels and headrests. The armrests and center console are also brown, and the anodized trim on the dash, doors, and console is bronze. Or choose Navy Pier, which keeps the gray cloth and replaces both the ebony and brown leather with navy blue, accented with silver anodized trim.
Badlands: Peak pizzazz is available here, with cloth-seat color choices including Ebony/Area 51 (a grayish blue) featuring silver trim, or Ebony/Active Orange with bright orange accent trim. An Ebony/Brown full leather option with bronze accents comes with the $2,495 Badlands package (it also includes B&O premium audio, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, and more). These seats get suede at the shoulders, dark contrast stitching, and the ebony seat insert perforations themselves are brown. This trim level also brings a concealed stowage compartment under the passenger-side rear seat cushion that is also lined in case you need to stow wet gear. Oh, and the carpeted floormats feature a tighter loop-pile that cleans up better than the fuzzy carpet on mats in the lesser trim grades.
First Edition: Don’t get your hopes up, because all 2,000 of these have been spoken for, but here you get the Ebony/Area 51 color scheme rendered entirely in leather.
We’ve only sampled the Outer Banks and Badlands seats but found both to be supremely comfortable, offering thorough support and ample lateral bolstering for cornering or traversing steeper side slopes. The rear seat is quite commodious. The high rear cushion and elevated rear roof afforded my 5-foot-10 frame about 6 inches of surplus head clearance and 4 inches of surplus knee room behind my driver-seat position. More important, the ambiance and materials in the rear environment match the front. The soft-touch stitched armrests and textured door panels, the anodized trim, etc. all matches. The seat-back angle is comfortable but not adjustable. A/C vents are provided, and a 110-volt outlet is available.
Pursuant to that “mobile base camp” mission, all Bronco Sports get convenient features like an independently opening rear hatch glass, a bottle opener integrated into the rear hatch jam, and Sync 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus FordPass Connect with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. An optional $110 cargo-management system consists of a folding panel that can be set up as a cargo cover and second cargo level (50 pounds max) for storing items accessed by the lift-glass. When folded, it stores behind the rear seat backs or can serve as a cargo area divider in one of two positions. Fold-out legs even allow it to serve as a bar-height table for tailgate partying. On Big Bend models and up, zippered seat-back pockets keep valuables like laptops or tablets concealed from prying eyes. And the rubberized flooring throughout all but the base models makes cleanup a breeze. A pair of LED task lights in the rear hatch swivel to either illuminate the cargo area or the campsite behind the vehicle. There are two cargo-area outlets for powering 110- or 12-volt gear, and Ford’s aftermarket accessory team already has 100 items available for Bronco Sport, ranging from rooftop bins and a tent to a mount that can secure the forks of two bicycles in the cargo area.
The 8.0-inch central LCD touchscreen shows the same audio, phone, nav, apps, and settings info that every Sync 3 system does. The driver info display between the tach and speedometer varies its appearance a bit depending on the drive mode. Sport mode prompts a red background, Sand mode depicts a sandy environment, and most other modes feature a blue background. This display can show vehicle pitch and roll angles, trip statistics (odometer, average mpg, hours:minutes), a graph of fuel consumption, tire pressures, instantaneous torque distribution, and audio info.
Ford wants its Bronco brand to entice owners out into the wilderness; it begs to be used hard, to help owners get dirty and stow their dirty stuff for the ride home. Hence a refreshing wash-n-wear sensibility pervades the little trucklet and helps one forgive some hard plastics. The colors and materials used help sell the Bronco Sport as richer than the $28,155-$34,155 base pricing would suggest. Just like that broad, flat hood sells it as a bigger, more substantial vehicle than it is.