By on June 2, 2022

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks Fast Facts

1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder (181 horsepower @ 6,000 RPM, 190 lb-ft @ 3,000 RPM)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive

25 city / 28 highway / 26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

9.3 city / 8.3 highway / 8.9 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $32,160 (U.S) / $37,799 (Canada)

As Tested: $36,440 (U.S.) / $42,194 (Canada)

Prices include $1,495 destination charge in the United States and $2,095 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

A big part of the marketing push behind the Ford Bronco Sport since its launch has been centered around the vehicle’s outdoors/off-road capabilities.

What’s not being said is how one needs to buy the top-dog Badlands trim to really unlock those capabilities.

As I wrote earlier, the Bronco Sport Badlands is shockingly capable off-road. Slide down the trim ladder, though, and you’ll find yourself hitting the limits a bit earlier.

I know, because I tested the Outer Banks at the same off-road park I took a Badlands to earlier. And I wasn’t able to do nearly as much.

I’ll get to the trails in a second. First, let’s gaze at the spec sheet, where we’ll see that unless you order the Badlands (or MY21 only First Edition) trim, you’re getting the 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder that makes 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque and pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Outside of a hint of roughness here and there, the little three-banger is adequate for most on-road driving, and it wasn’t too much of a letdown off-road, though more grunt would’ve been appreciated at times when I was in the boonies.

Occasional uncouth behavior aside, the three isn’t a huge stepdown from the four-cylinder. It doesn’t even feel that much slower, despite the gap in power. Its noise level is roughly the same, at least according to my ears (we don’t do decibel-level testing). If I never, ever planned to do any off-roading that was challenging – if my only off-pavement excursions involved gravel or dirt trails that wouldn’t confound most SUVs/crossovers – I’d be fine with ordering a Bronco with this engine underhood. Although the four’s extra punch is always appreciated for passing.

That said, if you plan to go off-road for fun, or to reach some really remote campsites, you’ll need to squeeze out the extra cheddar for the Badlands. That’s because the Outer Banks lacks some key features one might need for true adventure. The 4×4 system in this trim doesn’t having a locking differential feature, nor does it have mud/ruts or rock-crawl drive modes, or skidplates, or tow hooks.

That last bit became a problem for me when I made a ham-fisted turn on a sand dune and sunk my front wheels. Thankfully, some friendly locals tugged me out without harming the vehicle mechanically or cosmetically, but it took some brainpower. With tow hooks, it would’ve been a breeze.

Similarly, I had to forego a rocky section of trail that the Badlands trim had conquered – because I knew that the Badlands had scraped its skid plate and the Outer Banks had no such protection.

The OB did manage some of the woodsier trails just fine, but I avoided some muddy spots – I didn’t trust the tires to handle the slick stuff. I think I’d have gone ahead had I been driving the Badlands trim, which has all-terrain rubber as opposed to all-seasons.

It wasn’t long before I concluded that the Outer Banks trim just wasn’t equipped right for a day of wheelin’ at the old off-road park and headed home.

Back on the freeway, I found the Outer Banks was back in its groove – the trucklet rides pretty comfortably for a 4×4. Perhaps this is because the Ford Escape platform on which the Sport rides is pretty good – the Bronco Sport Badlands was also a good freeway companion, even with the extra off-road gear – when it comes to on-road behavior. The Bronco Sport’s on-road ride and handling are generally pretty good, though occasionally you get a bit of tippiness. Not unexpected in a boxy, tall crossover.

Some wind noise at speed mars the experience, but it’s mildly intrusive as opposed to truly offensive. Slowing down a bit and/or cranking the stereo mitigates most of it.

Speaking of the cabin, the Bronco Sport’s biggest flaw, regardless of trim, is material quality – they just look and feel a bit too cheap for this price point. Sure, switchgear is easy to use, and that’s appreciated, but the materials don’t look and feel up to par versus the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.

The Outer Banks is the highest non-Badlands trim you can get, and it comes standard with features like LED fog lamps, LED headlamps, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, interior ambient lighting, Wi-Fi, keyless entry and starting, satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB A and C ports, and Sync infotainment.

Options included wireless cell-phone charging, power moonroof, Bang and Olufsen audio, Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ suite of advanced-driver’s aid systems ($795), the Rapid Red Metallic paint ($395), and the Outer Banks package (18-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, and more, for $1,595).

The base price was $32,160 and the final as-tested price, including $1,495 for destination, was $36,440. Fuel economy is listed at 25/28/26.

Overall, I dig the Bronco Sport. But the interior is a letdown across the board, and while this version of the Sport is just fine for around-town driving, you need to select the Badlands if you plan to go to the boonies. Or even if you just want more passing punch.

I’m sure Ford wanted to keep manufacturing simple, but I think the Blue Oval needs to offer the 2.0-liter in the Outer Banks trim, so those who never leave the pavement can get more power. I’d also like to see the Badlands package offered on 1.5s – some folks will find the 1.5 powerful enough for their needs, and why should they have to sacrifice off-road chops?

This is probably why I am not a product planner – I don’t have to make these decisions. I can just criticize Ford for their decisions without acknowledging cost and/or internal politics.

Were it my money on the line, I’d drop a few extra grand for the four-banger. Even if I never went off-road, it would be nice to have the extra power and the off-road features. But if that’s cost prohibitive, and if you need to do anything too difficult off-pavement, the Outer Banks Bronco Sport will work nicely.

What’s New for 2021

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is all new.

Who Should Buy It

The Bronco Sport intender who can live with less power and/or doesn’t need to do serious off-roading.

[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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27 Comments on “2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks Review – One for the City...”


  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Sales of the Escape with a boxy body (its almost like they should have never gone to the euro style Escape in 2013) were down over 36% in May and down for the year overall. The swoopy Escape was also down over 55% for the month and down over 16% for the year.

    • 0 avatar
      Oberkanone

      Inventory at dealers must be piling up, right? In reality no.
      Could it be possible sales are down due to production constraints?

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Yet they have all the chips they need to supply fake lightnings, the fake mustang SUV, and regular F150s. They are not seeing production drops like other products. Gotta love artificial “supply constraints”.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          It’s almost as if chips are being prioritized for some products over others…

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            Yep….prioritize a vanity product like the fake lightning (with it’s 1700 chips per vehicle) vs a boxy Escape or Explorer that has maybe 150. Makes total sense.

  • avatar
    Shockrave Flash Has Crashed

    I’m going to check Ford’s website, but I think the CX-50 is a better bet.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    Ford seems to be following GM’s lead in isolating the good engines to the top trim levels. Why can’t I order a base Sport with the 2.0 and off-road systems that give it the capability, if not the luxury, of the more expensive trim levels?

  • avatar
    B-BodyBuick84

    You gotta wonder how this more basic AWD holds up against similar systems such as the Subaru Crosstrek, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Jeep Compass, etc. All have pretty good, above average AWD/ 4WD systems when it comes to off-roading, but at the end of the day, it’s still just a 50:50 split of power with programming applying brakes to individual wheels so to try and transfer power over to the other side of the vehicle. I feel they should be pretty damn similar but I suppose things such as transmissions and tires come into play after that.
    Speaking of Which, Hey Tim, in your opinion how do you think it would’ve fared had it been equipped with the same A/T’s the Badlands uses?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I think I’d have been less afraid to try some of the muddier trails if it had A/T tires. I still would’ve had to have begged off the rock climbing as well as one rockier trail the Badlands managed with ease — no skid plate — but mud would’ve been much less of a concern.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    My two immediate area dealers have zero Broncos, Bronco Sports, or Mavericks on the lot. So I think like the rest of the automotive world supply is severely constrained. I feel sorry for anyone who has no choice but HAS to have a new car right now to live life. I doubt we’ll ever get back to the market we knew even 3 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      I think even if we had a normal supply chain right now it was going to be tough to find a Maverick or (regular) Bronco. Right now they are red hot.

      I agree that the Sport would have probably been easier to get in a normal situation.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Not for me, but I see a million of these in the Boston suburbs, with most (from what I can tell) driven by women in their 30s with 0-2 kids. From the perspective of what they’ll actually use it for – commuting, runs to the farmers’ market, carrying a mountain bike or two to a trailhead, and occasional winter trips up to a ski resort on mostly-plowed roads – it’s as capable as anything else in the segment, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference, likely meaning aesthetics. And the “cuter Bronco” approach certainly seems to be working, judging by sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      You make good points. And honestly, I like the exterior styling. If the interior was just a tad nicer….

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        I honestly wonder how many people even really consider car interiors, given that the average car buyer test drives – what, one car, maybe? You can tell how a car looks just by seeing it in the street, but the typical buyer who simply sees a car they like the look of, and then convinces themselves to buy it, likely has no idea how good or bad their car’s interior is compared to the other options in the segment.

        When we bought my wife’s CX-5 back in 2013, we also test drove the Tiguan, Rav4, Escape and CRV, and it was eye-opening just how different the quality was in interior materials across that group. Even in the Titanium trim the Escape felt like a gussied-up work truck, and the Rav4 an airport taxi, compared to the Honda and the Mazda.

        • 0 avatar
          Tirpitz

          I wonder how many people really cross shop before buying? I suspect a goodly number of folks just like a brand or particular model, go see it and buy it. They don’t actually bother to cross shop the competition.

          • 0 avatar
            Astigmatism

            Precisely what I think happens, too.

            Heck, my father-in-law bought a car off the lot last weekend because my MIL’s Mini blew its turbocharger and they had a newer (albeit used) version of the same model at the dealership for sale; he sold the busted Mini and bought its successor on the spot. The exact opposite of how I’d do it, but then, most people don’t like the process of car shopping, while I take it as a really fun, very infrequent opportunity to drive whatever’s out in the market right now.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I too wonder about the amount of cross-shopping.

          In my town the car dealers would have a “super-sale” at the local hockey arena/fairgrounds. I loved it since you could go there and in an afternoon get to climb in and out of every model of vehicle sold in town.

          Current low inventories leave people stuck with whatever they can get their hands on.

  • avatar
    Tirpitz

    These look pretty good on the outside. MPG is not impressive because it is boxy, the price you pay for the good looks. I have no need for off road ability so I’m better off sticking to a more road focused vehicle but I can see why these are popular.

    Also whenever I look around me in southern California dealers do have a couple on the lot and most of them are at MSRP which makes it a deal in today’s market. I suspect that has something to do with the price of gas around here. You can also get good deals on gas Escapes. Hybrid anything and you are suddenly paying dealer markup.

  • avatar
    NJRide

    I have a 2021 First Edition the 2.0 has good grunt and still respectable 24 mpg. And I love the styling. But except for the color-keyed blue which I love, the interior is definitely pretty bad. Touchscreen is dated, but the driver’s seat is awful. I am very average size and 36 and in good shape, but if I don’t get the seat EXACTLY right it feels lumpy and uncomfortable. I am actually considering trading the car in because of it.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    One of the best areas to rent a house in the Outer Banks is the area north of Corolla, where there are wild horses and no crowds, but there is no road and you need a 4×4 to get there. Ironically, it sounds like you’d need a Bronco Sport Badlands because the Bronco Sport Outer Banks wouldn’t cut the mustard.

  • avatar
    mets231

    I recommend the badlands model. It has the 2.0 liter motor and is a 4 cylinder. I leased the badlands and I have enjoyed driving the vehicle. I would also make sure to get the upgrades for power seats for the passenger.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Bold Prediction of the Week: When Tim Healey takes the new GMC HUMMER EV offroad, he will not get stuck and will not need a tow.

  • avatar
    kuehnmk

    2022 Bronco Sport Badlands owner here, 1 month in and 700 miles….

    I really, really like it. I had a 2018 4runner pro previously.
    It cracks me up how many reviewers/owners call the interior cheap, cheesy etc. I think its well done given its intended uses. I do agree that the upper door panels are a weird hard plastic, I do wish they were a soft touch…not a deal breaker for me…

    Love the 2.0 Engine, it has great power and is really fun to drive. The Badlands has a lot of character, feels like you are driving a truck at times but then it then has some major road manners too.

    I also like the Bronco Sports’ small exterior dimensions, but its size does not sacrifice interior space. Plenty of room for a daily driver, lots of practicality.

    I really liked my 4runner, but got tired of its on-road boatiness, gutless engine and 17MPG. I know the two are not directly comparable, the 4runner is more capable off road. But for me, I didn’t need all of that.

    I personally did not consider the Outbanks model because of its 3-cylinder engine. I also think Ford should have made the 2.0L available to other models. My 2.0 engine was made in Spain, so I’m sure it was not cheap to import.

  • avatar
    markf

    3-cylinder engine? I thought that was a typo/joke. Looks like a nicer Subaru Justy LOL

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Why anyone would put up with a three-cylinder engine in anything bigger than the Focus or Fiesta which had that motor is a mystery to me!

      I can’t imagine that the three-banger even from a traditionally reliable manufacturer like Toyota (in the Corolla GZ) would last past, say, 150k miles.

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