Here’s Our First Full Look At The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport In The Wild — What Do You Think?

This is a pre-production model, but we can still draw some conclusions about its fit and finish

Thanks to TFL reader Thomas for sending in these images. [Photos: TFLcar]

The cat’s out of the bag, and the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport will soon be at Ford dealers near the end of this year. For now, though, we’ve yet to see the actual, unclad car on the roads, or indeed in parking lots. Thomas sent in photos of this particular Bronco Sport Badlands in the wild just outside Denver, Colorado, giving us our first chance to see the actual off-road trip up close after last week’s media reveal.

Away from the glitz and glamor (and staging) of manufacturer shots, just seeing it out on the open road or in a parking lot lends some perspective as to how the car will actually look and feel in the real world. There may be quite a few times you’ve been impressed with a virtual reveal, only to have the wonderment fade when you can see the car up close and actually touch it. That’s hardly an issue unique to Ford, but how does the 2021 Bronco Sport look in a more natural state?

One of the shorts our attentive reader fielded was a dead-on shot at the Bronco Sport’s front end. From the angle above, it’s easier to notice the chunky elements of Ford’s design. From the large headlights to its relatively small grill, and all the plastic cladding beneath. The blunt front end and boxy shape immediately put me in mind of the Jeep Renegade, although the Ford Bronco Sport is slightly larger. Thanks to the two rectangular bulges on the hood, it also looks much more muscular, despite having a small displacement 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine under the hood. In lower trims, there’s only a 1.5-liter unit humming under there.

Either way, though, the actual sensation of power should range from adequate to fairly quick. The larger engine produces 245 horsepower and a healthy 275 lb-ft of torque.

Take some of what you see with a grain of sale

From the side, it’s even easier to see the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport for its simple, boxy design ethos. It’s a different cut to the more street-focused crossovers in this class. Every model except the base Bronco Sport gets a trim badge on the front doors as well, which is a nice touch. It would be nice if the trim logo was actually an enamel badge, but it seems it will just be a decal, even on the production version.

The thought that went into the trim logo design is a cool touch.

Bear in mind, this is still a pre-production model, so you’re not seeing everything there will be when the car reaches production. This car also seems to be missing its recovery hooks, from the two holes in the lower bumper.

How does the inside look?

The vast majority of the ownership experience isn’t dictated just by how a car looks, but how it feels as well. That translates to the interior, where Thomas was just able to grab a quick shot while the car was parked in a public lot. Ford’s well-produced images showing the Bronco’s interior evoke more fine detail than you may actually get in real life, and these sorts of renderings are designed to be naturally pleasing to the eye.

As for the real experience, cheap materials and flimsy buttons can ruin even a good-looking car. We’re not talking about the full-on 2021 Ford Bronco here, but even it’s baby brother needs to bring more than just style to the table to win buyers over. Fortunately, at first glance it appears Ford has taken consideration for most parts you’ll actually touch on a daily basis. The steering wheel looks substantial enough, and at least you do get a Bronco badge rather than just the standard Blue Oval, even on the baby Bronco. The seats look comfortable and supportive, and there are pads on the center console on which to rest your knees for a long road trip.

Look to the center stack, though, and you’re treated to typical Ford switchgear. Take that for what you will — they’ll likely hold up to prolonged treatment, but the buttons and knobs in Fords haven’t always felt as solid or satisfying to use as some of the German, Japanese or Korean competition. The shiny, hard gray plastic on the instrument cluster and center stack is also not something I’d expect for a car that costs more than $32,000. A soft-touch covering for the whole dash wouldn’t go amiss: That’s something you do get in the Jeep Compass. Take a look at the dash shot below, compare it to the shot above and you’ll see what I mean.

2017 jeep compass interior
The Jeep Compass Trailhawk has more soft-touch materials, offering up a more pleasant tactile experience. [Photo: TFLcar]

The Ford Bronco Sport looks to have some definite plus points

You might say I’m being harsh, but when it comes to spending more than $30,000 of your own money on something you’ll have to live with for the next several years, it’s good to keep a sharp eye and a reasonably critical mind. For instance, while the standard 8.0-inch infotainment display is a nice size, the shape and material of the bezel makes it look like it’s a generation old. To that end, using Ford’s older SYNC 3 infotainment system rather than the newer SYNC 4 (as the company’s using in the bigger Bronco) doesn’t help either.

On the other hand, what the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport does have to its advantage is the amount of technology on hand. From the host of driver assistance systems to the Terrain Management system with its “G.O.A.T.” modes, owners shouldn’t want for features. Ford brought back the split-opening tailgate (liftgate or glass) and offers some Bronco-embroidered seats and nice-looking leather armrests on the upper trims, as well.

Beyond the styling and tech, though, Ford is giving Jeep a run for its money when it comes to the overall lifestyle vibe. Ford’s aiming the 2021 Bronco Sport at young and adventurous buyers. It’s not as capable as the full-size Bronco, but for the money it gives buyers another option if they want a more rugged vehicle to any of the other crossovers in the class (even from Jeep), and a sort of go-anywhere companion that appeals to that demographic. After all, even the First Edition of the smaller Bronco Sport has already sold out.

Let us know what you think of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport in the comments below! In case you missed it, here are some of the more highly-produced images Ford released for the smaller Bronco:

Quick correction: Earlier, I stated the Badlands would get alloy wheels in lieu of the ones shown on the car above. To clarify, the Bronco Sport Badlands will have multiple wheel options, of which the ones shown above are included.