The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is finally out and about, roaming our streets and trails. Although it’s colloquially known as the baby Bronco, it still seems to be pretty popular. Unfortunately, it’s not off to a good start. The Ford Escape-based Bronco Sport has inherited the Escape’s propensity for issues. The Bronco Sport has already seen three recalls in its short time on the road. It’s for this, and many other reasons, why Consumer Reports prefers the 2021 Toyota RAV4 over the Bronco Sport.
Is the 2021 Toyota RAV4 a good car?
Consumer Reports certainly thinks so. The 2021 RAV4 is another small SUV in a long line of beautifully practical crossovers from the Kind of Reliability Toyota. CR gave the 2021 Toyota RAV4 a 69/100. While this isn’t the highest score of all time, it dwarfs the 2021 Bronco Sport’s score. The RAV4 is aptly scored because while it isn’t the best at any one thing, it does almost everything you’d expect with proficiency and remains fairly affordable.
The RAV4 was one of the earliest pioneers in the small SUV/crossover segment that has taken over the automotive industry. The Toyota RAV4 has come a long way since the first generation.
Toyota put a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making a plucky 203 hp. As Consumer Reports puts it, “the real power is buried in the upper reaches of the rev range where the engine unleashes a gravelly wail. It doesn’t feel very lively in mild, everyday driving.” This is common with small engined cars that aren’t focused on performance. There is also a Hybrid power option that is more efficient and slightly quicker. CR goes on to say that the RAV4 pulls down an impressive 27 mpg.
The rest of the car follows suit; nothing mind-blowing, just solid and practical. Consumer Reports mentions that handling is good, considering that segment. It also can handle the bumps and other road imperfections with relative grace.
Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport a good car?
The new Bronco Sport is undeniably charming. It exudes outdoorsy energy and a sense of adventure. However, those rugged charms just weren’t enough to impress Consumer Reports. The 2021 Bronco Sport landed a 60/100, putting it in the “not recommended” list of new cars.
One of the biggest issues CR had with the Bronco Sport is its low predicted reliability score. Since the Sport is based on the Ford Escape, it stands to reason that the baby Bronco will likely inherit its same issues. In fact, it has already had three recalls, and it hasn’t been out for more than six months.
Ford set the base model up with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder making 181 hp and paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission for the baby Bronco. While Consumer Reports liked the punchy midrange power of the three-cylinder, there is a bit of a low-end rumble and vibrations that get annoying. There is also a bigger engine that CR liked even more. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is not only much more powerful – 245 hp – but it’s also much smoother and easier to live with.
The baby Bronco is decent but nothing shines that bright
Even though the Bronco Sport is based on the Escape, it has a much more interesting interior with a more rugged appeal. The interior features a few cool design elements like copper-colored trim on the doors and dash, zippered storage pockets on the backs of the front seats, and a leather steering wheel with a chrome bucking bronco emblem—all going toward a more rugged, outdoorsy feel.
The Ford Bronco Sport is predictably a bit stiff. This is not an uncommon ride profile for off-road SUVs. However, given that this is a unibody crossover and not a full-blown body-on-frame 4×4, this stiffness may turn from charmingly rugged to just plain annoying.
As far as noise goes, the Bronco Sport does a surprisingly good job of isolating the driver from the road noise, but the engine sound can be a little grating. Lastly, the seats are confusing because the backs are comfy and wide, while the bottom is hard and stiff. This left CR testers feeling unsettled and ultimately uncomfortable.
Why did the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport score so much worse than the 2021 Toyota RAV4?
Ultimately it all comes down to reliability. The 2021 Bronco Sport has already had so many issues. The Sport is really cool, and people will likely love it regardless of its Consumer Reports score, but it just isn’t that reliable in its current state. This is a tough blow especially considering the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport starts at $27,215 and tops out at $38,160.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4, on the other hand, is simple and maybe even a bit plain. It is not going to fall on many people’s dream car list. However, it is practical and reliable. CR noted that some issues with the fuel system had been reported, but Toyota’s bulletproof engine and transmissions shine through this little crossover. Not to mention the higher-rated car is slightly more affordable, with a starting price of $26,350 and topping out at $37,430.