Does the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Live up To Its Badge?

Besides its overall design and nameplate, the Ford Bronco Sport isn’t precisely a mini-Bronco. Naturally, given the business with the Mustang Mach-E, some may think that Ford is just cashing in on a name-drop. But as YouTube team Throttle House explains, with trim-levels like the Badlands model, the Bronco Sport has substance to match its style.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is not simply a re-bodied Escape

The side 3/4 view of a red 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands in a grassy field
2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands side 3/4 | Ford

Although it bears the Bronco name, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport isn’t a body-on-frame SUV like the ‘actual’ Bronco. Instead, it rides on the same unibody platform as the Ford Escape, MotorTrend reports, with independent rear suspension rather than a live axle.

However, it’s shorter, narrower, and taller than the Escape, Autoblog reports. Plus, Ford gave the Bronco Sport some unique suspension components and strut tuning to improve its off-road capabilities, The Drive reports. And the Bronco Sport Badlands has several more upgrades on top of those.

The rear 3/4 view of a red 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands climbing a dusty off-road trail
2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands rear 3/4 | Ford

Instead of the standard 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It’s rated at 250 hp and 277 lb-ft and is linked to an 8-speed automatic, Car and Driver reports. Like all Bronco Sports, the Badlands model has all-wheel drive. But here, it’s paired with a torque-vectoring locking rear differential, Hagerty reports. Said differential also has its own cooler, as does the transmission.

All 2021 Ford Bronco Sport models have multiple driving modes for on- and off-road scenarios. But the Badlands trim has two more specifically for rock-crawling and mud, MT reports. It also has different suspension tuning and more ground clearance.

With its optional 29” all-terrain tires, the Badlands has 8.8” of ground clearance, while the standard Bronco Sport has 7.8”, Jalopnik reports. Plus, you get multiple steel skid plates, front tow hooks, off-road-trail cruise control, and a forward-facing camera for obstacle spotting, Autoblog reports.

The interior

Inside, the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands shows a few of its Escape roots, Motor1 reports, at least where switchgear and material quality are concerned. However, it’s a fairly well-equipped crossover.

The brown-leather-lined front seats and gray dashboard of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands with the Badlands Package
2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands interior with Badlands Package | Ford

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport comes with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and an 8” touchscreen, Car and Driver reports. The Badlands trim adds heated front seats, SiriusXM, and multiple quick-charging USB ports to that. Plus, LED headlights and fog lights as well as rubberized floor mats, Autoblog reports.

If you want a heated steering wheel, a wireless charging pad, backup sensors, and the Bang & Olufsen audio system, though, you’ll have to add the optional Badlands Package, Roadshow reports. But doing so also gets you leather-trimmed seats, a power moonroof, and the remote-start system.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is a “hugely impressive” off-road crossover, Hagerty reports

Compared to the ‘real’ Ford Bronco, the Bronco Sport Badlands can’t tow or carry quite as much, Autoweek reports. And, as Throttle House discovered, the rear differential doesn’t quite lock fully.

However, while it’s not quite as capable as its body-on-frame namesake, the Bronco Sport went through “many of the same” off-road tests, The Drive reports. And compared to its closest Jeep competitor, the Compass Trailhawk, the Bronco Sport Badlands is definitely the better off-road choice, MT reports.

But what’s the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands like on paved roads? Compared to other crossovers like the CR-V and RAV4, the Bronco Sport feels distinctly “truck-like,” Throttle House reports. The seating position is higher, the steering is “heavily weighted” yet somewhat vague, and the ride is rather firm, Car and Driver reports. Also, without the Badlands Package, some of the interior materials feel a bit cheap.

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But there’s plenty of headroom, the transmission shifts quickly, and the AWD system is very sophisticated. Visibility is also excellent, and you can fit two mountain bikes in the rear with the 2nd-row seats folded, Autoweek reports. The seats are comfortable and they have built-in storage pockets. Plus, although looks are always subjective, the Bronco Sport definitely has the ‘Bronco look’ down.

Is the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands worth considering?

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands starts at $32,820. The Badlands Package—which Throttle House almost considers a necessity—adds another $2595 to that.

A red-and-black 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk on a muddy off-road trail
2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk | Jeep

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With that, the Bronco Sport Badlands is slightly cheaper than the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. And in terms of ground clearance, as well as approach, departure, and breakover angles, the two crossovers are fairly equal, The Drive reports.

However, the Cherokee Trailhawk’s 3.2-liter V6 and optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine both have more power and torque, Autoblog reports. And even with the four-cylinder, the Jeep can tow up to 4000 pounds. The Bronco Sport Badlands has a slightly higher wading depth, though.

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To be sure, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands isn’t as extreme as the body-on-frame Bronco is. But as the specs and impressions show, it’s still a good off-roader in its own right. And there’s a reason Jeep offers both the Wrangler and the Cherokee: not everyone wants the most extreme rock-crawler. It’s the same story with the Bronco Sport. It won’t keep up in the most hardcore areas, but it definitely won’t disgrace the badge.

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