Why Would Anyone Buy a Land Rover Defender Over the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport?

The second (or more like sixth) coming of the Ford Bronco made a lot of headlines, but it also sheds new light on competitors like the Land Rover Defender. Sure, the Bronco’s main competitor is the Jeep Wrangler but, interestingly enough, the Defender has some similarities as it actually bowed out of the U.S. market around the same time the Bronco did in the late 90s and recently made it return as well.

For Land Rover purists and prospective buyers, the Defender does offer an affordable gateway for the brand. But considering the Bronco is even more affordable and just about as capable, why would anyone buy the Defender?

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport offers a better value proposition

2021 Ford Bronco Badlands
The all-new Bronco Sport Badlands series in Area 51. (Pre-production model pictured.)

The new Ford Bronco will come in three different body styles: two-door, four-door, and Sport. And while it’s easy to see that the two- and four-door variants offer up some meaty off-road prowess to go with their aggressive, Jeep-fighting looks, the Bronco Sport is a smaller option that looks a little more Land Rover-like. Although it might not be as rugged as a Defender, the Bronco Sport does offer a better value proposition.

The Bronco Sport shares 80 percent of its parts with the Ford Escape, according to Motortrend, but it does have a little more to offer. For starters, there are two different engine choices: a turbo 1.5-liter, three-cylinder, and a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The smaller of the two produces 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, while the larger 2.0-liter produces 245 hp and 275 lb-ft. In contrast, the Land Rover Defender’s base engine, a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder, puts out 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

We admit that 50 hp and 20 lb-ft is a pretty big difference, but if you consider the Land Rover Defender weighs about 1,000 pounds more than the Bronco Sport, the power differential is negligible. The Defender also costs almost twice as much as the Bronco, depending on which trim level is chosen for each.  

2021 ford brono interior
The all-new Bronco Sport small SUV comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, which gives the driver a close look at the trail ahead courtesy of an available class-exclusive front off-road camera. (Pre-production model pictured.)

There is more to the Ford Bronco Sport than what’s under the hood

Paired to both of the engine choices that are available under the hood of the Bronco Sport is an eight-speed automatic transmission that is mated to an all-wheel drivetrain. There are actually two different all-wheel-drive systems, though, as the higher trim levels include a torque-vectoring limited-slip rear differential for a little more traction when the roads get rougher. Speaking of the trim levels, the Bronco Sport will come in four different trims: base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, and Badlands. But if off-road ruggedness is what you seek, then the top-trim Badlands is the way to go.

In addition to the upgraded all-wheel-drive system, the Badlands trim level comes with a more refined suspension that includes a one-inch lift, softer springs, and re-tuned shocks and struts. That higher lift does provide more ground clearance as well, as the standard Bronco Sport measures in at 7.8 inches for the base model, while the top-trim Badlands comes in at 8.8 inches. In case you’re wondering, the Land Rover Defender has a standard clearance rating of 8.6 inches, however, it can be adjusted to 11.5 inches. We probably shouldn’t be surprised that the Defender is more capable, but again, considering the Bronco Sport’s lower price tag, you still get a lot.

2021 ford bronco sport
The all-new Bronco Sport is available with an interior bike rack that lets adventurers transport two 27.5-inch bikes inside the vehicle. (Pre-production vehicle pictured.)

Does the 2021 Ford Bronco Have a Manual Transmission?

The Bronco Sport isn’t as luxurious, but still gets the job done

For comparison’s sake, no one can really expect the Ford Bronco Sport to be as luxurious as any Land Rover, considering the lower trims come with cloth seating and rubberized flooring. However, the upper trims do have leather and we can contend that the Bronco Sport’s more utilitarian interior does make it easier to clean when things get really muddy. Try messing up a Land Rover Defender interior during a day of hardcore off-road adventures, we doubt that you’ll have a big smile on your face.

However, you will be smiling when you realize that the Ford Bronco Sport will have a starting price of around $28,000, as opposed to the Defender’s $49,000 starting MSRP, and it will likely top out at around $40,000 for the Badlands trim. The Bronco Sport might not be as big and brawny as the Land Rover, but we have to admit that it does look similar and offers almost as much capability.