Quick Spin: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands in Carbonized Gray

Quick Spin, Consumer Guide Automotive

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

ClassCompact Crossover SUV

Miles driven: 218

Fuel used: 10.5 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 20.8 mpg

CG Report Card
Room and Comfort B+
Power and Performance B
Fit and Finish B+
Fuel Economy C+
Value B+
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big Guy A
Tall Guy A
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.
Drivetrain
Engine Specs 250-hp 2.0-liter
Engine Type Turbo 4-cylinder
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Drive Wheels 4WD

Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21/26/23 (mpg city, highway, combined)

Fuel typeRegular gas

Base price: $32,660 (not including $1495 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ ($795), 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted low-gloss aluminum wheels ($795)

Price as tested: $35,745

Quick Hits

The great: Broad model range and accessory options allow a high degree of personalization; lots of thoughtful, practical convenience features; everyday usability 

The good: Fun, rugged styling inside and out; excellent off-road capabilities for a crossover SUV; zippy acceleration with 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine

The not so good: Rear-sear space shrinks quickly behind tall front-seat occupants; 4-cylinder engine is significantly less fuel-efficient than the base 3-cylinder; pricing gets a bit steep on higher-line models

More Ford Bronco Sport price and availability information

CG Says:

Wherever you elect to drive a Bronco Sport Badlands—in actual badlands or on smooth Pleasant Avenue—you will have the benefit of lots more power than in most of the all-new Ford compact-crossover SUVs.

Bronco Sport Badlands

The Badlands model is beefed up a bit compared to the rest of the Bronco Sport lineup. It comes standard with features such as an upgraded 4WD system, specific off-road suspension, all-terrain tires, and underbody skid plates.

Three of the five varieties of the Bronco Sport come with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine. Only the Badlands—described by Ford as having “limited availability”—and the sold-out limited-run First Edition are built with the Sport’s other available powerplant, a 2.0-liter turbo four. Having driven both a Badlands and a 3-cylinder Outer Banks within a few months of each other, Consumer Guide editors can tell you the difference in power is one that you can clearly feel.

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Bronco Sport Badlands

The Bronco Sport’s dashboard layout is clean and functional, with simple-to-use controls. In keeping with its off-road-ready focus, the Badlands comes standard with rubberized flooring instead of carpet, for easier cleaning.

The EcoBoost four makes 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, respectively 69 and 87 more than the smaller engine produces. There’s a decided extra eagerness away from standing starts and additional pull for highway passing—and all of that added torque is massed at the same 3000 rpm at which the smaller powerplant reaches its maximum twist. Another benefit is a modest 10 percent gain in towing capacity to 2200 pounds.

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Bronco Sport Badlands

Clever storage spots abound on the Bronco Sport. There are zippered pouches and integrated MOLLE straps on the front seat backs, as well as slim pockets on the inboard side of the seat backs that are just the ticket for stash a smartphone or what have you. Built into the passenger-side rear seat cushion is a small covered storage compartment.

What both powertrains have in common is a cooperative 8-speed automatic transmission. With the four, the EPA projects that a Bronco Sport should average 21 mpg in city-type driving, 26 mpg out on the highway, and 23 combined. Sticking mostly to surface-street driving we saw 20.8 mpg—which was more than nine mpg worse than what we accomplished in the Outer Banks with an inverse proportion of city driving. With the Bronco Sport there’s a clear choice between power and parsimony.

Test Drive: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

The Bronco Sport’s rear window glass can be opened independently of the liftgate–a nice feature when you just want to grab a small item out of the back.

In terms of passenger and cargo space, infotainment system, and safety/driver-assistance features, the Badlands was similar to the Outer Banks that we drove, and we’ll direct you to that review for those particulars. But while the two are priced quite similarly—at $34,155 with delivery to start the Badlands costs just $500 more—there’s quite a bit of difference in their makeup beyond different engines. The Outer Banks is a moderately plush city-slicker with leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, ambient lighting, dual-zone air conditioning, and other items that the Badlands trades for cloth seats, automatic single-zone A/C, and trail-traveling gear.

There’s an off-road-tuned suspension and the 4-wheel-drive system is enhanced with a twin-clutch rear end. Two additional selectable drive modes—“Mud/Ruts” and “Rock Crawl”—are added to the five already carried over from the 3-cylinder Bronco Sports, and a “Trail Control” feature that acts like an off-road version of cruise control is included. At 17 inches in diameter, wheels are an inch smaller than on the Outer Banks. The tester came with optional gray-painted alloy wheels with a slotted design that do a pretty good imitation of sturdy steel wheels and actually look just right with this truck. (Though CG’s Badlands didn’t have them, 235/65R17 all-terrain tires are available.) Note that of the Bronco Sports we’ve tested, on-road ride seemed a little noisier in the Badlands.

The Badlands fills out its rougher-and-readier package with skid plates, tow hooks, a full-size spare tire, rubberized flooring, and a 180-degree front-view camera to help drivers suss out the terrain ahead. Additional convenience comes from a pair of 110-volt power-converter electrical outlets and storage space under the right rear seat. Its gray-toned grille with a mesh-like texture is shared with the First Edition, but uses white instead of black letters to spell out Bronco at the center. Black roof rails are something else they have in common.

Real-World Walk-around: 2021 Ford Bronco

Bronco Sport Badlands

The Badlands’ EcoBoost turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder puts out a healthy 250 horsepower and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Optional 17-inch painted aluminum wheels gave our test vehicle a rugged, purpose-built look.

From a platform standpoint, Bronco Sports are related to Ford’s Escape crossover. From an image standpoint, they want to ride on the outdoorsy coattails of the revival Bronco SUV. From a price and positioning standpoint, the Badlands finds itself up against the upper-level Jeep Cherokees that are a little more expensive but are a proven commodity in the class. This new Ford has its work cut out for it, but we think it’s up to the task.

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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

You’ll pay a penalty at the fuel pump with the upgrade to the gutsy 2.0-liter engine, but the Bronco Sport Badlands offers sprightly acceleration, enhanced off-road capability, and the same clever interior-storage solutions and fun, adventurous styling as other Bronco Sport models.

Check out the Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Gallery

(Click below for enlarged images)

Bronco Sport Badlands

Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast, Episode 75; Electrify America HomeStation Charger, 2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Bronco Sport Badlands

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