Ford Bronco

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks is equipped with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine that offers 181 horsepower and 190 pounds per foot of torque. The SUV’s sticker price is approximately $36,000.

There is some serious strategic thinking going on these days at Ford. I covered one example of that in my March review of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E. Now comes the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks 4X4.

Ford has built up enormous demand for the Bronco – a larger competitor to the Jeep Wrangler. Traditionally, Ford (and most automakers) would have introduced that vehicle first and then followed with the smaller spinoff. But by leading with the Bronco Sport, Ford has tapped into Bronco fever with an SUV that shares the Bronco name but makes its own strong impression.

The 2021 Bronco Sport is possible because it shares the platform of the already-extant Ford Escape. That includes the Escape’s standard engine, a 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder.

Yes, three. And it’s not alone in the market. The Buick Encore, the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade are all equipped with standard three-cylinder engines.

Ford’s is arguably better. Noise, vibration and harshness are at extremely low levels. And thanks to the turbocharging and the Bronco Sport’s relatively small size and relatively low weight, the 181 horsepower and 190 pounds per foot of torque are more than adequate for handling mountain roads.

Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the car will probably go from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-8-second range. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates are 25 mpg city and 28 highway.

The base price of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks 4X4 is $32,320. Among the standard equipment highlights at that price are LED fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, 110V AC outlet, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed heated power front seats, 18-inch machined-face aluminum ebony black-painted wheels, remote start system, Shadow Black roof, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual USB ports and terrain management system with five GOAT (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes.

Our tester also had extra-cost options. Because it was an early build with no prices on the window sticker, I’m basing the prices on Ford’s online build tool: $1,595 for the Outer Banks Package, which adds a 10-speaker plus subwoofer B&O audio system, power moonroof and wireless charging; and $795 for Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 Assist suite of active safety features. With $1,495 destination charges, the as-tested price comes out to $36,785.

That price is right in the zone of well-equipped Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s – and the Bronco Sport has a style those vehicles lack. By having the little brother come first, Ford has allowed the Bronco Sport to shine.

Mike Hagerty, vice president of membership for Western Automotive Journalists (waj.org), has been writing about cars since 1997. To read more of his reviews, visit MikeHagertyCars.com or follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/mikehagertycars) and Facebook (facebook.com/mikehagertywritesaboutcars).