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Sibling Rivalry: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport versus 2021 Ford Escape

Which one of these similar small Ford SUV siblings fits your driving needs the best?

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The small SUV market is bursting with variety. No greater example are the 2021 versions of the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, a pair of 5-passenger compact SUVs that share a lot in common yet offer buyers two distinct flavours.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is the third model to join Ford's Bronco family of SUVs. Unlike the Bronco mid-size SUV (that's based on the Ford Ranger rear-wheel-drive-based body-on-frame mid-size pickup truck), the Bronco Sport uses the same front-wheel-drive-based Escape uni-body platform. While some small SUVs skew toward city driving, the Bronco Sport is designed for adventure. It has trail-tested off-road capability, up to 8.8 inches of ground clearance, a purpose-built interior, and a terrain-management system that makes it easy to navigate various surfaces.

Completely redesigned for the 2020 model year, the Ford Escape compact SUV arrives for 2021 with no significant changes but a host of small trim and equipment alterations. The Escape is a comfortable and refined SUV with modern connectivity, a good safety suite, and pleasant driving manners. With its roomy back seat and varying powertrains—including hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions —there’s an Escape for multiple different buyers.

So, 2021 Ford Bronco Sport or Escape? Read on to find out which of these Ford small SUV siblings is just right for you.

 

Price

All 2021 Ford Bronco Sport trims come standard with all-wheel-drive (AWD) and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Manufacturers Suggested Retail Prices in Canadian dollars start at $32,299. A turbocharged 3-cylinder gas engine powers the first three trim levels, up to the $37,799 Outer Banks. The top-line $40,299 Badlands is the only Bronco Sport available with the larger, 4-cylinder engine.

Because you can get a 2021 Ford Escape with front-wheel-drive (FWD) with the same 3-cylinder/automatic powertrain as in the Bronco Sport, its base S trim price starts lower, at $28,149. AWD is a $1,500 option. Availability of the larger 4-cylinder begins with the $37,149 Escape SEL AWD. The Escape Hybrid can be had in $32,7349 SE FWD trim; AWD is a $1,500 extra. The plug-in Escape PHEV is FWD only, starting at $37,649.

Winner: 2021 Ford Escape

 

Interior 

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport’s interior is a simple, clean layout that uses large, easy-to-reach physical buttons and knobs. There’s a touchscreen near the top of the dash, with all infotainment and climate controls below. On the back of both front seats, there’s an available MOLLE (modular lightweight load-carrying equipment) strap system that can be used with access bags or anything that can be attached with carabiners. And there’s extra storage under the bottom cushion of the rear seat.

The 2021 Ford Escape has a simple but intuitively arranged centre stack, with a good balance of touchscreen controls and actual physical buttons. The Escape's front seats prove comfortable over the long haul, and the view out of the vehicle is good if a bit hampered by the slightly thick C-pillars. Because of its taller shape, the Bronco Sport offers more headroom front and back, Bbut overall, the Escape is roomier for passengers and offers more cargo space behind its rear seats: 974 litres compared to the Bronco Sport's 920 rating.

Winner: 2021 Ford Escape

 

Performance & Fuel Economy

 

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport uses two turbocharged engines. A 181-horsepower 1.5-litre 3-cylinder or a 250-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder. Full-time AWD with a lock mode comes standard. There is a choice of two 8-speed automatic transmissions. The optional transmission, only available with the 2.0-litre engine, adds an oil cooler, manual shifting mode, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Although the Ford siblings share the same gas-only powertrains, the 2021 Ford Escape scores better at the fuel pumps across all trim levels, from a low of a 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km) city and highway combined for the base FWD to 9.1 L/100 km for the 2.0-litre engine. 

Where the Escape’s fuel-sipping talents shine brightest are its available electrified versions.

The Ford Escape Hybrid and PHEV use a continuously variable automatic transmission and 2.5-litre gas engine/electric battery combination. With 200 total horsepower, the FWD Hybrid scores a combined 5.8 L/100 km. The AWD version is rated at 5.9. Even with an additional 21 horsepower, the FWD PHEV is also estimated at 5.8 L/100 km and can be driven up to 61 kilometres using electric power only.

Winner: 2021 Ford Escape

 

Ride and Handling

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is billed as a rugged, compact SUV. It might be the “little Bronco,” but the Bronco Sport is a true off-roader. The Badlands trim’s twin-clutch 4-wheel-drive system smartly apportions torque to the wheel best able to exploit it. Stick to paved roads, though, and the Bronco Sport’s supple suspension delivers a comfortable ride, along with noticeable body lean when cornering swiftly. Even so, the Bronco Sport tracks with excellent stability, both in a straight line and in corners.

Although it’s also available with traction at all four wheels, the 2021 Ford Escape is the small Ford SUV sibling tailored towards driving on the pavement. Underbody suspension subframes help to absorb vibration while contributing to a comfortable ride. At the same time, the Escape is far from sloppy on a winding road, owing to its excellent suspension damping. On another positive note, notable differences can be felt among Escape’s five drive modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Snow & Sand.

Winner: 2022 Ford Escape

 

Overall Winner: 2022 Ford Escape

Although this pair of Ford compact SUVs share a lot in common, a clear winner appeared after adding all their pros and cons.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport can be recommended for buyers who prefer its boxier styling and (mild) off-road-oriented vibe.

However, the 2021 Ford Escape betters its sibling in the majority of objective categories. It offers FWD, lower pricing, better fuel economy (measurably more with the electrified versions), more refined road manners, and more passenger and cargo room overall.

 

Specs

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Escape

 

Engine(s)

1.5-litre Turbocharged I3

2.0-litre Turbocharged I4

1.5-litre Turbocharged I3

2.0-litre Turbocharged I4

2.5-litre I4 Hybrid

2.5-litre I4 PHEV -

Horsepower

1.5T - 181 hp @ 6,000 rpm

2.0T - 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm

1.5T- 181 hp @ 6,000 rpm

2.0T - 250 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Hybrid - 200 hp @ 6,250 rpm

PHEV- 221 hp @ 6,250 rpm

Torque

1.5T - 190 hp @ 3,000 rpm

2.0T - 277 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

1.5T - 190 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

2.0-T - 280 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

Hybrid -155 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

PHEV - 155 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

Transmission(s)

8-speed automatic

1.5T/2.0T - 8-speed automatic

Hybrid/PHEV - Continuously variable automatic

Fuel Economy

1.5T AWD – 8.9 L/100 km (9.3 city, 8.3 hwy)

2.0T AWD – 10.1 L/100 km (11.1 city, 8.9 hwy)

1.5T FWD - 7.8 L/100 km (8.6 city, 7.1 hwy)

1.5T AWD -8.4 L/100 km (8.9 city, 7.6 hwy)

2.0T AWD - 9.1 L/100 km (10.4 city, 7.5 hwy)

Hybrid FWD - 5.8 L/100 km (5.4 city, 6.3 hwy)

Hybrid AWD - 5.9 L/100 km (5.5 city, 6.4 hwy)

PHEV FWD - 5.8 L/100 km

Warranty

3 years/60,000 km

3 years/60,000 km

Max Seating Capacity

5

5

Curb Weight

1,568-1,684 kg

1,571-1,762 kg

Wheelbase

2,670 mm

2,710 mm

Overall Length

4,387 mm

4,585 mm

Width

1,887 mm

1,999 - 2,174 mm

Height

1,814 mm

1,679 mm

Headroom, Front

1,054 mm

1,016 mm

Headroom, Rear

1,059 mm

998 mm

Legroom, Front

1,077 mm

1,077 mm

Legroom, Rear

937 mm

1,034 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,455 mm

1,463 mm

Shoulder Room, Rear

1,412 mm

1,422 mm

Cargo Volume, Behind Rear Seats

920 L

974 L

Towing Capacity

1.5T - 2,000 lbs (907 kgs)

2.0T - 2,200 lbs (998 kgs)

Hybrid – 1,500 lbs (680 kgs)

1.5T - 2,000 lbs (907 kgs)

2.0T – 3,500 lbs (1,587 kgs)

 

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