|Max Cargo Space (cu.ft.)
Off-roading adventures are a signature American pastime. Loading up your 4x4 with whatever outdoor sporting and survival gear you may need, making a right turn at some unassuming mile marker, and dropping off the grid for a while has an undeniable call-of-the-wild appeal to it. Luckily, it no longer requires a hardcore enthusiast to answer the call: even casual off-roaders can get in on the action thanks to new user-friendly, city-friendly off-roading SUVs. It’s a small but diverse segment, as evidenced by a 2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2021 Jeep Renegade comparison.
The Ford Bronco Sport, like other members of the fabled Bronco family, is an all-new model in 2021, taking the off-roading world by storm. With five trims in dedicated 4x4 configuration and multiple selectable drive modes, this non-premium subcompact SUV presents drivers with genuine Bronco capability in a comfortable crossover format. The 2021 Jeep Renegade continues a model generation that started with the Renegade’s introduction in 2015, with updates highlighted by an improved list of standard features. The Renegade looks the part of a Jeep with modern design cues, and in 7 trims, it can be configured for optimal city driving or off-road performance depending on your preference.
Jeep’s pedigree for off-roading performance is generally ironclad, but Ford is returning to the off-roading market with gusto in 2021. The Renegade offers FWD configurations and tons of efficiency-boosting tech, but the real-world results aren’t nearly as impressive as truly city-oriented subcompact crossovers. With superior clearance, fording, drive modes, a stronger, more advanced powertrain, and substantial cargo-carrying capacity, we think the Bronco Sport has the edge in this matchup that emphasizes off-road performance.
For an off-roading design, the drivetrain is about more than raw power and torque. It’s also about a 4x4 system that limits slip and enables proper torque vectoring for maximum traction at all times. Both Bronco Sport and Renegade deliver on both fronts!
The base engine for the Bronco Sport is a 1.5L 3-cylinder EcoBoost that puts out 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque through the standard 4x4 drive system. That’s nice, but the real treat is the 2.0L that comes standard on Badlands trim. This EcoBoost is paired to an Advanced 4x4 system and targets best-in-class 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, ensuring the Bronco Sport is never stuck in a rut.
The Advanced 4x4 system expands on Bronco Sport’s basic 4x4 capabilities by equipping a class-exclusive twin-clutch rear drive unit with a differential lock feature. Offering similar functionality to a traditional mechanically locking differential, this enables almost all torque to be vectored to a single rear wheel during adverse traction conditions – nothing else in-segment comes close.
The Renegade also offers two engine options. The standard is a 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine that produces 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque through a FWD system. 4x4 configuration is available on lower trims and standard for Upland, Limited, and Trailhawk models, as is a significantly punchier 1.3L 4-cylinder turbo. Though it’s small, it achieves 177 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, an impressive result for its size.
That being said, neither engine matches up to the power and torque of the Bronco Sport counterparts. Additionally, the Renegade’s Brake Lock Differential System uses brakes to individually reduce spinning on low-traction tires, functionally “sending” torque to the other wheels. While it’s been reviewed as being extremely effective, it doesn’t achieve the extreme vectoring achievable on the Bronco Sport.
Of course, the best engine and 4x4 system in the world won’t help you off-road if it’s mounted in a roadster with 2” of ground clearance and a nose 4’ in front of the wheels. The vehicular dimensions, intake placements, and suspension height all play a role in determining what your off-roader can do. Then advanced control technologies help make it easy for drivers to do it.
Ground clearance and water fording capabilities are pretty simple to understand – if an object is larger than the ground clearance, or a stream or pool is deeper than the water fording limit, you can’t drive over it. Approach, departure, and break-over angles tell drivers just how sharp of a terrain change they can handle without scraping anything. In all the above, bigger is better because it means more confidence under any off-roading circumstance.
Ground clearance for the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport maxes out at 8.8”, virtually identical to the 2021 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk’s 8.7” maximum clearance. Both numbers are good, and the difference is negligible in practice. Less negligible is the water fording discrepancy – Renegade taps out at 19” of water depth, whereas Bronco Sport can forge ahead through 23.6” of water.
Both the Bronco Sport and the Renegade include advanced technologies to make off-roading easy and accessible to a broader audience. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain Traction Management System is a great tool for optimizing drivetrain performance to match up to 5 unique driving conditions (Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, and, on Trailhawk, Rock). It also features buttons for locking into 4WD mode, 4WD low (i.e., rock crawling) mode, and Hill Descent Control. This handy feature is like a downhill cruise control, modulating brakes and throttle to keep things steady on downhill segments that feel anything but.
Here too, we feel the Bronco Sport takes things up another level. Its Traction Management System has 5 G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) modes standard, with 7 available overall. The mix is a little different – base options are Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand, with Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl added on Badlands trim. The Eco and Sport modes unique to the Bronco Sport are more appropriate for tuning your on-road experience, something the Renegade doesn’t offer despite being more city-oriented.
The Renegade’s Hill Descent Control is good, but Ford’s Trail Control is better – it performs the same low-speed off-road “cruise control” function but is not limited to use on downslopes. Instead, Trail Control allows drivers to navigate any terrain at a constant speed while focusing entirely on steering. A class-exclusive front camera with a lens washer and a 180-degree split-view camera while using Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl drive modes also give Bronco Sport drivers maximum vision around their vehicle when it matters most. In this regard, the Bronco Sport does more than the Renegade.
We’re talking about a pair of subcompact off-road-ready crossovers here, so interior space numbers aren’t exactly mind-boggling. The 2021 Bronco Sport does a lot with a little, though. Its flat, safari-style roof maximizes interior space to deliver best-in-class front and rear headroom of 41.5” and 41.7” respectively. You'll find 32.5 cu.ft. of storage behind the 2nd row and up to 65.2 cu.ft. behind the first row. There is plenty of room for all of your stuff.
In addition to this, clever and thoughtful storage solutions enable owners to make the most of the space that they have. Behind the front seats, for example, are zipper pockets and a versatile class-exclusive MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) strap system to keep anything with a clip organized and easily accessible. In the rear, the available rubberized Cargo Management System allows you to create shelves and dividers to properly organize important items and includes a fold-out working camp table. A built-in 400 W power inverter and liftgate flood lamps make the Bronco Sport a modern mobile campsite as well.
The 2021 Renegade is a smaller SUV than the Bronco Sport, and the occupants will feel that. It has 41.2” of front legroom and 35.1” of rear legroom against Bronco Sport’s 42.4” front and 36.9” rear legroom. Only 18.5 cu.ft. of cargo volume behind the seats (max 50.8 cu.ft. with everything folded down) limits the sheer volume of stuff you can carry as well, although the folding front passenger seat enables long objects to come along inside.
With over 100 factory-supported dealer-installed accessories, Bronco Sport allows every owner to outfit their adventurer with all of the features they’ll need to make the most of it. Roof rail crossbars, high-capacity cargo baskets, bike racks, ski and snowboard carriers, and even a Yakima combo of a Skyrise HD tent and Slim Shady awning can be fitted to your Bronco Sport, so you’re ready for a getaway right away. The Renegade, cross-marketed to pure city drivers, just doesn’t come close.