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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A silver 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is parked on rocks in the mountains.

Let’s Hit the Trail: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, one of the most rewarding hobbies you can get into is off-roading. The off-roading community is filled with adventurers who happily search far and wide for the best trails that offer breathtaking views, challenging obstacles, and memories that last a lifetime. Another unique aspect to the off-roading community is that all skill levels and vehicles are welcome; the more, the merrier, just as long as you’re willing to sit around the campfire after a long day driving to discuss mods and accessories. This campfire talk is exactly what inspired us to compare two increasingly popular light-duty trail runners – the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2021 Subaru Crosstrek.

Off-Road Design

The 2021 Bronco Sport and the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek are two very distinct vehicles that are both designed to fulfill a driver’s need for adventure. While the 2021 Bronco Sport shares a name with its highly-anticipated big brother, the Sport is much smaller in size and shares a platform with the Ford Escape. This means that it’s a true SUV at heart and offers a more rugged design that delivers 8.8 inches of ground clearance and 23.6 inches of water fording capability, making it ready for the trail straight from the factory.

While the Sport will attract drivers looking for a bold and rugged SUV, the Crosstrek has its own following of loyal Subaru fans. The Crosstrek looks less like a trail rig and more like a family-friendly car thanks to its unique exterior that blends the spaciousness of a hatchback with the capability of a compact SUV. However, don’t let its design mislead you. The Crosstreak offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which makes it a great light-duty trail rig even if its exterior says otherwise.

A red 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Premium is shown from the side.

Plenty of Options for Power

Subaru is known for offering all-wheel-drive on every trim, and that’s the case for the 2021 Crosstrek, which makes it even more capable on the trail. However, Subaru’s engine lineup isn’t all that impressive if you’re looking for sheer power and torque. Subaru attempted to remedy this on the 2021 lineup with the addition of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Subaru Boxer engine that powers the Forester and Outback. However, the new engine still only delivers 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The other available engine is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder that can be paired with a 6-speed manual transmission instead of the standard CVT but delivers just 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque.

Like the 2021 Crosstrek, the Bronco Sport comes standard with all-wheel-drive, but you’ll find the Sport offers far more power. Its base engine is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost that delivers 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, giving the Bronco Sport significantly more pulling power than the Crosstrek. The Bronco Sport Badlands, which is the ultimate off-road warrior in the lineup, is equipped with a larger 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and more advanced four-wheel-drive technology to deliver best-in-class 250 horsepower and best-in-class 277 lb-ft of torque, leaving the Crosstrek in the dust. Even better, both engines come paired with a modern 8-speed automatic.

Drive Modes and Features

When it comes to four-wheel-drive capability, there’s no competition between the Crosstrek and the Bronco Sport. The Sport is a light-duty Bronco, but it still boasts many of the same features as its full-size counterpart. These features include standard four-wheel-drive and the Terrain Management System that offers up to seven GOAT (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) Modes that customize how the SUV handles. You can maximize your efficiency with Normal mode when you’re pavement driving, hit the trail with Mud/Ruts, crawl over rocks and obstacles with Rock Crawl, and navigate snow and rain with Slippery mode.

You won’t find anything like the GOAT Modes on the Crosstrek. Instead, the Subaru offers a dual-function X-MODE with Hill Descent Control with a setting for Deep Snow/Mud or Snow and Dirt. The Crosstrek is also equipped with an SI-Drive powertrain performance management system when paired with a CVT. This system lets you customize the response of the throttle, whether you want greater efficiency (Intelligent Mode) or better performance and handling (Sport Mode).

The Bronco Sport also sets itself apart from the Crosstrek with tools like the class-exclusive Trail Control. This feature works like cruise control on the trail and controls the SUV’s throttle and braking up to 20 mph moving forward and 6 mph moving in reverse. By taking over acceleration and braking, Ford’s system lets you focus on navigating the trail. This is even easier with the Sport’s standard rearview camera and the class-exclusive front off-road camera that acts as a spotter and gives you better visibility on any terrain.

A grey 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is off-roading in the desert after winning a 2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comparison.

Modern Safety Tech

If you’re looking to level the playing field between the 2021 Bronco Sport and the 2021 Crosstrek, start comparing safety features. Ford and Subaru both deliver exceptional safety and driver-assist technology that minimizes the potential for collision and enhances your visibility to give you more confidence when you’re behind the wheel. The only real difference between the models is the fact that you’ll find more standard safety and driver-assist tools on the Bronco Sport, which adds to the SUV’s value and attractiveness.

When you opt for the Crosstrek with the CVT transmission, you’ll enjoy Subaru’s award-winning EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. The fact that EyeSight isn’t available with the manual transmission leaves a gap in the lineup, but even that didn’t dissuade the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety from naming the Crosstrek a Top Safety Pick for the sixth year in a row. This honor is a reflection of the Crosstrek’s innovative tools, including:

  • Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering
  • Automatic Pre-Collision Braking
  • Pre-Collision Throttle Management
  • Lead Vehicle Start Alert
  • Auto Start-Stop
  • Lane Departure Prevention
  • SI-Drive

You’ll find far more standard safety features on the Bronco Sport, and that’s courtesy of the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite. Ford has filled the Sport with modern technology, and this suite includes:

Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection
Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross-Traffic Alert
Lane-Keeping System
Auto High Beam Headlamps

You can further enhance these tools by adding additional options like:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go
  • Lane Centering, Evasive Steering Assist
  • Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go
  • Speed Sign Recognition
  • Voice-activated touchscreen navigation

With all those standard and available features, is it any surprise that the Bronco Sport was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, one-upping the already impressive Subaru Crosstrek?

What Does It All Mean?

So, now that we’ve compared the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport with the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, what does it all mean? Whether you’re new to the off-roading community or you’re a veteran on the trail, you’ve likely experienced the camaraderie that off-roading has to offer regardless of your skill level and the vehicle you drive. You’ll find some die-hard Toyota Tacoma lovers on the trail that love to go head-to-head with Jeep Wrangler drivers, but the competition is fun and light-hearted; after all, the only thing at stake is your sense of adventure.

This means that even with two very distinct models like the 2021 Bronco Sport and the 2021 Crosstrek, the rigs both have a lot to offer on the trail. While neither model is capable of navigating extreme terrain or harsh conditions, they offer plenty of capability on moderate trails where you can still get a little mud on the tires and enjoy the wild and wonderful world of the great outdoors. And, at the end of the day, that’s really all an off-roader is looking for – to satisfy their sense of adventure.

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