2021 Ford Bronco Sport vs. 2021 Jeep Cherokee: Compare Crossover SUVs

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport and 2021 Jeep Cherokee ride onto the trails in tracks laid by their legendary ancestors, with trail-ready hardware and road-friendly suspension setups that speak to our sensibilities. Reality is reality and most of life takes place on pavement.

We’re fans of both because of their impressive capabilities, but with a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10 the Bronco Sport wallops the 2021 Jeep Cherokee’s 5.7 rating that’s skewed more toward base models. Rated separately, the Cherokee Trailhawk would score higher.

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

The Bronco Sport and Cherokee seat up to five, with room in the back for gear or groceries. Both have tall ride-heights and start for less than $30,000. The Bronco Sport costs less at $28,155 and is equipped with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. The Jeep Cherokee starts for slightly more at $28,950 and is bigger inside, but that’s for a front-drive model. More for less isn’t a great starting point.

Base Broncos are powered by a modern 1.5-liter turbo-3 making 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque routed to all four wheels by an 8-speed automatic transmission. While the power matches up with the base Cherokee’s 2.4-liter inline-4’s 180 hp, the delivery falls flat due to the Cherokee’s gutless 171 lb-ft of torque and its laggy 9-speed automatic transmission. Jeep offers a 270-hp turbo-4, but it’s no longer an option in the off-road-rated Trailhawk.

The base inline-4 in the Cherokee bests the Bronco Sport’s EPA fuel economy rating on the highway by three mpg at 21 mpg in front-wheel-drive form. But the Bronco Sport wins in the city with a 25 mpg rating, which is three more than the Cherokee.

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

The Trailhawk costs at least $37,825, but guarantees four-wheel drive, a V-6 engine with 271 hp, a 9-speed automatic transmission, a mechanical locking rear differential, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

That is close to the Bronco Sport’s top Badlands model, which costs $34,855, and adds a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 245 horsepower, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, an off-road suspension, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone software.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Based on the Ford Escape, the Bronco Sport eschews that model’s softer lines for boxy ends inspired by the bigger Bronco. The flat doors, round headlights, and boxy tail end were grafted onto the crossover’s skeleton to stand out in a class that’s full of curvy sheet metal.

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Jeep Cherokee

The Cherokee skips nostalgia and borrows most of its looks from the bigger Grand Cherokee—not the Wrangler. All the Jeep hallmarks are there: seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches, Easter eggs, but it’s not boxy like the Bronco Sport or Cherokees of old.

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

The Bronco Sport maximizes that boxy body, and even though it’s about a foot shorter than the Cherokee, it has more cargo space thanks to crafty packaging. The Bronco Sport holds up to 32.5 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row of seats, and 65.2 cubic feet with those seats folded down. The Cherokee holds about 26 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row, with seats that slide fore and aft to maximize cargo or passenger room. In its rearmost position, the Cherokee’s rear seats boast 40.0 inches of legroom to the Bronco Sport’s 36.9 inches. With the rear seats folded forward, the Cherokee holds 54.7 cubic feet of cargo—less than the Bronco Sport, although most of that difference is in vertical space.

Both the Cherokee and Bronco Sport come standard with essential active safety tech including automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control is optional.

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands

Despite being less expensive, the Bronco Sport comes slightly better equipped in base form with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility compared to the Cherokee’s 7.0-inch touchscreen.

On paper and in real life the Bronco Sport is the clear winner with clever packaging, distinct brick-like design, and pricing that undercuts the Cherokee at every bend in the trail.

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