2021 Ford Bronco Sport
The Ford Bronco has returned! The icon from the late 1960s has been re-imagined for the groundswell of new off-road enthusiasts.
However, there is not just one or two Broncos coming back. Ford developed three models with the Bronco name. Two of which are from the platform of the Ranger pickup – a two-door and a four-door - were designed for true off-road capability. The third model is derived from the Escape SUV, yet it is more enhanced with a capable driveline and rugged looks.
We happen to have the latter – called the Bronco Sport.
Which brings up the question of whether the smaller Bronco Sport truly lives up to the promise of this resurrected model name.
From the outside, its credentials look pretty good. The rugged design language to be found on the larger Broncos translate very well for this smaller model. There is a boxy shape that starts with a simple horizontal bar grille wearing the Bronco name across it. Headlamp units starts with a circular main unit with an extended lens area for the turn signal/driving lamp. The front end may appear blunt, but it does have a three-dimensional quality to it.
The side profile also appears boxy, but its side window profile is broken up at the C-pillar with an angular shape. All four doors open wide for occupants to get in and out easily. The liftgate can be open fully or with just the back window to access the cargo area quickly. Vertical LED taillights finish out the rear end design.
Our Badlands tester wore off-road ready tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels giving it a rugged look. The roof was painted black to offset the Rapid Red main color on our tester. In all, the Bronco Sport certainly looks the part and can be confused with the larger Bronco models.
Inside the Bronco Sport is an equally rugged and useful cabin. The instrumentation is a mix of analog dials with digital displays, including the 6.5-inch center screen with some beautiful start-up images promoting the possibilities of your Bronco Sport. The center stack is crowned by a tablet-like infotainment screen powered by the latest version of Ford’s SYNC. All other controls are logical and easy to understand.
As with most Ford vehicles, the transmission is actuated by a knob on the center console. To fine tune your shifts, there are paddles behind the steering wheel. Also on the center console is the knob for the G.O.A.T. Modes, featuring seven drive modes for specific traction and driving choices. You also get additional controls for the Bronco Sport’s four-wheel-drive system.
Seating is upholstered in a cloth material instead of leather for climate considerations. The front seats offer plenty of support, but they were a bit firm in places. Rear seat legroom was OK, while offering superb headroom. There are plenty of stowage places along the side and back of the front seatbacks that remind one of a backpack – including a zipper towage sized to fit a tablet device.
By either opening up the liftgate or the rear window, the Bronco Sport offers up to 29.4 cubic feet of cargo space. When you fold down the rear seats, you get a maximum of 60.6 cubic feet of squared off volume to carry an entire camping ground with you. There is also an underseat storage in the rear passenger side seat, as well.
There are two engines available on the Bronco Sport. Our Badlands tester came with the more powerful of the two – a 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. This engine is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and an advanced four-wheel-drive system with a twin-clutch rear axle unit. The latter is controlled by the seven G.O.A.T. Modes of the Terrain Management System.
There is a lot to take in, but the Bronco Sport does well in the driveline department. The 2.0-liter engine is the better choice of the two engines – the other is a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder unit. It accelerates quite well and keeps up with traffic nicely. We also observed a fuel consumption average of 26.3 MPG.
In terms of driving dynamics, the key word for the Bronco Sport is “soft.” It offered a soft and stable ride, due to its off-road suspension tuning on the Badlands model. On rougher roads, the Bronco Sport worked hard to keep from transmitting the bumps and ruts into the cabin. In turn, we felt that the Bronco Sport’s overall handling was soft, with some roll and lean in the turns.
The Bronco Sport actually had a tight turning radius on road. However, on-center feel is soft, but controlled. Braking is pretty decent in all conditions. The pedal feel was fine, while sending a solid response to the wheels.
Pricing for the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport starts at $26,820. You have a choice of four trim levels, plus a First Edition model. Our Badlands tester came with a sticker price of $36,140.
While the Bronco Sport may seem like a unique proposition in the smaller SUV market, there are plenty of other models that can actually compete with it. We found consumers looking at the Jeep Compass Trailhawk and the upcoming 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, as well as the Bronco Sport.
This might not be the Bronco you were hoping for, but Ford did create an off-road ready smaller SUV to compliment the nameplate’s resurrection. If you like the Bronco Sport’s looks first, try it out before you buy.
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors