Ford’s all-new Bronco Sport kicks off the Bronco line.
Do you remember the Ford Bronco? That is understandable if you do not as the first batch of Broncos were built from 1965 to 1996. Beginning this year, the Bronco name returns, but this time it will include up to three variations. These are: a crossover, an SUV, and a pickup truck. We got a hold of a 2021 Bronco Sport, the first model in what promises to become a dominant product range.
Four Bronco Sport Trims
Ford offers the 2021 Bronco Sport in four trims plus a now sold-out First Edition trim. This model comes with standard all-wheel drive and is priced from $26,820 to $32,820, in addition to a $1,495 destination charge. Ford offers two engine choices.
Before we move forward, the differences between the Bronco models must be addressed. The initial model, the Bronco Sport, is based on the same platform underpinning the Ford Escape compact crossover. This means this vehicle is closer to a car in design with unibody construction for a more rigid body structure.
The upcoming Bronco SUV is closer in capabilities to the Jeep Wrangler as it utilizes a body-on-frame design, which is better suited for off-roading. We’ll see the Bronco SUV this summer. Finally, a Bronco pickup truck is in the works and it will share its platform with the Bronco SUV. Likely, we won’t see the Bronco pickup before 2024. We have no idea if it will replace the similar-sized Ford Ranger or be sold alongside it.
The “BRONCO” lettering dominating this model’s grille represents the family line, not the model at hand. Move to the rear of this crossover and “Sport” is emblazoned underneath BRONCO to clarify the difference.
Nevertheless, the Bronco Sport is a sight to behold with its squared edges, wide hood, and tall roof pillars. It has the look of a rugged model as it successfully combines heritage and modern design cues.
Inside, the cabin advances its utilitarian look with truck-inspired upright vents at the dashboard’s corners. Vinyl, plastics, and rubber mats reign – this model was designed to go places over cosseting the passengers. A wipe-it-clean interior is exactly what you get. Five can sit comfortably inside with the tall roof offering excellent headroom. Ample standard storage space, various rails and available racks, and light towing capabilities (up to 2,200 pounds), make the Bronco Sport a strong candidate for outdoors enthusiasts anywhere.
Bronco Sport Performance
Most Bronco Sport models come with a 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder engine. That’s right: three cylinders lined in a row. But the power of turbo technology makes a big difference here. This one makes 180 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, rivaling the output of a standard four-cylinder engine.
Moving up to the top-trim Badlands edition brings in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine This one is good for 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the other trims with a standard all-wheel drive arrangement, this enginecomes with an advanced and more off-road capable all-wheel-drive system. Both engines work with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Ford calls the Bronco Sport’s all-wheel-drive system, four-wheel drive, but it isn’t. With a traditional four-wheel-drive design, the front and rear axles may be manually locked to turn at the same speed. With all-wheel drive, all four wheels move independently, depending on the road conditions.
But in the Bronco Sport, the all-wheel-drive system benefits from a unique terrain management system to behave more like a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Specifically, all models are equipped with G.O.A.T – Goes Over Any Type of Terrain. This is a dial-controlled system that manages the Sport’s all-wheel drive. Here, the dial includes normal, ECO, sport, slippery, and sand modes.
Taking to the Badlands
Choose the Badlands and this one adds mud/ruts and rock crawl modes. It also comes with a twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock feature. This arrangement is ideal for enhanced off-roading. Where the standard arrangement is suitable for the road and light-duty trails, the latter makes beach driving and moderate rock-climbing a possibility. Notably, four bash plates are included with the Badlands to protect this crossover’s underbody.
We weren’t able to head east with our test Outer Banks model, but local gravel roads, an assortment of mud puddles. And plenty of grass awaited us. Flicking the dial adjusted the suspension and all-wheel-drive systems, giving us the confidence to go places we wouldn’t otherwise try with most other crossover models. We felt reasonably confident that we could navigate areas where the similar-engineered Subaru Forester might go. But we also also think that waiting for the Bronco SUV is the ideal. Especially, for anyone wanting to tackle the tough trails at Uwharrie National Forest near Troy, NC.
Ford offers the Bronco Sport in Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks (hooray for North Carolina!), and Badlands trims. Our test Outer Banks model supplied a more comfortable interior than the two trims beneath it. However, the base engine is standard. Pay just $500 more and the much more capable four-cylinder engine and an enhanced all-wheel-drive system come in. If you’re a serious off-road fan, then the Badlands trim is it, otherwise, the Big Bend or Outer Banks models are worth considering.
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Exterior photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group. Interior photos supplied by the Ford Motor Company. All rights reserved.