Hey, have you heard that Ford is bringing back the Bronco? If the number of questions from family and friends is anything to go by, it seems that just about everyone has. But despite the badging on the front of this all-new compact SUV, this isn’t the Bronco. This is the all-new 2021 Ford Bronco Sport. And though it comes clean around back, badged with its full name, Ford makes sure this SUV lives up to its name.
The all-new Bronco Sport was designed from the ground up with actual outdoor use in mind. This isn’t just a jacked-up crossover with some body cladding. Beneath the stylish squared-off body is a true 4×4 system featuring a twin-clutch rear drive unit with a differential lock. We were lucky to spend a long weekend with the Bronco Sport Badlands edition, the most rugged and off-road capable model in the lineup. Identifiable by the door-mounted trim badge and standard all-terrain tires, this model adds softer springs and antiroll bars plus unique front strut tuning for more comfort and greater articulation when going off-road. There’s also four steel bash plates and frame-mounted front tow hooks that can withstand winching up to the Bronco Sport’s entire gross vehicle weight if the going gets tough. Powering this little off-roader is Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 245hp and 275lb-ft of torque are more than plenty to propel the Bronco Sport with gusto. Other trims make due with a 1.5L three-cylinder EcoBoost engine making 181hp and 190lb-ft torque.
Ford paid careful attention to almost every detail of the Bronco Sport to make it as innovative and user friendly as possible. The safari-style roof provides ample mounting points on the long roof rails and massive interior headroom for occupants. The bumpers, rocker panels, and mirror caps are unpainted so off-road encounters don’t damage what are usually vulnerable painted surfaces. The rear glass opens separately from the rear hatch for quick loading or easy access. Inside, the Bronco Sport takes it to the next level. The rear cargo area and second row seat backs are covered in a protective, grippy, and easy-to-clean rubberized surface. There’s MOLLE strap points to tie down cargo and LED floodlamps build into the rear hatch to illuminate the loading area and rear cargo space. Moving forward, zipped seatback pockets and storage under the second row seats provide plenty of places to stow gear. Finally, the Bronco’s flooring is washable rubber, making it impervious to water and easy to clean. More typical automotive features are here, too. SYNC3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard with an 8-inch touch screen display. The Badlands also features a sunroof and punchy Band & Olufsen sound system. Our tester was also equipped with the optional Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ package, adding adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, active lane-centering, and evasive starring assist to the standard forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, blind sport monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lake-keep assist, and automatic high-beams. The Badlands even has an extra forward-looking trail camera for navigating tight terrain.
We took the Bronco Sport on two very different drives in our long weekend of testing. First, we decided on some highway driving to Lee, Massachusetts. The Bronco Sport handled the mundane task of highway driving well enough. On the highway, there is a bit of expected tire noise from the all-terrain tires. Inside, the seat bottoms are a bit short for taller occupants, but we’ve noted that about Ford products in the past. The infotainment system is Ford’s familiar SYNC interface as well and easy to use. The only true disappointment was the fuel economy, which averaged 19.9 MPG combined in our 4 days of testing. The squared-off shape, 20+ mph headwinds winds, and off-road tires likely didn’t help our highway drive. After our trip out-of-state, we took the Bronco Sport on a winter hiking expedition closer to home. The trip took out down several dirt roads until we ended up on a remote, snow-packed seasonal road. Perhaps the only place where Ford got cutesy with the Bronco Sport is the “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain” modes, a.k.a. “G.O.A.T” modes. Don’t ask us why it there’s only one “T”…but the system works well. You could individually select locking the SUV into four-wheel-drive or engaging the rear differential lock, or you could simply rotate the G.O.A.T. selector to Mud/Ruts, Sand, Rock Crawl, or even Slippery and the ideal setup is automatically engaged. This set-it-and-forget-it approach to off-road setups makes it simple for anyone to feel confident leaving the pavement. We’re happy to report the Bronco Sport had no trouble over gravel, sand, or snow-packed roadways. The suspension provided the soft yet connected ride to carry some real speed through the woods.
The Ford Bronco Sport is clearly going to be a hit. The real SUV feel, host of included features, and sharp styling are all appealing. Friends and family think it looks like a little Land Rover Discovery, and there’s not a single negative connotation that can come from that analogy. Ford clearly thought long and hard about maximizing the Bronco Sport’s capabilities and interior features, and it puts every other “soft-roading” compact crossover to shame. In our eyes, the Bronco Sport has earned the right to wear its name proudly.
|2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands 4×4||$32,660|
|Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+||$795|