Ford has brought back the legendary Bronco nameplate this year with two all-new vehicles. It's important from the outset to distinguish between the Bronco and the Bronco Sport. The Bronco will be based on the Ranger pickup, with body-on-frame construction and a traditional dual-range four-wheel-drive system. The Bronco Sport is smaller, and built on a unibody chassis shared with the popular Ford Escape crossover SUV.
We recently spent a week driving the Bronco Sport in its mid-range Outer Banks trim. The most affordable Bronco Sport starts at $27,215 and the top "First Edition" trim starts at $38,160. This is a comparatively expensive SUV, starting almost $2,000 higher than the comparable Escape and $7,000 higher than the recently-announced Maverick compact four-door pickup. Both the Maverick and the Bronco Sport are based on the same chassis.
What you get for the price of the Bronco Sport is a great-looking, comfortable small SUV with impressive performance. Where the Escape looks like most other small crossovers, the Bronco Sport is instantly recognizable with a squared-off body design reminiscent of the original Bronco or modern luxury SUVs from Jeep or Land Rover. If you're bored with the same old crossover looks, you're likely to love the Bronco Sport.
Under the hood, the Bronco Sport comes with a 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. The 1.5-liter produces 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty for the baby Bronco. If you want more power, the optional two-liter engine produces 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.
With either engine, the eight-speed transmission works quickly and smoothly to deliver good acceleration and the single-range all-wheel-drive system provides good off-pavement performance. It's important to note that the Bronco Sport does not have a low-range traditional 4X4 option, so it's not a rock-climbing contender, but the AWD system is more than adequate for camping and most recreational purposes. Depending on the trim level, the Bronco Sport offers two different rear axle systems: a basic rear differential, or a torque-vectoring option.
Inside, the Bronco Sport is surprisingly comfortable. You get an up-high seating position and the seats are delightfully comfortable. The layout of controls and technology is sensible and easy to use. Depending on the trim level, there's wireless device charging, available sunroof, and outdoor-friendly features. The eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system is mounted high on the dash for easy reading and uses Ford's SYNC system.
On the road, the Bronco Sport drives like a crossover. You won't ever feel like you're driving a ponderous, overweight SUV. Acceleration and cornering are responsive and enjoyable. This is a crossover you can drive every day in an urban environment, and still go exploring on the weekend. When the pavement ends, a quick twist of the GOAT (Goes Over Any Terrain) modes dial allows you to adjust for sand, slippery, sport, or eco driving. If you buy the off-road oriented Badlands trim, the Bronco Sport adds Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes. We took the Bronco Sport on a light-duty off-road trail and it handled a wet, sometimes muddy route with perfect capability.
The bottom line on the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is this: If you want a new crossover but you're bored with the current options, you need to head to your nearest Ford dealer and take a good look at this SUV. If you're hungry for something new and different, the Bronco Sport hits the spot.
2021 Ford Bronco Sport
Base price: $27,215
Price as tested: $37,590
Type: Compact SUV
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (181 hp, 190 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 25/28
Overall length: 172.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,467 pounds
Final assembly: Hermosillo, Mexico
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