After several decades of absence, the Ford Bronco is back. Body-on-frame, proper 4×4 with low-range and the availability of three pedals seem to line it up with everything enthusiasts want. But what about people who like the Bronco look but don’t need true truck ruggedness? Enter the Bronco Sport.
For the second time in history, Ford is offering a junior Bronco, although this one shares more in common with the original Escape than with the Bronco II of the ‘80s. The Bronco Sport is a crossover, and with that comes a more traditional crossover shape, albeit one butched up with boxy lines and cladding. Up front, the signature Bronco grille adopts a wrap-around treatment while an extra mail slot opening just below it feeds more air to the radiator. The bumper itself is mostly unpainted plastic, although it does sweep a bit low. Along the side, the rounded wheel arches and funky beltline carry over from the big Bronco but the doors don’t come off, the roof is fixed and everything adopts more traditional proportions. There’s no externally-mounted spare tire to be found around the back, but there is a traditional liftgate with a handy opening rear window. Adding a touch of truck aesthetics, the liftgate incorporates some interesting contours while the license plate is set into the unpainted bumper below.
There are a lot of Escape bits going on inside the Bronco Sport, although the upper dash is new and unique, adopting a more traditional form with air vents flanking Ford’s familiar Sync 3 infotainment screen and the start button placed in a more traditional location. The real draw here is the cargo space, with available rubberized flooring that’s easy to clean all sorts of adventuring messes off of. Plenty of tie-down points, gear hooks including MOLLE straps, and charging options are placed about the cabin and the seats are also designed to be easily cleaned. While all this utility and ease of cleaning is aimed at adventurists, it’s likely to win over parents looking for a small crossover that won’t be completely destroyed by childhood. Another neat touch is the inclusion of a bottle opener in the tailgate aperture, handy for camping adventures and tailgating.
Under the skin is where the Bronco Sport development team really spent the cash, with standard four-wheel-drive, up to seven terrain modes (dubbed G.O.A.T modes by Ford) and almost two feet of water fording capability. Standard power comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder while a two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder available as an option. The little engine pumps out 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque while the big engine makes 245 ponies and 275 lb.-ft. of twist, although all those figures come with an asterisk as the Bronco Sport only makes them on premium fuel. Run 87 octane through the system and power will be cut considerably. Regardless of engine choice, the only transmission on offer is an eight-speed torque converter automatic. Another rugged touch is available Trail Control, an off-road cruise control of sorts that allegedly makes traversing tricky terrain a walk in the park.
Canadian pricing for the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport starts at $32,199, or about two grand more than a base-model Escape with AWD. While the Bronco Sport is mostly a road-focused vehicle dressed up in a rugged set of clothes, it’s still likely to find success when it rolls into showrooms next year.