The Ford Bronco Sport brings a sterling off-road name to a car-like crossover based on the latest Ford Escape.
With the Bronco Sport, Ford wraps classic SUV design cues around a vehicle available with a choice between a turbo-3 and a turbo-4 engine paired to standard all-wheel drive. It’s new for the 2021 model year.
Rivals include the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Compass, as well as Ford’s own Bronco, which has been revived for the 2021 model year and spun off the Ranger pickup truck architecture.
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The Bronco Sport’s style clearly derives from the classic ’60s Bronco, with some nods to Ford’s former Land Rover brand. It’s crisply folded, with big round headlights, flat door panels, tall windows, and a roofline that steps up to create a little more room behind the front seats. Unlike the bigger Bronco, it doesn’t wear a spare tire on its tailgate—but like the first-generation Ford Escape, it does get flip-up glass in the tailgate for easier loading. The interior adopts a big touchscreen for infotainment, and wears themed colors according to the model—suede and leather on the Outer Banks, for example.
For performance, the Bronco Sport latches on to Ford’s latest inline engine family. Base versions get a 1.5-liter turbo-3 with an estimated 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, coupled to an 8-speed automatic. Uprated versions get a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, teamed to the same 8-speed. Four-cylinder Bronco Sports also get paddle shifters and a transmission cooler.
Tow capacity maxes out at 2,200 pounds.
A standard all-wheel-drive system splits power front to rear to adjust for traction needs, but the Badlands and First Edition versions get an advanced version—a twin-clutch rear differential can divert power from side to side across the rear axle for more precise power control, and to simulate a mechanical locking differential. It’s coupled to a terrain-management system that modulates power and wheel slip for specific modes—Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand on most Bronco Sports, and on the Badlands and First Edition, additional Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes.
Ford also offers the Bronco Sport with a special adaptive cruise control that allows the vehicle to crawl at trail speeds (up to 20 mph) while the driver navigates obstacles. It can be paired with a front off-road camera that gives the driver a view of the obstacles at tire level. The Bronco Sport can ford up to 23.6 inches of water on top models.
The suspension’s MacPherson struts in front, and independent multi-link in the rear, and the Bronco Sport adopts 17- or 18-inch wheels depending on the model. The top trims get retuned struts and monotube rear shocks as well as softer springs and anti-roll bars for better off-road behavior.
With seating for five, the Ford Bronco Sport has some touches that tip its hat toward the off-road crowd, including LED floodlights, Molle straps stitched on the front seatbacks, washable rubberized flooring, and a built-in bottle opener in the tailgate. It promises to hold a pair of 27.5-inch-wheel bikes upright (with the front wheels removed), though cargo space hasn’t been quoted yet. Ford will sell more than 100 accessories to outfit the Bronco Sport to the driver’s spec—and some will include a cargo shelf that slides in a track, and appears to function like a mobile standing desk.
The Bronco Sport comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with infotainment that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Automatic emergency braking is standard, along with blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Safety options include adaptive cruise control.
Ford offers the Bronco Sport in five different versions: a base edition, a Big Bend model, the Outer Banks, the Badlands, and a limited First Edition. The Bronco Sport will be priced from just below $30,000, and arrives in showrooms late in 2020.