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- The Bronco Sport will be available in five trims.
- Two engines: 181-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
- 8 inches plus of ground clearance (depending on the model).
- Features include LED flood lamps in the liftgate, zippered seatback pockets to store gear, and a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area.
- Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen is standard, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
- Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features is standard.
- Price starts at $26,660.
The all-new Ford Bronco Sport is aimed at small-SUV buyers who have a penchant for off-road adventure, the kind of people who might view a little mud on the fenders as a badge of honor rather than cause for a trip to the car wash. Ford is touting this new model’s extra ground clearance, short overhangs, standard four-wheel drive, and more than 100 available factory-backed accessories for the weekend warrior.
That Ford is bringing back the much-revered Bronco name for the 2021 model year is a big deal, especially because there hasn’t been a Bronco since the 1996 model year. This time around, the Bronco is being poised as more of a brand, as Ford will be giving customers not just the Bronco Sport seen here but also larger two- and four-door Bronco versions.
The Bronco Sport will be available in five trims: Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands, and First Edition. Powertrain choices consist of two small-displacement turbocharged engines.
Here is what we know so far.
The Bronco is an iconic name. The first two-door Ford Bronco was a 1966 model, designed to compete against the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout, the beginnings of what would become a wave of mainstream sport-utility vehicles.
A smaller model, dubbed Bronco II, came out for 1984, based on the Ranger pickup truck and designed to compete against new compact SUVs, including the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and Jeep Cherokee.
The new 2021 Bronco Sport could be thought of as a revived version of the Bronco II, being a smaller, lighter-duty version of the new midsized Bronco. But with its modern, car-based platform relying on Ford’s Escape small SUV, the Bronco Sport is likely to be far more on-road-biased, despite Ford’s desire to paint it as a serious off-road weapon.
Still, we’ll be itching to buy the new Bronco Sport to add it to the CR test fleet as soon as it goes on sale toward the end of this year, so we can see just how off-road-worthy it really is. For instance, will its 8 inches plus of ground clearance (depending on the model) and four-wheel-drive system be up to the challenge of scampering up our daunting rock hill at the CR Auto Test Center?
We’re happy to see that a multitude of important advanced safety features will come standard on all versions of the new Bronco Sport, along with in-car technology such as an 8-inch infotainment touch screen and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The new Bronco Sport bears a startling resemblance to the Land Rover Freelander that was last sold in the U.S. about 15 years ago. From its upright front end, to its flat hood and body sides, to the squared-off rear and the rising roof, everything about it seems to hint at both Land Rover and a sense of ruggedness. The short front and rear overhangs should help keep it from scraping body work when navigating tougher off-road trails.
The interior doesn’t have quite the same Jeep-like ruggedness as the exterior portends, instead looking more like a slightly warmed-over Ford Escape. There are plenty of clever features, though, such as LED flood lamps in the liftgate that Ford says can illuminate up to 129 square feet, zippered seatback pockets to store additional gear, and a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area.
All Bronco Sports come standard with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, along with compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. SiriusXM satellite radio is available.
What Drives It
The Base, Big Bend, and Outer Banks trims will come with a 181-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. This is the same engine that comes in the Escape, which we found gave decent oomph but also transmitted annoying vibrations at low engine speeds.
The upper-level Badlands and First Edition models will come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that we have found in past testing to be refined and smooth. Both engines come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard four-wheel drive.
The Bronco Sport’s Terrain Management System lets drivers tailor the vehicle to tackle different situations and conditions. Modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand, while two more—Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl—are available on the Badlands and First Edition. Badlands and First Edition models feature more off-road-worthy suspension systems that Ford says give a less jarring ride and better performance when venturing off-road.
The Badlands and First Edition models have a more advanced four-wheel-drive system with a rear differential lock feature that can divert virtually all rear axle torque to either wheel. There is also an available front off-road camera, with lens washer, that can serve as a spotter to help give better visibility of the trail ahead by displaying the video on the center stack-mounted touch screen.
Safety and Driver Assist Systems
The Bronco Sport comes standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced safety and driver assistance features. This bundle includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, lane keeping assistance, and automatic high beams. Other available features include adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, and speed limit sign recognition.
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