You’ve seen the reborn Ford Bronco in two- and four-door form, now take a look at its smaller sibling, one that wears the name but is less hardcore. The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is the sub-brand’s entry in the mainstream small SUV class, but with Bronco flavour to set it apart.
The Bronco of small SUVs, as Ford calls the Sport, has standard 4×4 and is engineered to handle whatever weekend adventure its owner has in mind, the company claims. “Bronco Sport has the toughness and smarts to help turn off-road novices into 4×4 pros. It embraces the needs of outdoor enthusiasts – every inch of it was designed and engineered with weekend adventurers in mind,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer.
Like its big brothers, the Bronco Sport recites the G.O.A.T. (goes over any type of terrain) mantra. The marketing speak is translated to unsurpassed ground clearance, made-for-the-trails approach and departure angles, water fording, obstacle protection and segment-first trail technologies, it’s claimed.
Badlands and First Edition models (base, Big Bend and Outer Banks are the other trim levels) have a 4×4 system with a class-exclusive twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential lock feature for greater off-road performance. Similar to a traditional mechanical locking diff, the system can divert virtually all rear axle torque to either wheel.
The Bronco Sport’s Terrain Management System has up to seven available G.O.A.T. modes including Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand. Badlands and First Edition add on Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes.
All models feature independent front and rear suspension. On the Badlands and First Edition, the system includes uniquely tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops designed to provide a quieter, less jarring off-road drive. In addition, 46 mm diameter monotube rear shocks (among the largest in the class) help provide improved response and more comfort off-road, while softer springs and anti-roll bars offer greater articulation over obstacles.
Trail Control tech makes off-roading easier. It has a cruise control-like setting up to 20 mph (32 km/h) forward and 6 mph (10 km/h) in reverse for vehicle-controlled throttle and braking; this allows the driver stay focused on navigating the trail.
Finally, there’s an optional front off-road camera with lens washer. This cam serves as a spotter and helps provide better visibility of the trail ahead, displaying feed on the centre screen. There are also four steel bash plates and available frame-mounted front tow hooks that can individually withstand static loads up to 100% of the gross vehicle weight. Badlands and First Edition models can wade through up to 60 cm of water.
The engine range starts from a 1.5 litre EcoBoost with 181 hp and 258 Nm for the Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks. The Badlands and First Edition come with a 2.0 litre EcoBoost with 245 hp and 373 Nm. Both motors are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with SelectShift and paddle shifters added to the Badlands and First Edition. The 2.0L models also get a cooling system with additional transmission and rear-drive coolers.
The Badlands series comes standard with all-terrain tyres, while the First Edition rides on all-terrain off-road tyres with more aggressive, deeper treads that stretch on to the sidewalls for improved off-road traction.
Off-road driving capability aside, the Bronco Sport looks like a very good partner for outdoor activities. Cool kit include hatch LED floodlamps, Molle straps to carry extra gear, zippered seatback pockets for additional stowage and even a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area.
Ford says that the Sport’s upright shape and “safari-style roof” allows for long and flat roof rails for maximum carrying length, besides best-in-class headroom. The cargo area can accommodate two standing 27.5-inch-wheel mountain bikes with the available Yakima dealer-installed interior bike rack.
Speaking of MTBs, the Badlands and First Edition come with washable rubber flooring throughout the cabin and cargo area, easy-to-clean cloth seating surfaces and silicone-sealed control switches. For stowage of wet, icy or muddy gear, an available storage bin is located below the second-row passenger-side seat.
A flip-glass rear window, low-load floor cargo area, overlanding-ready roof rack with capacity to make rooftop tent camping easy, and front fender peaks that allow the driver to see the corners of the vehicle easily are other practical and outdoor-oriented features.
There’s also a long list of options. The Bronco Sport can help with basecamp setup thanks to an innovative slide-out working table, part of the available five-way configurable Cargo Management System, plus a class-exclusive 400-watt inverter and liftgate floodlamps that illuminate up to 129 sq.ft. The car will launch with more than 100 factory-backed and aftermarket accessories and buyers can also opt for any of four accessory bundles themed Bike, Snow, Water and Camping.
Not so cool-sounding but vital in daily life are things such as the SYNC 3 system with an eight-inch touchscreen (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible), Ford+Alexa, SiriusXM satellite radio and the Ford Co-Pilot 360 suite of driver-assist tech. Sounds like a cool car in an uncool segment. More on the full-on Bronco here.
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