Lyons on Wheels
2021 Ford Bronco Sport
MSRP: $26,820 (base) As Tested: $36,045 (Outer Banks)
Elbowing its way into the crowded, Compact SUV segment is a new entry with an old name. The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is more rugged than the Escape, but less so than the (also new) Bronco. Five models are offered initially : Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands, and a limited run (2,000) First Edition. Prices start at $26,820, and all models are equipped with all-wheel drive.
Bronco Sport is based on the same platform as the Ford Escape. But, it targets outdoor active buyers, and the platform was modified with that in mind. The tale of the tape shows that it’s 8.6″ shorter and 3.4″ narrower than Escape, and sits 4.1″ higher. The interior gets good marks for the straight forward layout of controls. (And a special, late-winter “thumb’s-up” for the Industrial Strength seat heaters). All models get a standard set of driver technologies that Ford collectively calls Co-pilot 360. This includes pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, dynamic brake support, auto high-beam headlights, rearview camera, lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring. The baseline cabin technology includes Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, with an 8-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.
With seats at full pushback, there’s enough room for six footers up front. So set, the remaining legroom makes for a tight squeeze for similarly sized passengers in back, and the narrow rear door openings slow your entry/exit. Bronco Sport’s downright upright shape makes for plenty of headroom (41.7″). The 65.2 cu.-ft. cargo capacity will house a pair of mountain bikes inside (with the optional holder). Ford says there are more than 100 factory-backed accessories available, so you can customize your vehicle for what you carry. Rear seatbacks fold forward to a split level load floor. The surface is rubberized for easy cleanup. The rear window flips open separately from the hatch, liftover height in back is comfortably low, and the cargo bay opening is wide.
Standard on Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks models is a 1.5L, turbocharged, direct-injection three cylinder engine, rated at 181 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque. Badlands and First Edition models get a 2.0L turbo four cylinder engine, checking in with 245 h.p. and 190 lb.-ft. of torque. Both motors are matched with a version of Ford’s 8-speed automatic transmission. The 1.5L in my test Ute provided sufficient power in town and on the highway. It’s a small displacement motor, so you’ll hear it all the time. But, its soundtrack has a low pitch to it that belies the engine’s size. And, it’s a conventional transmission, so it’s not prone to drone, as a CVT might. EPA estimates the fuel economy of the 1.5L at 25/28/26, and I averaged 22 in my week behind the wheel.
Ride and handling in Base, Big Bend and Outer Bank models is smoother than Badlands, though none are as car-like as Escape. Badlands is the most trail capable of the Bronco Sport lineup – a specialty model, that figures to take a bite out of the hard core, off-road market.
|A 40 year resident of the Capital District, Dan Lyons is the author of six automotive books, and photographer of more than 200 calendars.|