When Ford officials finally confirmed the company would be bringing the Bronco back and it wouldn’t be just one vehicle but a set of utes, classic Bronco fans and off-roading aficionados went crazy.
The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker faced a tough challenge. It’s never easy to develop a vehicle that honors the best of the past, satisfying old heads, while incorporating the latest technologies and comforts, attracting newbies.
It only gets more complicated when you’re producing two vehicles, like the soon-to-arrive Bronco and the now-on-the-road Bronco Sport. Ford officials can stop sweating bullets: mission accomplished.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport bears a resemblance of the Bronco II, popular in the 1980s. The Bronco II was very popular, in spite of its slightly tippy nature. It was a very capable offering. However, the part of history it clearly draws from is the late ’60s model Bronco. Keeping old heads happy …
The new Bronco Sport is clearly the right mix of capability, technology, looks and style. Anytime I drive anything other than a minivan, my 21-year-old son’s friends are interested. The new Bronco Sport? Yeah, they wanted to see it — however so did my highly indifferent 19-year-old daughter’s friends. Attracting the newbies …
Not only did Ford face a challenge in pleasing its constituents, it also stared another problem right in the face: the Ford Escape. They already had a somewhat boxy compact utility vehicle that sold well. Fortunately, they’ve buzzed right past the issue because no one will mistake the Bronco Sport for the Escape.
The squared off exterior of the Bronco Sport features just enough angles to help with wind drag, but it retains the rough-and-ready look of its ancestor. It’s almost as if the ’67 model went to a really good plastic surgeon who really did take off 40 years. It’s a small ute that isn’t cute — no easy task, especially since designers didn’t go to a real extreme that could’ve made it look cartoonish. It’s a handsome ute, even in Cyber Orange Metallic Tri-Coat — or as it was dubbed by the aforementioned daughter: Nacho Cheese Yellow. It’s an attention getter for sure!
Those styling cues tying it to the past end once you open the door and ease inside the Bronco Sport. And of note, the new model passes the “Big Man” test with flying colors. It was a breeze to enter and exit the vehicle. If I were in the market for a new vehicle, this alone would put it near the top of my list.
My test vehicle was the top end, First Edition model and its specialty interior color scheme, Navy Pier leather trim on the seats. I wasn’t enamored early on, as the exterior orange metallic is heavily accented in black, but as the week went on, I came to love it.
The seats were not only trimmed in leather but adorned with bucking Broncos, lest ye forget what ye is driving. They were comfortable and supportive, and I had no problem finding a comfortable and safe driving position. The gauges were easy to see, and include an awesome image of a desert night’s sky when you first get in.
All of the controls for heating and cooling, infotainment and the like are all in a center touchscreen. It too is easily read and reached — as they should be. The rear seats were also comfortable, trimmed in the same navy leather and offering plenty of room and easy ingress and egress. The cargo area could be accessed by opening either the rear window glass or the entire liftgate and excellent option for people on the go, especially off-road.
The Bronco Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-4 cylinder with auto start-stop technology. The start-stop was noticeable, but not really annoying. It puts out 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It scooted through urban and freeway traffic quickly and easily, feeling like it was punching above its weight class. However, I didn’t get a chance to take it off-road so I can’t say if it is a worthy competitor for Jeep — perhaps next time.
Safety and Technology
If the exterior resemblance draws the original Bronco fans, the technology will keep them in the new Bronco Sport. Of course, it offers a slew of safety technology, especially with Ford Co-Pilot360 and advanced driver assistance technologies like road-edge detection, blind-spot assist, blind-spot information with cross-traffic alerts, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking (it works people!! I’ll say no more!!), rear-view camera and more.
With all of the cameras, sensors and other tech, driving it off-road must be a blast. However, it also comes with a slew of convenience technologies that make the everyday rides enjoyable as well. This starts with the 10-speaker Bang & Olaufson sound system that make my daughter put her fingers in her ears when the sound was, uh, loud.
Additionally, the Sync 3 system is good, although still a bit more involved than it needs to be. I’m still not a fan of Ford’s wireless charging pad, which never seems to keep my phone in place. To be fair, a poll of colleagues says it’s a me-thing and not a Ford-things. I remain stubbornly unconvinced but I wanted to be fair. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay is part-and-parcel of the infotainment system and it works without problems.
In the interest of full disclosure, I really wanted the Bronco Sport to be a good vehicle. I was pushing really hard for it to not disappoint — and it doesn’t. In fact, it exceeded my expectations in terms of its ride and handling, comfort and technology. The massive panoramic sunroof most certainly adds to the experience.
It’s easy to drive and easy to park in spite of the squared off nose that is, well, a little different. Most vehicles these days have a rounded front end that gently slopes away. The front of the Bronco Sport is essentially a sheer drop. It’s not “hard,” just different.
That said, I can’t tell you for certain what kind of an off-roader it is. It certainly looks the part with 29-inch all-terrain tires, a Class II trailer towing package, metal bash plates, special off-road suspension, trail control and the special Terrain Management System and its seven G.O.A.T. modes. The 2.0-liter inline-4 offers plenty of power which makes me believe it can handle all but the most serious of trails and even then, it may be able to handle those too.
The 2021 Bronco Sport’s created a lot of buzz and after spending a week in it, I can say, it’s well earned. However, I’ve left out the most important part — the price. Having all of these attributes is useless if it’s a ridiculously overpriced.
Fortunately, it’s not! The Badlands First Edition model, its highest priced version, comes in at $40,050, including destination and delivery charges. For that price, you get a capable off-roader that is every bit as good going to soccer practice, or, if you’re one of an increasing number — to work! If you don’t want the First Edition goodies, it drops the price about $400. Money well spent.