When Ford unveiled its 2023 Bronco Heritage Editions last year, it made sense for the larger Ford Bronco SUV, as this is allegedly the descendant of the original Bronco, a vehicle last seen sometime during the Clinton Administration.
But it seemed to make less sense for the smaller Ford Bronco Sport, a compact Bronco SUV model without a heritage, unless you count the Bronco II, made from 1984 through 1990 and replaced by the Ford Explorer.
So maybe it does have some heritage after all, but we digress.
The 2023 Bronco Sport Heritage Edition and Heritage Limited Edition are trim packages that do a credible job of tying these baby Broncos to their esteemed ancestors. They further distract from the fact that the Ford Bronco Sport’s unibody architecture is shared with the less pricey Ford Escape SUV and Ford Maverick pickup. But they prove to be very capable indeed.
The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Edition gets its wardrobe from the vintage clothing store, with a throwback appearance that features Oxford White paint on the roof, grille and 17-inch aluminum wheels, the latter two being distinctively retro. The grille is enhanced with the model’s name in bright red letters across the grille, a if there was any doubt as to what it was.
“We think the iconic themes from the ‘60’s work perfectly on this vehicle,” said Mark Grueber, Bronco marketing manager, and we agree. In fact, the historic styling cues work better on the baby Bronco than its larger sibling, as it’s closer in size to the original Bronco. Today’s big Bronco seems as distended up as a bodybuilder on steroids.
Our test vehicle was finished in Robin’s Egg Blue, packing a strong visual punch that starkly stands apart from other SUVs. While it’s clothed in updated first-generation Bronco design elements, they’re clearly contemporary.
Open the door, and you’re greeted by a Navy Pier color lifted from 1980s-era with Oxford White accents, and heathered Navy Pier cloth seats with plaid inserts and Race Red and Robin’s Egg Blue accent stitching. There’s a microsuede center console and armrests accented in Race Red stitching and MOLLE strap storage system on the front-row seatbacks with Navy Pier straps and Race Red zipper grips.
Standard features include a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, dual automatic climate control, rubberized cargo floor, rear center arrest, heated side mirrors, privacy glass and a push-button starter. Other niceties include rear air vents, a larger 6.5-inch digital instrument cluster, 110-volt outlets on the center console and cargo area, 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, second row under seat storage compartment
The standard powerplant for the Bronco Sport Heritage Edition is a turbocharged 1.5-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission rated at 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, with an equipment list straight from the Big Bend model.
But you can also get the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition, which comes with a larger, more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that routes 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. It comes with two additional G.O.A.T. (Goes Over All Terrain) modes: Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl. All models get Normal, ECO, Sport, Slippery, and Sand modes. The Heritage Limited Edition also comes with a torque-vectoring rear differential, and a lockable center diff, a H.O.S.S. (High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension) system with raised ride height and specially tuned front struts and hydraulic rebound brakes. Antiroll bars, 46-millimeter monotube rear shocks, and specially tuned springs all contribute to the vehicle’s off-road comfort.
And it can tow 2,200 lbs. with available Class II Trailer Tow Package, vs. the 1.5-liter’s 2,000 pounds. But unlike the Bronco, the Bronco Sport doesn’t get a low range or creeper gear or electronically detachable sway bar.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the Ford Bronco Sport five stars in overall crash protection, with five stars in every category except rollover, where it’s rated four stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates it a Top Safety Pick+, its best designation, as it merits a “Good” rating in all tests.
Driver assistance sfaety systems include Trail Control,, Blind Spot Information System, Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping Assist, Lane-Keeping Alert, Driver Alert Monitor, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, Dynamic Brake Support, Rear View Camera and automatic high beam headlamps.
When it coes to personal technology, the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition includes a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices, and a six-speaker audio system. A 10-speaker system with subwoofer by B&O is available.
What makes the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition surprising isn’t its on-road ability. You’d expect that given its shared DNA with the Escape and Maverick, two vehicles that will rarely reach dirt. Its suspension is compliant and comfortable, not a surprise given its off-road equipment.
Just don’t expect it to be a sports car on the DL. No, this little buggy’s agility comes once you hit the dirt where unless you’re headed for the most extreme off-road conditions, it will get you through some challenging conditions thanks to its off-road drive modes, underbody skid plates, added ride height and locking rear differential.
As for the cabin, it’s a dressier version of the Bronco Sport, and there’s no hiding some of its cheaper detailing. But its infotainment screen is marvelously easy to use, featuring big on-screen buttons that are easy to actuate when bounding over boulders.
2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition Specifications
|L: 172.7 inches/W: 74.3 inches/H: 71.4 inches/Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
|2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive
|21 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined
|250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $44,655; As tested: $46,400 including $1,595 destination charge.
The Bronco Sport’s Heritage Editions are a triumph in aesthetics, further enhancing an already pleasing design and surprisingly capable off-road athleticism. For some buyers, its loud visual vocabulary may be too much.
Thankfully, for those buyers, Ford still offers the Escape, a quieter aesthetic tour-de-force.
But for the rest of us, it’s easy to fall for the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited Edition, a designer gem and a rugged little beastie with the refinement and chops to ease our daily commute and weekend exploring all while looking really, really good.
2023 Ford Bronco Sport — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Bronco Sport good on gas?
The EPA rates the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport at 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
Does Ford Bronco Sport have good resale value?
According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2023 Ford Bronco, retaining 65.4% of its value over the first five years of ownership.
Is the Bronco Sport a true 4WD?
All Bronco Sports come with four-wheel drive, but the 2.0-liter models have a locking differential.