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Small Crossover, HUGE Reputation: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Whenever a movie or TV show from the 1900’s era is remade in today’s modern time, they never quite live up to the hype of the original, like the 2014 remake of Robocop or the 2008 remake of Knight Rider. Both a total flop. The same mantra follows the car industry. And when it comes to the glory years of our past, maybe some things are just meant to stay there… but yet here we are, in the driver seat of a new generation Ford Bronco Sport, not to be confused by the larger, more appropriately sized Ford Bronco.

Little do most know, there was a baby Bronco in the history books known as the Bronco II. It was a not-so-short-lived little-ute that only survived seven years of production. It was based on the chassis from the Ford Ranger and had its competitive sights towards the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer. Things are quite different now. This new generational baby Bronco Sport is not based on the current Ford Ranger, but rather the front-wheel drive, unibody platform from a Ford Escape. At least the competitive nature is still in the similar paths as its targeted prey is the Chevrolet Trailblazer, amongst many, many others, including the Kia Seltos, Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-30.

When looking at the two versions of the Bronco and Bronco Sport, it’s like watching a high school jock about to pulverize the nerd in the locker room. One looks like they bench press 350lbs while the other one struggles to convince the coach to excuse them from P.E. class. Ford sort of nailed the front end of the Bronco Sport with a masculine approach but somehow lost its confidence as it works its way to the rear as it gives a more European vibe in the taillights. We can talk about the retro-ness of the front-end design and its #ThrowbackThursday round headlights – but that’s already been talked about all over YouTube and the innerweb.

What we will talk about however is the example we had to test – ours was left to the simplicity of life. With four models of choosing, our Big Bend model was the second in line over the entry base model know as, uhhh, Base. The Big Bend features a starting price of $28,825 and like all Bronco Sports, including the, uhhh, Base, it comes standard with all-wheel drive, a silly catch phrase called G.O.A.T. Mode and Ford’s safety Co-Pilot360 technology. At a mere $1500 difference from the $27,265 Base, the Big Bend model also featured nifty options like stylish, easy to clean cloth seats, heated side mirrors, and push button start.

Inside the Bronco Sport, we like what Ford has accomplished. The design is simple and purposeful. While there is an abonnement use of plastic materials, the execution makes it a comfortable setting. There is plenty of storage throughout, there is adequate seating for all passengers and the standard 8-inch touch screen infotainment system generates a cute animation at startup. This system is simple to use on the go and is equipped with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, (unfortunately not wireless, it must be connected via a USB or USB-C port.)  The seats on the other hand are not as pleasant as we were hoping – there isn’t much support or bolstering, the seats felt flat with very little range of adjustment from the power adjustable driver seat – they work for short term destinations but with a drive longer than a couple of hours, lets just say we felt the need to stretch our legs after a 150-mile journey.

Like Chevrolet, it’s almost as if Ford is embarrassed about their new engine that comes standard in the Bronco Sport. You won’t find a 3-cylinder engine listed anywhere on the Ford site or the spec sheet that comes with the car. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, the new 1.5-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine is a cheerful little scamp. Its turbocharged ways produce a healthy 181-horsepower and 190lb-ft of torque that is driven through an eight-speed automatic. Granted, we wouldn’t necessarily call this thing quick seeing it takes just north of 8.5-seconds to 60-mph from a stop, but around town, it’s like the jitterbug. At flowing traffic speeds, the turbocharger is lively and brings out some peppy energy from the small engine with smooth shift points from the transmission.

Because the Bronco Sport is based off the Escape, it handles like a typical compact crossover. The steering is tuned for easy maneuverability with low resistant and unaccompanied feedback. The suspension is well in-tuned for comfort and convenience with unnoticeable harshness when the pavement ends and the dirt begins. Regardless that the specification notes a 4×4 system, the Bronco Sport uses a more traditional all-wheel drive setup – its front-wheel drive most of the time unless starting from a stop or when the traction control system detects slippage. Its Go Over Any Type of Terrain system, a.k.a. G.O.A.T. is a cheesy marking name as its terrain management system offers Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand drive modes. Slippery and Sand modes will activate the all-wheel drive system to be consistently in motion for those moments of uncertainty.

The Bronco Sport however is a bag of mixed messages. It carries the rugged name of an adventure hooligan, but engineered for the average commuter. We took our Bronco Sport Big Bend edition on a simple camping retreat; even though the dirt roads were well maintained, we did have to cross a couple of small creeks due to a recent rainstorm. The creeks weren’t deep, 6-inches at most, but yet a small protruding rock still managed to cause damage to the heat shield that protected the prop-shaft from the exhaust. While there was no mechanical damage, the heat shield managed to get wedged between the prop-shaft causing an annoying grinding sound – the only way to make it stop was to drive faster and let the Bronco Sport switch into front-wheel drive mode automatically.

To our Bronco Sport Big Bends disadvantage, it did only have 7.5-inches of ground clearance; however, on the high trimmed, pricier $33,935 Bronco Sport Badlands, it is available with 8.7-inches of ground clearance. The Badlands also comes equipped with a more advanced terrain management system with seven different drive modes, better approach and departure angles and beefier all-terrain tires.

If given an unfamiliar name, the Bronco Sport may have been looked at differently. Being a cute, little rascal of a crossover, the name gave it quite the reputation to live up to. The moral of this story however, if you want an adventure vehicle that can cross 6-inches of water without sending it to the dealership to be fixed, maybe it might be worth looking into the real deal. After all a Ford Bronco Base 4-door starts only $1000 more than this $32,440 Bronco Sport Big Bend and in the long run, you’ll save some money on those unexpected dealership visits.

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Big Bend
Base Price: $27,265
As-Tested Price: $32,440

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 1.5-liter Turbocharged 3-Cylinder
Horsepower | Torque: 181-Horsepower | 190 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
MPG: 25 | 28| 26 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 24.5-MPG-Combined | (Highway MPG testing was not tested due to the rolling elevation changes on the highway)
Fuel Range: 364 miles
0-60 MPH: ±8.5 seconds

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