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2021 Ford Bronco Sport Review by Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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Built Wild

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

No doubt by now you know that Ford has brought back the Bronco. What might be less known is that Bronco is now a brand comprised of more than just one model.

The very first Ford Bronco was introduced for 1966. The Bronco continued to evolve for over thirty years growing larger in size until production ended in 1996.

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Now, today, there are three all-new vehicles that fall under the Bronco brand. One is the 4-door Bronco Sport, which is what this is about. The other two are the larger two-door Bronco and four-door Bronco. Ford calls this trio the Bronco outdoor brand of Built Wild SUVs, all of which come standard with a 4x4 drive train.

The 2021 4-door Bronco Sport compact SUV – often called the baby Bronco - is unibody construction. It’s built on the same architecture as the Ford Escape. However, it’s much more rugged. For a perspective, wheelbase is 105.1 in. and overall length is 172.7 inches. The Escape rides on a 106.7 in. wheelbase and is 180.5 inches long.

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The 5-passenger Bronco Sport is available in five trims with two engines. The Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks trims are powered by a 181-hp 1.5-L 3-cylinder EcoBoost (turbo) engine. Badlands and First Edition trims have a 250-hp 2.0-L 4-cylnder EcoBoost (turbo). All are equipped with an 8-speed automatic and, as mentioned, all are four-wheel drive.

Every Bronco Sport has selectable drive modes that Ford has named G.O.A.T. modes which stands for: GOES OVER ANY TYPE OF TERRAIN. All have Normal, ECO, Sport, Slippery and Sand modes. The Badlands and First Edition have two additional modes: Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.

Ford has engineered the Bronco Sport for off-road use with short front and rear overhangs, big approach, departure and ramp over angles, and a minimum ground clearance of 7.8 in. Badlands and First Edition trims have a standard 8.6 in. and optional 8.8 in. ground clearance, which also then provides increased approach, departure and ramp over angles. These two can travel through up to 23.6 inches of water.

Bronco Sport has an independent front and rear suspension. The Badlands and First Edition have uniquely tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops for improved off-road driving. Additionally, 46-millimeter-diameter monotube rear shocks help provide improved response and more comfort off-road. Softer springs and antiroll bars offer greater articulation over obstacles. These two trims also have a 4×4 system equipped with a twin-clutch rear-drive unit with a differential-lock feature.

The three lower trims with the 1.5-L engine are equipped with all-season tires. The top two trims with the 2.0-L engine have all-terrain tires. The available 29-inch 235/65R17 Falken Wildpeak A/T tires provide the most in off-road capability.

In simple terms, the Base, Big Bend and Outer Banks are more the on-road, moderate trials and around town models. The Badlands and First Edition have more off-road creds but still well suited for the highway. But make no mistake, all five are plenty rugged and have serious capability out in the wild.

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Inside the cabin there is decent seating up front with good outward visibility across the squared off hood. A center infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 10-speaker B&O audio, and rotary transmission gear selector plus knobs and switchgear with a rugged look complete the package.

The Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced driver-assist safety (ADAS) technologies is standard across the lineup, including Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking featuring Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Auto High Beam Headlamps and a rearview camera.

For my Bronco Sport drive experience I was in the Outer Banks trim. I didn’t encounter any sandy desert, rock strewn hills or cross a small river. My drive was around my Chicago home, on the streets and highways of a big city. On the road the Bronco Sport is comfortable to drive and easy to maneuver with its compact exterior. The ride is a bit firm but not overly so.

The 1.5-L engine with its 190 lb.-ft. of torque does quite well in moving the Bronco Sport. Small engines can tend to be a bit noisy. However, I thought that to not at all be the case. Ford did well in providing a comfortable and slightly throaty overall engine sound. The 8-speed automatic keeps the engine in its best performing operating range which also helps keep the noise down. EPA fuel economy ratings for the 1.5-L Bronco Sport are 26 mpg combined, with 25 city mpg and 28 highway mpg.

More information and details on the new Bronco Sport can be found at Ford offers more than 100 factory-backed and aftermarket accessories for maximum personalization of your Bronco Sport. Base prices start at $26,820 for the Base trim and climb to $38,500 for the First Edition, plus $1,495 destination and delivery charge.

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The Outer Banks I drove had a base price of $32,160 and totaled out at $36,440 as equipped.

If I were buying most likely the Outer Banks would be my choice. However, if I lived in a mountainous area or in an area that got lots of snow the Badlands might be the better choice. The added engine power will be a plus in hill-country and the Falken tires will be better in snow.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience driving various Jeep models both on- and off-road, including rock crawling, stream swimming, plus negotiating mud and sand. Jeep is who Bronco has in their sights. The Bronco Sport seems well outfitted to do a good job at challenging and competing well out in the wide-open spaces.

As I wrap up this review we learned that the Bronco Sport has scored a perfect crash test score from the independent, nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety with a Top Pick+(plus) rating.

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Lastly, coming back to the “big” Bronco, the two- and four-door will very soon be in the market. Covid-19 upset the car business, just as it upset all of us. I’ve seen the new Bronco in person and crawled around its cabin. I’m looking forward to that drive experience to share with you.

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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