CHATHAM, Mass. – The new, little brother within the revitalized Ford Bronco brand, the Ford Bronco Sport might have been designed for those who want to go beyond the end of the pavement, but its on-road manners make it a terrific small SUV for everyday living.
The compact and subcompact (the lines blur at this part of the sport-utility/crossover [SUV/CUV] segment) market bursts with offerings – generally multiple offerings – from every manufacturer, ranging from (relatively) economical everyday transportation vehicles to luxury-car replacements. There are but a limited few designed for off-road adventures with the Bronco Sport being the most recent of this type and one of the most capable.
Bronco Returns Off-Road Ready with Modern ADAS
Designed for fun regardless of where that takes you
All Bronco Sport models – there are five: base, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition – come with standard multi-terrain all-wheel drive (AWD), a minimum 7.8-inches of ground clearance and aggressive approach/departure/breakover angles, all part of the G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of terrain) philosophy.
The First Edition version at our disposal presented the most aggressive setup with 8.8-inches of ground clearance (approximately 10 inches between front/rear differentials and the turf), 235/65R17 (29-inch) all-terrain tires and a low-speed 180° forward-facing off-road camera which can help you pick your way through a trail at low speeds (or at the same low speeds, through a tight driveway with low, out-of-sight walls).
An independent suspension system front and rear helps the Bronco Sport ride smoothly and responsibly on pavement and pick its way amongst obstacles when off pavement.
On Badlands and First Edition series, the system includes uniquely tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops designed to provide a quieter, less jarring off-road experience. In addition, 46-millimeter-diameter monotube rear shocks help provide improved response and more comfort off-road, while softer springs and antiroll bars offer greater articulation over obstacles.
The Bronco Sport First Edition offers seven G.O.A.T. driving modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand; Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl) to adapt to virtually any type of road surface and terrain with a simple twist of a console dial.
These and other features, like TrailControl™, prove their mettle when the road disappears; the Bronco Sport is no poser – it really can get the job done in virtually all situations.
Motivating the Bronco Sport
The First Edition’s power comes from Ford’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Ecoboost engine which puts 250 horsepower and 277 pounds-feet of torque through the eight-speed automatic transmission and, via the standard full-time four-wheel-drive system, to the road.
Again, ready for off-road challenges, the 4X4 system has a disconnectable driveshaft with 4X4 lock and dual-clutch rear-drive unit with differential lock feature. Transmission and differential coolers further protect these components when the stress of off-roading increases.
Stopping the Bronco Sport First Edition are 16-inch vented rotors up front and 16-inch solid ones in the rear within the 17-inch Ebony Black painted aluminum wheels. Of course, an anti-lock system (ABS) is part of the package.
The Bronco Sport equipped with the 2.0-liter motor, according to automotive enthusiast publications, was arguably the quickest SUV in its class from 0-60 miles per hour (6.5 seconds). On the road, the power comes on when you want it; I always had the performance I needed to merge, overtake on the highway and maneuver through traffic.
Speaking of traffic, unfortunately, I ran into a fair amount of stop-and-go driving during the Bronco Sport week thanks to major construction on the Sagamore Bridge connecting Cape Cod to the rest of Massachusetts.
This type of driving is not conducive to good fuel economy, but the Bronco Sport turned in numbers better than its federal Environmental Protection Agency Rating. I saw 28-plus miles per gallon during my time with the small Ford, while the EPA rates it at 21 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway and 23 combined.
Driving at all other times in the Bronco Sport was thoroughly satisfying. Responsive describes the feel from the driver’s perspective.
Technology for comfort, convenience and driver assistance
The Bronco Sport is designed for rugged out-door experiences, especially in First Edition guise, but it still manages to provide a quiet, comfortable indoor environment for up to five passengers.
The seating surfaces are perforated leather, electrically adjustable and heated up front, while leather also wraps the heated steering wheel (which is adjustable for height and reach). Room is ample thanks to the high, safari-style roofline and squared-off sides with large windows creating an even roomier feel than the dimensions might indicate.
Simple, well-laid out controls for the dual automatic climate-control system and other features adorn the dash along with an eight-inch touch screen which is the heart of the infotainment system. SiriusXM satellite radio supplements the AM/FM/streaming audio/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto sound sources, all amplified through the 10-speaker/subwoofer B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen.
USB (both “A” and “C” type) ports provide front and rear passengers with the means to charge their mobile devices (plus on wireless charging pad up front) while a pair of 110-Volt outlets allow plugging in standard electrical devices when necessary.
Further expanding the Bronco Sport’s utility is a cargo area tall enough to accommodate two 27.5-inch trail bikes (and Ford offers an optional interior bike rack for this); a pair of floodlights on the liftgate panel to ease nighttime adventures; material designed for easy cleaning throughout; MOLLE straps to carry extra gear; zippered seatback pockets for additional stowage, and even a built-in bottle opener in the cargo area.
Ford is offering numerous accessories to further allow you to turn the Bronco Sport into a true adventure machine including a roof-mounted tent and four lifestyle accessory bundles themed Bike, Snow, Water and Camping.
The time with the Bronco Sport convinced me Ford paid attention to the details to make the Bronco Sport a truly modern adventure vehicle. The attention to other details, like the sound deadening, compliant suspension and superb fuel economy results, showed they never forgot the Bronco Sport had to operate most of the time as an on-road conveyance.
To that end, all Bronco Sport models come standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360TM suite of advanced driver-assist technologies 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.
Bronco Sports are new enough on the New England scene to attract attention from other motorists. When asked, I talked about the off-road capabilities, the comfort, the fuel economy, but I did not bring up Ford’s G.O.A.T. reference because folks around here are still a bit upset about the departure of what will always (to the natives) be the true G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) – Tom Brady.
Regardless, I expect to see an ever-increasing number of Bronco Sport SUVs in the coming months because this is great SUV off-roading value ($39,655 including $1,495 for destination and delivery; base models begin at $26,820 plus destination and handling) and everyday small SUV.