CHATHAM, Mass. – The overall capabilities of the Bronco Sport, especially the attention to detail paid to off-roading, impressed us the first time we sampled the compact sport utility introduced last year by Ford. The company transformed the impressive, but more mainstream modern SUV architecture underpinning its Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair into a vehicle with an entirely unique feel, one worthy of the iconic Bronco name.

Our original Bronco Sport experience was in the limited-production (2,000 units) First Edition, a 2.0-liter reinforced with serious off-road components – Trail Management System™, seven G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type) drive modes, uniquely engineered suspension system – which achieved 28 miles per gallon and had a price tag of $39,665.

This past week we drove the less expensive, more fuel-efficient Bronco Sport Outer Banks variant, one designed for those who do not have quite the same level of outdoor adventuring in mind as offered in either the First Edition or Badlands versions (the series-production, off-road specialist).

Related post:
Bronco Sport for On- and Off-Road Adventures

But the Outer Banks was still definitely a Bronco Sport in feel, retaining the fun and adventure spirit of its more capable siblings. It still had the step-up roof over the rear two-thirds of the passenger compartment, expanding the area over the rear seat and storage area enough to allow transport of a pair of bicycles when using the interior bike carrier.

Power and performance belie the platform’s humble origins

The 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine puts 181 horsepower and 190 pounds-feet of torque through the eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel-drive system (AWD), enough to pull a 2,000-pound trailer as well as scoot around traffic, enter the highway and avoid ponderous drivers, all without concerns of lacking enough power.

In addition, the Outer Banks uses less fuel than its higher-powered stable mates. We managed 31.2 mpg during our week in the Kodiak Brown SUV, well above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 26 mpg overall rating (25 city, 28 highway).

The ride is a bit more compliant and less jarring than the First Edition, which results from a less- aggressive suspension pieces.

The setup, as on all Bronco Sports, is independent at all four corners with MacPherson-type struts/coil springs/stabilizer bar/twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks/steel subframe with aluminum lower control arm/cast knuckle up front and independent double lateral-link semi-trailing arms/coil springs/stabilizer bar/monotube hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks/isolated steel subframe/cast knuckle in the rear.

Stopping power comes from an electric power-assisted, anti-lock system with 16-inch rotors (vented in the front) with single-piston calipers and an electric parking brake.

The 18-inch machined-face aluminum Ebony Black-painted wheels carry 225/60R18 all-season tires.

These systems might not sound unique, but they work when you really need them, as we did when one of the worst Nor’easters hit Cape Cod. The trip might have been only 2.1. miles as we abandoned our power-less house for a relative’s with a generator, but the roads were treacherous, covered with a few inches of heavy, wet snow (the plows had made a pass or two, but it was still coming down at about 1.5-inches an hour) and near white-out visibility thanks to sustained winds of 35-40 miles per hour (gusts up to 50-60 mph).

The Bronco Sport got us up two steep hills and a steep driveway with virtually no drama or concern. Not technically “off-road,” but the Bronco Sport excelled in the kinds of extreme conditions many northeasterners use to justify buying a SUV. Thank you, Ford, for the safe, sure transport!

A full complement of technology

The Bronco legacy might stretch back 56 years, but the Bronco Sport is a vehicle of today as evidenced by its long list of technological features for both safety/driver assistance as well as passenger convenience and entertainment.

The advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) start with automatic high beams; reverse sensing system; rear-view camera; BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with rear cross-traffic alert; speed-limit-sign recognition; lane-keeping system (includes lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert and driver alert); pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and dynamic brake support

Two bicycles loaded into the back of a Bronco Sport on the Ford interior bike carrier

The Outer Banks we drove also had the Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ which brings adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-centering, evasive steering assist and speed-limit-sign recognition, as well as touch-screen navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Links.

The navigation system appears on the eight-inch color display at the top of the dashboard as part of the Ford Sync3 infotainment system. The system’s sources include AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/Bluetooth-streaming audio/Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, all playing through the optional 10-speaker/subwoofer B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen.

Since mobile devices are a major part of our lives, Ford equips the Bronco Sport with a variety of charging mechanisms: 12-Volt outlets in the front console and rear storage area; 110V outlet in the second row; USB-A as well as USB-C ports in the front console and a wireless charging pad in the front console.

Rounding out the technology amenities in the cabin are a dual-zone automatic climate-controls system; power-adjustable and heated leather covered front seats (eight-ways for the driver, six for the passenger); heated leather-wrapped adjustable steering wheel, and flood lights in the liftgate.

Value, efficiency, fun and capability mark the Ford Bronco Sport Outer Banks

We enjoyed the Bronco Sport First Edition so much in April 2021, we were not sure how the Outer Banks version with almost 70 less horsepower and 90 pounds-feet less torque would acquit itself. Well, we had nothing to worry about: this Bronco Sport provided plenty of enjoyable driving, terrific fuel economy and, as related, exceptional bad-weather performance in severe conditions.

For those looking to embrace their adventurous side when selecting a compact SUV, but not wanting to go extreme, the Bronco Sport Outer Banks provides an excellent, value-oriented solution.

Next week TBR Drives the Nissan Sentra.