Getting to Know the 2021 Ford Bronco SportAugust 4, 2021
Is it the king of the ranch or farm?
In the natural order of things and in most families, if there are multiple siblings, the baby is the last one to be born. But, as with most things, there is usually an exception, and, in this case, it is with the Ford Bronco Family of vehicles.
For the 2021 model year, Ford is reintroducing a family of Bronco branded vehicles. The first from the assembly line is the FMD test vehicle, named the Bronco Sport, or in some circles, affectionately identified as the Baby Bronco. The next rollout, which is going on right now, will be for its bigger brother, the Bronco.
The Bronco is larger and more potent than the Bronco Sport.
This has led to some confusion with the public. Traditionally, the larger, more expensive vehicle would spawn the “baby” version and not the other way around. I do not know if that was Ford’s original intent, and their plans became skewed, or it was the desired rollout. It is moot now since both are on the market.
When I was road-testing the Bronco Sport for over 1,000 miles in a week, it drew a great deal of attention. But each query meant that I had to explain that this is NOT the vehicle they were waiting to see. The surname Sport implied a trim level to the curious person and not as part of the vehicle’s name.
My mantra would go something like this. “The Bronco Sport is based on the Ford Escape platform but was highly modified to make it a true off-road vehicle.” I would then continue with, “The full-size Bronco is just now being released, and that is a body-on-frame design that is loosely based on the Ranger pick-up truck and built in the same facility. But it too only shares the basic DNA of the other platform.” By this point, most went glassy-eyed, but it did not dim their enthusiasm for the vehicle… still confused if this was the SUV they were waiting to see.
First, may I suggest that you listen to the companion podcast episode for an audio road test review that covers different aspects of the Bronco Sport than this primer.
The Baby Bronco is designed for the person with an outdoor lifestyle but is just as much at home on a city street as it is crossing a stream. That makes it the perfect car/SUV to find a home on a farm or ranch.
The “Baby” is around eight inches shorter than the Escape that it is loosely based on but is higher and boxier.
What makes the Bronco Sport capable of going where a farmer or rancher may need it to is underneath, the suspension and floor pan.
The engine and transmission are shared with the Escape. Still, the Baby does not offer a hybrid variant and is only offered with on-demand four-wheel drive. The Escape comes standard with a front-wheel drive.
The FMD test vehicle was the most off-road capable since it was a Badlands edition. Though all Bronco Sport models can do well in the “back forty,” the version tested has a higher ground clearance, metal skid plates, the exhaust tucked up higher, along with a few other tweaks and all-terrain tires.
A 1.5 liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine is rated at 160/181 for horsepower and torque, respectively. The test version was fitted with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder that belted out a robust 250 horsepower and 277 lbs./ft. of torque. Regardless of the engine, it is bolted to an excellent 8-speed automatic transmission that does nothing wrong. The integration of the engine and transmission is perfect, and the 2.0 engine makes the Bronco Sport into a little rocket ship!
The interior is made from a high-quality material designed to get dirty and easily cleaned for a night on the town, perfect for use on the farm or ranch.
The dashboard and controls were very intuitive, featured high-quality switchgear, and were easy to read. The radio’s sound quality is excellent, and I feel better than the B&O system in the F-150 Platinum I road-tested subsequently.
Under hood service points were easily accessed. Even the headlight bulbs were in plain view, often a task that in some cars requires removal of the front fascia and bumper cover.
The rear compartment provides a low lift height when loading, even with the higher ride height of the Badlands model.
The Bronco Sport drives beautifully with a well-controlled ride that is neither harsh nor too busy. In addition, the all-terrain tires were extremely quiet for the tread design, with just a slight hint of road noise at highway speeds.
The seating position and view through the windshield were commanding and offered an excellent line of sight. The square body provided excellent rearward visibility. The standard backup camera was one of the best, if not the best, I have used.
As with most modern vehicles, the Baby Bronco was equipped with start/stop but, again, the best I have ever experienced. The restart was seamless and devoid of the shake and intrusion into the passenger compartment that most evoke.
Wind noise at highway speeds is nonexistent.
The driveline combination returned 32 to 33 mpg in local rural driving and 36.3 on the FMD 275-mile highway road test route.
When combined with the short overall length of the Bronco Sport, the tight turning circle supports a level of maneuverability that provides dividends both on the farm and in the shopping center parking lot in town.
The Bronco Sport has excellent manners both on and off the road. It can be a car that can get you almost anywhere on your land, even if it requires crossing a stream.
What I liked:
Excellent interior packaging, ride quality, visibility, and utility.
Carefree but high-quality interior.
Very good fuel economy and excellent engine power.
What I did not like:
Made in Mexico with hardly any USA or Canadian content.
It cannot be ordered without the roof rack.
Skid plates look awkward to remove and replace to change engine oil.
What I nitpicked:
Automatic headlights were annoying.
In-dash monitor, if turned off, defaults to being back on after shifting from reverse.
Too many trim packages that seem to overlap with features that you may not want or glean what is different.
Ford did a phenomenal job in every area of consequence with the Bronco Sport. I could not stop driving it, and I am not an SUV type of person.
This is a uniquely well-suited vehicle for the fields of a farm, the pastures of a ranch, or the concrete canyons of Manhattan in New York City. The Bronco Sport is like a chameleon; it adapts perfectly to where it is.
My only disappointment is the Mexican assembly location and the fact that the parts and components are also made there.
A vehicle so well focused on the folks of rural America, which are the backbone of this nation, deserve the Bronco Sport to be made in this country along with the lion’s share of its parts.
Kudos to Ford on the engineering and development of the Bronco Sport. Shame on them for not supporting the people in the communities they hope to sell the Bronco Sport to.