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TESTED: The Bronco Sport Poises to be A Bite-Size Offroad Monster

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Hated by some, this little gremlin is an offroad vehicle not to be messed with. The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport, the companion car to the heavily anticipated Bronco tries to encompass some of the same aspects as its big brother yet in a compact size. Based off the Ford Escape platform, the Bronco Sport is not the true Bronco, yet it is meant to be a stepping stone to it. While the new Bronco hasn’t been released yet, the Bronco Sport has, and we got our hands on it, thanks to our friends at 5 Star Ford Lewisville. Powered by a 1.5 L EcoBoost 3-cylinder turbo, that’s more than enough for a vehicle of this size. It truly is the little engine that could.

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More Than a Children’s Tale… It’s the Famed Bronco!

In that children’s book, the little engine struggled to get up a hill… not this car. That 1.5 L 3 banger provides 181 horsepower in most trims, and the higher ends will get 2.0 L making over 200 horses. We got the Big Bend trim. A middle of the pack level stuffed somewhere in the middle of cheap and offroad behemoth. That 181 horsepower is more than plenty for an SUV this small, I’d say it’s starting to cross the threshold into hatchback territory. I see all the Bronco Sport buyers coming to my house with pitchforks and torches now. Nevertheless just like the big boy Bronco, the Sport is infused with that same offroad and off-the-grid DNA. The G.O.A.T (Go Over All Terrain) modes are just as prevalent here as in its big brother. Its selection of different terrain modes serve as the keystone piece of both the performance and interior aspect of the car. Choosing any of these modes does various things to the suspension, steering feel, computer and sensor feedback, and the differential. Most importantly, you can feel a difference. The G.O.A.T modes don’t feel like a gimmick, you can easily tell that the vehicle itself is changing and preparing itself for what’s about to occur.

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It’s the Real Thing

More on the suspension— the Bronco Sport (and by nature, the Bronco) have independent front and rear suspension allowing for all wheels to be better planted on surfaces as compared to a solid axle body. The EcoBoost engine allows for a linear torque and horsepower curve as compared to other turbo’d engined but it wasn’t really meant for that. You can tell that the Sport was made to offroad and have a little bit of drivers feel to it. Unlike the actual Bronco which appeals to true offroaders, the Sport tries to play to a more wider demographic. Maybe someone who likes the design or the compact SUV-ness of the Bronco or the Sport but can’t justify buying the real Bronco for the pricetag. For the mom who drives the occasional dirt road or someone who just prefers to park on gravel (I winced writing that). It felt sluggish, taking moxie out of that “Sport” moniker, but was definitely not boxy SUV slow. It runs the 60 in 5.9 seconds— plenty fast for a small SUV.

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Driving it was a mixed bags but the independent suspensions were definitely felt. It was quite a comfortable ride and didn’t feel like a massagemobile with unnecessary vibrations. Borrowing its torque vectoring from the old Focus RS and its chassis from the Escape the Sport felt smooth with its shifting. No more clunky Ford transmission, its silky smoothness could be felt by all passengers. AWD comes standard, but 4WD is also available and if you’re going to offroad, it’s a must. Perched upon 17-inch tires with the option of alloys and… steel looking alloys? The Sport will get disc brakes on all 4 wheels and you could fit up to 30.5″ wheels without suspension alterations.

The coolest part of the Sport are the various modes I could put it through. For example: you get one pedal driving, rock crawl mode, TrailControl where it’s cruise control offroad, and 360 camera mode where you actually can use cameras to help you offroad. To further sturdy the vehicle I spotted steel bash bars in order to prevent any chassis flex or body roll.

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A huge drawback of the driving feel was its tendency to have a ton of road and wind noise. It got really bad on the freeway and was bearable but still present on regular roads. Owe it to the boxy shape and the aerodynamics of a brick, but it’s there, and no getting around it. This car may have broken Ford’s wind tunnel if they even dared to put it in there. Compared to competitors, which the most obvious of which is the Jeep Cherokee, it fares well. Ground clearance is a tad bit higher than the Jeep, cargo space is better, and fuel economy and practicality all top the Cherokee. Even the 30.4 degree approach angle with its blunt shaped snout bodes better than the FCA product. While we didn’t take the Bronco Sport anywhere near a dirt trail, we did figure out some of its better features.

Looks Make a Man

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On the exterior, the boxy design that everyone loves is a huge plus. Taking styling cues from the actual Bronco the Sport intends to be a close sidekick. Inspired headlights and taillights as well as rocker panels and fenders all have their roots from Bronco designs. A safari style roof completes the look with roof racks and mounting points for a ski/cargo box.

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When we took a peek inside, it was plastic galore. While some of y’all may be cringing, it’s okay. We wouldn’t have it any other way in an offroad vehicle especially at this price. Plastic materials make the interior look rugged, bringing a outdoorsy vibe from the exterior into the interior. In addition, the interior is easy to clean, with a quick wash making stains disappear from plain view. Cloth seats adorn the cabin, again an easy clean and rugged look. The new FordPass infotainment system is one of the best out there with respects to the new MBUX system from Mercedes. Top 2 for sure. FordPass syncs your phone and your car effectively bringing vehicles truly into age.

Cargo space is bountiful and can fit mountain bikes, skis, whatever outdoorsy people do. I fit in there pretty easily with the seats up. The rear glass AND the tailgate open separately making for convenient access for small goods. Overall the interior passes my test and is perfect for the price point to where its situated. The gauge cluster is fully digital and customizable, a huge plus for the price you’re paying. You can see telemetry, G.O.A.T. mode status, and more straight from the gauge cluster.

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The Verdict

At the end of the day, this is the Bronco’s sidekick. When the Bronco does come out, these two will make the ultimate offroad companionship this automotive world has ever seen. The Bronco Sport is a viable offroad creature for those who want the lifestyle of a compact SUV but still want to drive it on dirt roads.

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Reviews: Tested

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