2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands
Ford is one of the first manufacturers that decided to cut all sedan and hatchback production at least in North America, and that’s because everyone buys an SUV. At that time, it was heavily criticized to stop production of a well known models such as the Fusion and Focus.
It was a risky move. Ford’s answer was “we will bring more SUVs to the market”, and they were right. Today, it has 8 different types of SUVs in their model lineup, and the new Bronco Sport is just one of them. But it’s not just Ford, pretty much all manufacturers switch their product lineups and offering more types of SUVs.
If you follow latest automobile news and trends, you probably heard about the new Bronco, the tough – off-road capable one that competes with the Jeep Wrangler . Though it carries the same name with the addition of “Sport”, the Bronco Sport is closer to the Ford Escape rather than the actual Bronco, as it carries the same platform. It is focused more towards smaller families that wants to have an everyday SUV with more rugged and retro looks.
Exterior and Interior
Technically it is an Escape, but looks-wise it looks more like the big Bronco, because that was the objective. Not everyone is looking for an hardcore off-roader, so Bronco Sport has traditional Bronco design elements, but the whole platform is taken from the current generation Ford Escape, including the drivetrain.
It doesn’t mean everything is exactly the same, as it still carries some off-road features such as G.O.A.T. (Go Over All-Terrain) modes as well as mechanical limited slip differential in the rear. It not only uses software to send the power to each wheel, but the rear wheels can also be locked for additional grip on loose surface that you don’t get with the Escape.
Like the real Bronco, the Bronco Sport has traditional “Bronco” headlights in the front as well as the grille with huge “Bronco” letters. Ford decided to underline the Bronco branding more than “Ford” name, as a result there is no actual Ford emblem in any place of the car. The rest of the Bronco Sport is pretty boxy design which also helps overall practicality and interior space.
Speaking of interior space, like the exterior design, there is nothing similar compared to an Escape. You will see rugged design language pretty much any place in the interior. All physical knobs have plastic materials for additional rugged feel, but you will also see common parts also used in other Ford models.
For instance, you get the same steering wheel, but it comes with “Bronco” pony emblem instead of Ford. You also get the same rotary shifter that is also used in Explorer, Escape and many other Ford models. It is sort of expected as this is still budget oriented compact SUV.
You also see Bronco pony badges on the front seats, as it makes the car look a little bit more special. Overall seat comfort is nice, but I found Ford seats usually a little bit short on bottom cushion side, this can be a problem if you have long legs. The seating position is pretty high and overall boxy design of the interior makes you feel that you drive almost a truck compared to the Escape.
The rest of the interior looks uniquely Bronco Sport. Build quality is decent, however the material choice isn’t the best. On the top of the dashboard, everything is fine as Ford used a lot of soft touch plastics, the buttons feel solid, but some areas have problems with the material choice as bottom of the dashboard is completely hard touch plastics. The delta of material quality is insanely high in Bronco Sport’s interior.
Compared to the Ford Escape, probably the biggest compromise is the rear legroom. Despite they share the same platform, Bronco Sport is few inches shorter than the Escape, and rear seats is the first thing that you feel the difference. It is still not too bad, but if rear seat accommodation is your priority, you need to consider the Escape.
The trunk is surprisingly good for a small crossover. Due to the boxy shape, you get a lot of vertical space, and being able to access to the trunk through the rear window is a great feature that we used to see it in the beginning of 2000s, but then disappeared. Now it’s back again with the Bronco Sport.
It doesn’t end there, the practicality aspect of the new Bronco Sport is quite good. You get additional trunk floor that you can place it on top, and make it like shelf area for additional storage. All rear seats and trunk floor have rubber mats for additional protection. You get 32.5 cubic feet (920 lt) of cargo space behind the rear seats, and 65.2 cubic feet (1846 lt) if you fold down the rear seats.
Engine and Drivetrain
As it shares same platform with the Ford Escape, it comes with drivetrain options that we are familiar with. Our tester, the “Badlands” trim comes with only one engine option, which is a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine that produces 245 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The engine spools around 2000 rpm and it is very punchy below 5000 rpm, but after that the torque curve drops quite a bit till redline.
All Bronco Sports come with 8-Speed traditional automatic transmission, but if you want the 2.0L engine, you need to choose the top trim. Otherwise, there is also 1.5 liter three cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower. In our tests, 2.0 Turbo engine has an average consumption of 11.5L / 100 km, which is acceptable considering it is quite faster than other entries in this segment.
Technical differences don’t end here. If you want more off-road capable version, you need to go with the Badlands trim with 2.0L engine, as it comes with mechanical limited slip differential in the rear, off-road suspension, trail control system, all-terrain tires mounted on 17-inch wheels, and extra 1 inch suspension lift for additional ground clearance.
Driving Impressions and Features
As mentioned, it shares the same platform with current gen Ford Escape, but it feels totally different when you are behind the steering wheel. Suspension tune is focused towards off-road and comfort, as a result you get tons of body roll, where Escape is known having almost like a hatchback driving dynamics.
The combination of additional ground clearance, all-terrain tires and soft suspension adds value if you are looking for a comfortable ride, but at an expense of high speed smoothness and steadiness at higher speeds, especially on highway. As expected from an off-road oriented vehicle, you don’t get any feedback from the steering wheel or chassis.
We didn’t have a chance to test drive the 1.5L 3 cylinder engine, but after driving the 2.0L turbo engine, I would just get the 2.0L trim and skip the lower horsepower option. 2.0L engine and 8-speed automatic trans is a great match to the Bronco Sport, they are tuned for comfort and offers tons of torque at low rpm.
Like the engine, 8-speed Automatic transmission is also tuned for comfort. The shift points are spot on and utilizes the torque curve quite well. It just doesn’t like to shift fast, especially at wide-open-throttle applications it feels quite slow to upshift. It also comes with paddle shifters, but upshifts and downshifts are still slow even in Sport mode.
Of course, we need to talk about off-road capability as this is the most off-road capable trim. As Badlands trim comes with bunch of additional off-road features, I would say it is quite capable in any type of terrain. I would not consider this a hardcore off-roader, but it is okay for mild off-roading and probably the most capable entry in the compact SUV segment.
Feature wise, you find pretty much any features available in compact SUV segment. It has the latest Ford infotainment system which can be laggy especially after the first start. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but there is no wireless option yet. Either way, the screen has a high resolution and it is easy to use on a daily basis.
Price and the Verdict
2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is a nice option if you want a compact SUV that combines retro body lines with rugged design language. It is still not an original Bronco even with the most off-road capable Badlands version, but it’s much better option for city driving as well as everyday commuting.
2021 Ford Bronco Sport starts at $32,299 CAD and there are 4 different trim levels. If you want the most off-road capable one, or you want to have 2.0L EcoBoost engine, you need to choose the top “Badlands” trim and it is priced at $40,299. For more details – please visit www.ford.ca