When Ford made the choice a number of years in the past to discontinue nearly all of its conventional automotive nameplates within the North American market, it got here as a shock to many outdoors the corporate. However it was actually simply an acknowledgement of the realities of what shoppers truly needed to purchase. So rather than a brand new Focus, Ford has realigned its utility lineup to create extra fashions, every of which has extra deal with particular buyer wants and needs together with the 2021 Bronco Sport.
Again within the early a part of the final decade, I labored at Ford for a time and that is the place I first heard of the idea of the super-segment. Historically, automotive entrepreneurs have centered on narrower segments like compact vehicles, midsize utility autos or full-size vehicles. That’s as a result of shoppers often picked a phase that they have been inquisitive about shopping for and principally cross shopped the competing merchandise of that sort from totally different manufacturers. Somebody inquisitive about a small automotive, would evaluate a Ford Focus to a Toyota Corolla to a Honda Civic.
However over the past decade, there was extra fluidity in shopping for choices inside a Ford dealership between the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Escape. More and more, prospects have been selecting the Escape over one of many sedans. Lots of these prospects have been utilizing the Escape in the identical approach as they’d a Focus or Fusion. Thus the concept of the super-segment was born. As we’ve seen lately, increasingly more consumers migrated to the utility autos of their super-segments and thus some producers have been discontinuing the normal vehicles.
Recognizing this, the newest technology Escape that debuted a yr in the past retains the crossover form-factor however has moved considerably extra towards the automotive finish of the spectrum than prior generations as a result of that’s how Escape consumers have been utilizing it. The appears turned softer and the inside appears and feels extra upscale than earlier than. That in flip left extra of a spot for one thing in the identical measurement class that had a extra rugged feel and look – the Bronco Sport.
Whereas the Bronco Sport shares half of its title with the bigger, Ranger-based Bronco that’s arriving subsequent summer time, it’s a totally totally different beast derived from the identical transverse engine unibody structure because the Escape. However the Bronco Sport can also be a really totally different machine from the Escape.
The design clearly attracts on the identical Bronco DNA as its bigger siblings with spherical lights, horizontal grille, raised peaks on the fenders and an total boxier form than the Escape. In comparison with the Escape, the Bronco Sport has 1.6-inches much less wheelbase and is sort of eight-inches shorter total. It’s additionally 4—inches taller, a lot of which is within the rear half beneath the step roof. Not like the massive Broncos, the Sport lacks the physique modularity, so no detachable roof and doorways on this one.
That shorter size in comparison with the wheelbase means correspondingly higher strategy and departure angles. With the accessible 29-inch all-terrain tires, the Bronco Sport has an inch extra floor clearance at 8.8-inches in comparison with the Escape. Beneath the hood, the Escape and Bronco Sport share the identical powrtrains with a selection of two turbocharged EcoBoost engines paired with an eight-speed computerized transmission. The bottom arrange is the 181-horsepower 1.5-liter three-cylinder whereas the 250-hp 2.0-liter 4 is non-compulsory.
Downstream of the transmissions is the place issues diverge once more. The Escape comes normal with front-wheel-drive whereas all-wheel-drive is non-compulsory. The Bronco Sport options normal four-wheel-drive on all trim ranges. There is a crucial distinction between AWD and 4WD. AWD is designed to divert a number of the drive torque to the rear (often about 10-15%) when there’s extreme slip on the entrance wheels, however it depends primarily on the entrance axle for tractive effort. 4WD completely splits the torque 50/50 between the 2 axles and all the time drives all 4 wheels.
The Bronco Sport First Version and Badlands fashions additionally function a twin-clutch rear axle that prompts when slip is detected to successfully switch torque as a locking differential would. The chief competitor to the Bronco Sport is the Jeep Compass Trailhawk which has nearly the identical footprint however isn’t as tall.
We had the chance to pattern the Bronco Sport in a 90 minute on-road drive in addition to have some off-road play time on the new Holly Oaks ORV park north of Detroit. As if the outside design of the Bronco Sport wasn’t sufficient to let you know that that is greater than only a rebadged Escape, you’ll additionally really feel it inside. The Bronco Sport feels decidedly extra utilitarian than the Escape which isn’t to say low cost, however simply totally different. There’s a good-sized storage slot just under the eight-inch middle touchscreen and one other on the backside of the middle stack forward of the shifter. The local weather controls function good, massive spherical knobs with a superb gripping floor.
From the motive force’s seat, the additional roof peak is clearly obvious and searching over the broad, flat hood, these fender peaks allow you to discern precisely the place the corners are which could be very helpful when traversing slender trails. The seats are comfy and the again seat affords much more overhead house though a bit much less leg room than the Escape and it lacks the sliding rear seat.
That tall roof was an addition designed for the outside journey sorts that this automobile is anticipated to enchantment too. Like the massive Bronco, there are many equipment accessible from day one on the Bronco Sport together with an inside bike rack. With the again seats folded down, the roof will accommodate two mountain bikes inside the place they are often stored locked up.
When longer objects like paddle or surf boards want to hang around the again, the Bronco Sport brings again the separate lift-up rear glass which will be open whereas the tailgate is shut. With the tailgate open at a campsite, a pair of brilliant LED flood lamps on the underside can illuminate the world behind the automobile.
On street, the driving dynamics usually are not dramatically totally different from the Escape with respectable trip consolation and good responsiveness when altering course. One factor that was instantly noticeable is that the Bronco Sport feels louder than the final Escape I drove by a noticeable quantity. It’s not oppressively loud and would possible be acceptable to most individuals however the Escape undoubtedly feels extra serene by comparability.
As within the Escape, even the bottom 1.5-liter engine is greater than ample for nearly anybody and offers enough rise up and go to merge onto highways in addition to climbing steep grades.
Again on the ORV park, the Bronco Sport demonstrated spectacular capabilities over a wide selection of terrain. It’s able to fording by means of nearly two toes of water and crawling over good sized rocks. The 18:1 crawl ratio is simply shy of the 20:1 supplied by the 4WD low vary within the Compass, however it needs to be ample for many makes use of. Something you possibly can’t deal with in considered one of these smaller off-roaders might be finest left to the larger, devoted Broncos and Wranglers.
Ford has put expertise to good use within the Bronco Sport. The encompass view cameras will be left on at low speeds to offer a view of what you might be maneuvering round. The entrance digicam is especially useful when approaching the crest of a hill so you possibly can see what’s on the opposite facet with no spotter.
The path management mode can also be very helpful when travelling lesser identified trails. It’s principally a cruise management mode that maintains fixed velocity which was helpful when happening a 20 diploma grade with turns within the center. You may deal with steering on watching the place you’re going with out touching both pedal.
The slippery and sand modes, mud and ruts and rock crawl modes additionally turn out to be useful, adjusting the throttle response, steering and slip thresholds for the soundness management. We acquired to attempt an autocross in deep sand which was fairly enjoyable. The sand mode allowed extra rear slip making it simple to manage course by kicking out the again finish with a bit of additional stress on the accelerator.
Total, our first impression is that the Bronco Sport appears to succeed at Ford set out for it to do. It fills a complete for shoppers with an lively out of doors life-style that the Escape can’t deal with however the place the massive Bronco could also be greater than wanted. It affords quite a lot of helpful touches and considerate design components offers a automobile extra centered at a selected purchaser.
The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport begins at just below $27,000 for the bottom mannequin and may run as much as about $41,000 for a loaded Badlands mannequin earlier than including additional equipment. Bronco Sports activities can be found now.