Brace yourself people, because I’m about to make a really controversial statement.. I actually liked the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands more than the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Black Diamond that I just had for a few days. Seriously. I’ll explain why below.
While many people have called the Bronco Sport a “Baby Bronco” or an Escape in rugged form, there’s really a lot to like about this small SUV. It’s true that the Bronco Sport is built atop the same platform that underpins the Escape, but the Bronco Sport drives the architecture toward adventure, off-road oriented in both looks and engineering.
Like the larger Bronco, the all-new Bronco Sport delivers the 4×4 off-road capability that made the original Bronco a legend. With off-road performance at its core, Bronco Sport provides solid footing on sand, snow, mud, rocks and more. To put this to the test, we took this little guy off-roading, and we were seriously impressed by its capabilities.
The Bronco Sport isn’t exactly designed for hardcore off-roading like the regular Bronco is, but it’s perfect for the weekend adventure-seekers who want to take the trails less traveled. And truth be told, that’s what most consumers are looking for, something that can go off-road in a pinch if you want to, but without sacrificing comfort in the process.
And for me, that’s the Bronco Sport’s big selling point. During my time with the SUV, most of it was spent on-road (like most people), and it was really quiet, comfortable, sporty, and chock full of technology. The regular Brono I had.. it was none of those things, making it very hard to live with on a day-to-day basis.
But like I said, this “Baby Bronco” is surprisingly capable when you take it off-road, thanks in part to the equipment that comes with the Badlands model. First up is a 2.0L Ecoboost engine that puts out 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. It also gets rugged all-terrain tires, a more off-road-ready suspension, underbody skid plates, a more robust 4WD system, locking rear differential, and other goodies.
The Bronco Sport suspension system can take on rugged terrain and is complemented by Ford trail technologies. The small SUV’s Terrain Management System with up to seven available G.O.A.T. Modes helps drivers “go over any type of terrain” and in various conditions. Standard modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand; Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl modes are available on Badlands and First Edition.
For adventurers taking on rough and rocky terrain, the small SUV’s design includes made-for- the-trails departure, approach and breakover angles. An available class-exclusive 180-degree front off-road camera with lens washer serves as a spotter and helps provide better visibility of the trail ahead, displaying the video on the center stack-mounted touch screen. In Rock Crawl mode, the electronic power steering assist system is uniquely calibrated to provide more precise control and help reduce steering wheel disturbance during low-speed maneuvers over rocky terrain.
Off-road capability is further reinforced by 4 steel bash plates, plus available frame-mounted front tow hooks that can individually withstand static loads up to 100% of the gross vehicle weight. Badlands and First Edition can wade through up to 23.6 inches of water. We didn’t test it up to that depth, but that’s seriously impressive!
Visually, the Bronco Sport is a quirky little thing, with a boxy look that’s a little reminiscent of the second-generation Escape. It’s not going to turn many heads, but I will say that our tester definitely stood out with the Kodiak Brown (with tons of metallic visible in the sunlight) and the upscale Ebony Roast leather on the interior.
Performance wise, the Bronco Sport Badlands definitely gets up and goes, the upgraded engine putting out 250 HP and 277 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with an 8-speed automatic transmission and a lowish curb weight (for an SUV), it delivers spirited acceleration off the line. Handling is still SUV like, but there’s no getting around that really.
Off-road, we found it to be a surprisingly capable machine. The Badlands edition is equipped for the task, and during our time out on the trails, it never missed a beat. Sure, it can’t climb rocks and ford deep water like a full-size Bronco or Jeep Wrangler can, but that’s not what it’s designed for. Still, it can go places most other crossovers in its class wouldn’t dream of.
Smart in addition to being rugged, the vehicle features a SYNC 3 system with an 8-inch touch screen (could be bigger, but it’s not a huge deal) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other available technology features include Ford+Alexa and SiriusXM satellite radio.
The Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced driver-assist technologies comes standard across the lineup, including Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking featuring Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support, Blind Spot monitoring w/ Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping System, Auto High Beam Headlamps and a rearview camera. Available Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ techn includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane-Centering, Evasive Steering Assist and voice-activated touch screen navigation. Available Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 technology adds Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane-Centering and Speed Sign Recognition.
But perhaps the most impressive part about the 2021 Bronco Sport is the price. Our VERY well-equipped Badlands tester came in at just $37,545, delivering a pretty tremendous value for the money. And you can use some of that money you saved to trick out your rig, with more than 100 factory-backed and aftermarket accessories for maximum personalization.
While the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport has definitely been overshadowed by its big brother (not to mention the confusion it’s caused, since it came out before the new Bronco), it really is a great little SUV that shouldn’t be ignored.
Ford really knocked it out of the park here, giving us a well-designed, fun-to-drive, off-road capable SUV that won’t break the bank. So if you’re in the market for a new crossover or SUV, definitely check out the Bronco Sport for yourself, you won’t be disappointed!
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