The Ford Bronco Sport may be the more diminutive and family-oriented model in the Blue Oval’s rejuvenated Bronco family, but don’t presume that means it’s not built to get dirty.
Starting from $32,199 in Canada, the Bronco Sport – the version affectionately nicknamed the “Baby Bronco” by enthusiasts anticipating its launch – will come in four grade levels. Rather than using Ford’s traditional lettered system, these grades are named with off-road themes, complete with matching graphic crests on proud display.
The first three grades come with a 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine that’s expected to produce 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. Combined with standard 4×4 and an eight-speed automatic transmission, these grades have iterative increases in features that makes them appealing for families looking for a more rugged small SUV.
For example, the base grade includes a five-mode terrain management system (normal, eco, sport, slippery, and sand), flip-up glass on the liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assistance technologies, a SYNC3 infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, and more. Jump to the Big Bend grade and you’ll add on heated front seats and side mirrors, aluminum wheels, and keyless entry with push-button and remote start, among other features. At the Outer Banks level, the wheels grow from 17 to 18 inches, and a 6.5-inch digital instrument panel, leather-trimmed upholstery, a heated steering wheel, reverse sensing system, and other features are added.
But it’s the top-of-the-line Badlands grade that will grab the attention of those seeking off-road capability in a smaller package. The engine gets an upgrade to a 2.0-litre EcoBoost, which makes 275 lb-ft of torque and was originally targeting 245 horsepower but is now expected to rate at 250 horsepower according to Ford representatives. This grade has two more modes in its terrain management system, rock crawl and mud/ruts, and adds a twin-clutch rear-drive unit.
It also has a long list of off-roading equipment: a custom suspension with a one-inch lift, 28.5-inch all-terrain tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels, metal bash plates, front tow hooks, a trail control system for moderating speed on off-road surfaces, and a forward-facing, split-view 180-degree front camera with an on-board washer, among other features.
More than 100 factory-backed accessories will be available at the Bronco Sport’s launch, many of which work in conjunction with the roof racks that are standard on all grades. Racks for carrying bikes, kayaks, and skis or snowboards are among the highlights, but outdoor enthusiasts may be especially interested in the roof-mounted tent accessory, which can support up to 600 lbs. regardless of whether the vehicle has a sunroof installed.
Bronco and Bronco Sport both launch for the 2021 model year, which coincides with the 55th anniversary of the Bronco nameplate’s arrival on the market. The Bronco Sport will begin arriving in dealerships this fall, which is a few weeks later than originally expected due to production delays caused by COVID-19. But it’s still a few months sooner than the fully fledged Bronco, which won’t be available until Spring 2021. The full pricing structure will be announced closer to launch.
And does it have much in the way of Easter eggs, like its competitors at Jeep tend to have? Ford says they’ve saved most of that for the Bronco Sport’s big brother. However, there is one fun little secret tucked away under the tailgate: there’s a bottle opener installed just behind the right taillight. So, once you reach your secret little slice of wilderness and are squared away for the night, you can celebrate by popping open a cold one. Cheers.