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A weekend caravan warrior

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is surprisingly off-road.

Bryan Campbell

2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands Review:

When Ford revived the legendary Bronco SUV, Ford also announced a smaller Bronco Sport based on the Ford Escape. Inevitably, it came to be known as “Baby Bronco” and was ridiculed before it could even roll off the assembly line. Just because of the fact that it was a crossover, it was believed that it would be useless off-road and never do justice to the bucking horse emblem it assumed. In another twist that no one saw coming, the resulting Ford Bronco Sport 2021 is an incredibly capable weekend adventure warrior.

Much like the Jeep Wrangler, the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is strewn with interesting Easter eggs.

Bryan Campbell

Baby Bronco Power

When it comes to horsepower, it simply shouldn’t be a cross-shopping crossover. Against this background, there are two engine options for the Bronco Sport: a 181 hp 1.5-liter three-cylinder base engine with turbocharger and a 245 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder with turbocharger, which is the Badlands equipment, the model , drives I’ve tested. Both couple with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In the city and on the trail, the 2.0-liter engine was up to the task and provided the low-end punch when needed. It was a little less clever on the highways. At higher speeds it loses some grunt, although the translation of the eight-speed gearbox made the longer stints more bearable. Small engines and box-shaped cars usually make highway driving a pain, but the Bronco Sport did better than the Jeep Wrangler.

A real weekend warship.

Bryan Campbell

Great bronco style

The ultimate success of Bronco Sport depended on so many factors that the all-new compact SUV seemed doomed from the start. Styling, which is always a critical factor, seemed to be emphasized in this case. I can’t imagine Ford was too concerned about pleasing the small, furiously headstrong cohort known as the Enthusiast, but they had to achieve something special.

The original Bronco – its name, iconic design – has become increasingly desirable and found on wish lists of more than just vintage nerds, and the new “big” Bronco relies heavily on it. For many consumers, however, a full-size SUV is neither practical nor feasible. Because of this, the smaller Bronco Sport had to be more than just another awkwardly redesigned version of its big brother.

Ford borrowed keywords from the great Bronco to fill in the sport and solidify the federation, but all in all, the Bronco does well on its own. There are enough hard edges and flat surfaces reminiscent of SUVs of yesteryear that blend well with the modern proportions of a crossover in 2021. Ford could have lazily redesigned the Escape, swapping headlights, taillights and using simple badge technology. Fortunately, the Blue Oval went deeper than just the sheet metal.

The interior of the Ford Bronco Sport is simple and to the point.

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An interior for the outdoors

One could argue that the return of the Bronco and the introduction of the Bronco Sport couldn’t come at a better time. Before 2020, the multi-billion dollar outdoor and adventure industry was predicted to be a trillion dollar industry at some point within a few years. In view of the global shift in interests, acceleration is no longer an option. To win that huge amount, the Ford Bronco Sport had to play the part.

Much like the new Land Rover Defender, the Bronco Sport feels like something you’d find in your online shopping cart alongside a tent, sleeping bag, and campfire cookware. The difference is that the Defender feels infinitely more upscale, like it came from the top end of Backcountry.com, while the Bronco Sport can be found in the camping aisle at Walmart.

This is not the blow to you that you think it will be. As with any growing leisure industry, product prices can unjustifiably decouple from the actual performance of the products. There are people out there who will definitely buy this custom-made camping knife with a hand-carved handle and blade made of damascus steel. Know that Walmart will sell you a flawless Gerber knife for a fraction of the price and still get through your weekend in the woods.

In any car that claims that it can and will go off-road, the interior space is the clearest indicator the manufacturer wants you to have. The interior of the Bronco Sport Badland is simple, straightforward and covered with rubber. Nothing looks like it’s going to break just because the road got too bumpy and it just so happens that the rubber looks like it came from the same source that Gerber Knives gets it from. When driving through mud and camping in the dirt, dragging him into the car is inevitable and you shouldn’t worry.

The compact size of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport comes in its favor on tight trails

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GOAT modes

GOAT or Go Over Any terrain modes are another connection to the great Bronco, but also help the sport to stand out in its segment. While the entire Bronco Sport range is equipped with sand, slippery, sport, eco and normal drive settings, the Badlands also has two mud / ruts and a rock crawl.

Each adjusts engine mapping and traction control to optimize grip and stability accordingly, but with the Badlands you also get an upgraded dual-clutch rear differential, an extra inch of suspension, and 17-inch wheels with 28.5-inch all -Terrain tires. Not many other crossovers can boast this type of off-road amplification.

The cargo space in the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is enough for a weekend camping trip for two.

Bryan Campbell

Is the Bronco Sport good at car camping?

The Bronco Sport was developed almost exclusively for the outdoor and adventure lifestyle audience. More specifically, the weekend warrior types, not the die-hard hikers and overlanding enthusiasts. As a result, the Bronco Sport offers enough space for two pieces of equipment, a cool box, a tent, everything you need and not much else.

One long weekend, my friend and I packed up the Bronco in Brooklyn, pointed north, and headed for the Adirondacks for a few days of hiking. I imagine the exact scenario Ford was planning when they sketched the Bronco Sport. Get out of town, hit the freeway, then turn onto a path to keep the adventure going.

Our regular campsite is on a path just off the road, but requires a slight rock crawl within the first few meters, which luckily puts most other cars off. The GOAT modes came in handy almost immediately.

Thanks to its smaller footprint (combined with the off-road extras), the Bronco Sport Badlands easily fits into the narrow, tree-lined path that’s ready to scratch the gray Area 51 paint job. When we arrived at the campsite, we unpacked and set up the shop.

Unfortunately, due to the sport’s smaller stature, when the weather worsened, even if it was completely empty and the seats were folded, neither of us could seek shelter and a good night’s sleep. The cargo volume is 29 cubic feet. Fortunately, we never saw rain.

The Bronco Sport 2021’s small footprint helps to navigate narrower paths and smaller campsites.

Bryan Campbell

In its most basic distillation, the crossover is an SUV built on a car platform, trying to combine the best of both worlds. The result is the automotive figurehead of the phrase “all-rounder, not a master”. Manufacturers built large and awkwardly proportioned cars that were far from doing well.

What Ford is doing with the Bronco Sport is geared towards the adventure community and helping the crossover finally find its place in the world. Large SUVs, off-roaders, and rural-service vehicles have their advantages, but when the road ends and the path gets rough you sometimes need a smaller vehicle that can still handle dirt and mud. While cargo space may be sacrificed, a shorter wheelbase, less overhang, and less weight make for a much more accessible and versatile machine.

For years, for whatever reason, crossovers have tried to be smaller but sportier SUVs. Manufacturers are finally starting to highlight the right architectural features and use them where SUVs are generally better: off-road. The Bronco Sport and all the other off-road CUVs prove the platform should have been used from the start. Combine that with the booming outdoor adventure industry and we may find ourselves in the golden age of crossover.

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