By Peter Perrotta
After a 31-year run, from 1965 to 1996, Ford put its Bronco SUV on ice.
We will never know if that infamous OJ Simpson white Bronco chase on June 17, 1994, that riveted the nation on national TV, ever had anything to do with that decision.
But, in this age of conspiracy theories, we can only speculate.
Nonetheless, in this current age of bringing back the old to create something new, the Bronco is back with a vengeance.
For 2021, Ford reintroduces their beloved Bronco to the American public in three different flavors. It comes in a more full-sized 2- and 4-door SUV version, as well as the “baby brother” smaller, more compact Bronco Sport 4X4.
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport 4X4 “Badlands” edition for three days so I could give my On The Road readers a preview of what to expect from this ute.
Before I get started, I must admit that the older Ford Broncos were always a favorite of mine. I always liked the rugged look and short, compact stature of this vehicle.
However, when the transport company pulled up to drop off my test vehicle, my first impression was that I thought, from the commercials I had seen on television, that this Bronco would be bigger.
As it stands, the 2021 Bronco sport is 172.7 inches long. What I didn’t realize was that the sport version of the Bronco was going to be as compact as it is.
The non-sport 2021 fuller sized Broncos is what I was probably viewing on the television commercials. The 2-door non-sport Broncs is 173.7 inches long and its 4-door counterpart is a whopping 189.4 inches long – the biggest Bronco ever.
No matter, once I got over the initial realization that the sport model was the “baby brother” version, it was all good.
As far as roominess and comfort go, this Bronco Sport checks all the right boxes.
It has 65.2 cubic feet of cargo space. With the second row of seats upright, I was still able to fit my three display cases I use for displaying my sport card collection at weekend shows.
I am six-foot tall – and not slight of build by any means – but I fit comfortably behind the wheel with ample leg room to spare. The second row seating is not tremendously large, but it is big enough to carry two adults comfortably and three snugly.
In its well prepared press release on the new Bronco Sport, the folks at Ford tout that the new model is “ready for fun”.
It goes on to state that it offers “class exclusive features designed for life on the trails including a safari-style roof enabling class leading headroom and a cargo area high enough to hold two 27.5-inch wheel mountain bikes.”
As readers of the column will note, I often use whether a vehicle fits my road bike comfortably as a litmus test of its cargo capabilities.
However, with a foot of snow on the ground, my bike is grounded in the storage room at the moment.
But, more to the point, this Bronco Sport, is well suited for an active lifestyle, off-road going person. This vehicle excels in foul weather and off-road conditions. It’s strength is not in routine city driving or highway cruising.
The new Sport Bronco was designed from the ground up to withstand various off-road conditions and terrains.
The center console has a drive mode selector labeled G.O.A.T. (good on any terrain). The Bronco’s Terrain Management System features up to seven available G.O.A.T modes including normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
For the three days I tested it, I didn’t get to try all the modes. I used normal, Eco, Sport and Slippery and Sand.
In my usual “take it on the sandy trails of the Pinelands” test, this Bronco Sport performed admirably. It seems at home when it can get down and dirty in the mud or sand.
There are five trim levels of the Bronco Sport: base model, Big Bend, Outer Banks, Badlands and First Edition.
The base price of the Badlands edition I tested is $32,660. Added options on my tester included $795 for equipment Group 400 A, including Ford’s co-pilot 360 Assist; $2,595 for the Badlands package and $1,495 for destination and delivery. The bottom line sticker price on my tester came in at $37,545.
The Badlands package includes a power moonroof, a reverse sensing system, wireless charging pad, dual zone temperature zones, HD radio, Bang and Olufsen sound system with 10 speakers and remote start.
The Bronco Sport I tested was powered by a 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbo charged eco boost engine that puts out 245 horsepower. It is paired with an eight speed automatic transmission.
The base model Bronco Sport comes standard with a more modest 181 horsepower, turbo charged 1.5 liter, three cylinder engine.
I found the 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine in my tester model to be ample enough for everyday city or highway driving, but not impressively quick.
On regular terrain the new Bronco has a fairly smooth and comfortable ride. It’s all-terrain tires mounted on 17-inch wheels give it a rugged truck feel, though.
Inside this Bronco has the feel of an off-road vehicle with not carpeting and thick rubberized all weather mats instead.
The EPA estimates the Bronco Sport will get 21 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway. This vehicle has not been tested by the government’s Five Star Safety rating test yet.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. For questions and comments he can be contacted at [email protected]