The 3rd member of the new Ford Bronco family might be its smallest variant, but the Bronco Sport ranks among few contemporary family cars that offer genuine off-roading ability. The newcomer also offers myriad accessories designed for avid outdoor lifestyle enthusiasts.
Whereas the 2- and 4- door versions of the new Bronco are based on Ford’s T6 platform, which underpins the Ranger double-cab, the Bronco Sport is based on the new Escape family car (that is to say the next-generation Kuga, which has not been launched in South Africa). It may not look as ruggedly handsome as its Bronco siblings, but compared with the market's most popular family cars, including the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan, this Ford loves the rough stuff.
Ford has effectively relaunched its Bronco nameplate as a sub-brand, which is why the new model has a Bronco-branded grille.
The Bronco Sport’s design is inspired by those of its body-on-frame Bronco siblings, with styling cues such as the Bronco-signature-encapsulated cartridge grille, round headlamps, flat body sides, short front- and rear overhangs, as well as tough unpainted finishes that serve to protect exterior-contact points.
The newcomer’s tall, upright design facilitates best-in-class 1st- and 2nd-row headroom, Ford says, and the roof rails are long as possible (to offer maximum carrying length). The load bay, meanwhile, can accommodate a pair of 27.5-inch-wheel mountain bicycles upright with the optional Yakima dealer-installed bike-rack.
Other nifty features include a flip-glass rear window, low load floor, "Overlanding-ready" roof rack and fender peaks that help drivers gauge where the vehicle's front corners are.
The Bronco Sport can be optioned with a roof rack that is capable of supporting a small tent.
Camping enthusiasts will appreciate optional features such as a slide-out working table (which is part of the available 5-way configurable Cargo Management System), a 400W electric inverter, liftgate-mounted LED floodlamps, Molle straps to carry extra gear, zippered seatback pockets and even a built-in bottle opener in the load bay.
Badlands and First Edition versions feature washable rubber flooring throughout the cabin and cargo area, easy-to-clean cloth seating surfaces and silicone-sealed control switches. For storing wet or dirty gear, a storage bin is located below the 2nd-row passenger-side seat.
Ford offers the Bronco Sport with 4 distinct accessory bundles – in addition to more than 100 factory-backed standalone accessories – so that owners can kit out/personalise their vehicles for the purposes of transporting kayaks, skis, camping equipment "or whatever gear propels their adventure".
The Bronco Sport's interior comes with an 8-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system.
In terms of onboard technology, the Bronco Sport comes equipped with an 8-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment system (compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) as well as the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies. The suite incorporates pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), forward-collision warning and dynamic brake support, blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, a lane-keeping system, auto high-beam headlamps and a reverse-view camera.
The newcomer is available with either a 135 kW/257 Nm 1.5-litre 3-cylinder- or a 183 kW/372 Nm 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Ecoboost turbopetrol engine, both of which in combination with an 8-speed automatic transmission. However, 2.0-litre versions additionally feature steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and beefed-up cooling for the drivetrain.
All Bronco Sport derivatives feature MacPherson-strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspensions in combination with all-wheel drive, of which the Terrain Management System offers as many as 7 G.O.A.T. (Go Over Any Terrain) modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, Sand, Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
G.O.A.T. is an abbreviation for Go Over Any Terrain. The Bronco Sport offers up to 7 off-road driving modes.
High-spec (such as Badlands and First Edition) versions are shod with 28.5-inch and 29-inch all-terrain off-road tyres and a twin-clutch rear-drive unit equipped with a differential lock. The system can divert virtually all rear-axle torque to either wheel, setting it apart from most AWD family cars.
The Bronco Sport has 224 mm of ground clearance, 30.4- and 33.1-degree approach and departure angles, a 20.4-degree breakover angle, a crawl ratio of 18:1 and can wade through 600 mm-deep water. Four steel bash plates and frame-mounted front tow hooks, which can individually withstand static loads up to 100% of the GVM, are fitted.
The rubber-lined load floor and rear seatbacks are ideal for those who need to transport soiled mountain bikes etc.
Furthermore, the high-spec derivatives are equipped with tuned front struts with hydraulic rebound stops that “provide a quieter, less jarring off-road experience”, 46-mm monotube rear shocks for “improved response and more comfort off-road”, while softer springs and anti-roll bars “offer greater articulation”.
To assist less experienced off-roaders, the Trail Control low-speed cruise control system allows the Bronco Sport to travel at speeds of up to 32 kph forward (or 10 kph in reverse), while the system controls the throttle and braking so that the driver can concentrate on their steering inputs as they navigate tricky routes.
The Bronco Sport can wade through water that's up to 600-mm deep.
A notable optional extra (budding off-road enthusiasts may want to consider) is a front off-road camera with an integral lens washer, which effectively serves as a spotter to provide better visibility of the trail ahead by displaying the video feed on the fascia-mounted touchscreen.
So, what are the chances of the Ford Bronco Sport or any of its 2- or 4-door siblings being offered in South Africa? A recent report suggested the F-150 full-sized pick-up and the Bronco might be offered in the IMG market, which includes Australia, New Zealand, India, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, the Middle East, Africa and ASEAN, in future...
However, as things stand, the Bronco and Bronco Sport will, unfortunately, be built in left-hand-drive guise only. If the situation changes, we’ll be sure to let you know.