A FEW READERS have asked when I will test the Ford Bronco adventure ute, the Blue Oval’s answer to the Jeep Wrangler. I’m looking forward to it, but Bronco production (in Wayne, Mich.) hasn’t even started yet. People seem to have gotten the idea—perhaps from Ford’s relentless, yearlong brand-building campaign—that the Bronco had been out for ages.
But give credit where it’s due: Several in my neighborhood mistook the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport—a Ford Escape that thinks it’s Teddy Roosevelt—for its newborn big brother. Considering that the Bronco is a full-blown off-roader with removable doors, Dana 44 axles and 35-inch beadlocked tires, and the Bronco Sport is a subcompact crossover with 17- or 18-inch wheels, observers’ confusion represents a triumph of design. Ford has somehow made Bronco-ness scale invariant. That could be commercially useful.
If our 2021 Bronco Sport Outer Banks model ($36,045, as tested) fairly shouted the name—from the grille and hatch lid, in the maddening screen graphics during startup, in Bronco-themed Easter eggs in the window maskings and cabin moldings—the word Ford is uttered only once, in a whisper, in the badge on the liftgate.
And yet the Bronco Sport’s bones couldn’t be bluer: Built over Ford’s well-seasoned C2 global platform, the four-door subcompact crossover is assembled at Ford’s works in Hermosillo, Mexico. The instrumentation, switches and interior—while re-skinned in metaphoric Bronco hide—are familiar from the Escape.
Likewise with much of the running gear. Engine options are a turbocharged 1.5-liter three cylinder—dinky but overachieving—putting out a rated 181 hp and 190 lb-ft; or a turbo 2.0-liter inline-four, throttling up to 250 hp and 277 lb-ft (in the Badlands and First Edition models). Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.