The Baby Bronco Is The Runt Of The Litter

2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage

Price: $46,099 CAD

Colour: Alto Blue Metallic TC

Nostalgia is a funny animal. Products driven by it are often cynical, half-assed efforts that ring hollow with all but the most devoted. The automotive world is a leader in pumping out products like this. Ford has been at it for years. One of their more efforts is the new Bronco. They knew lots of people would buy one as they yearned to relive the adventures of their youth. I have no real issue with that vehicle as it may have been birthed by the marketing department, but the designers and engineers got their hooks in nice and deep. For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, Ford opted to create a baby Bronco and call it the Sport. It’s largely based on the Escape platform and, much like that vehicle, it bums me out hard.

Power & Performance

The first, and biggest, issue I have with the Bronco is the engine. This Heritage model (mid-trim) comes with a 1.5L 4-cylinder dud. It delivers 181hp and 185 lb/ft of torque. On paper this should propel the Bronco Sport along just fine. In reality however, it just doesn’t get it done. It’s always revving high, and you feel like you have to absolutely throttle it to get the car going. I kept waiting for the surge of power and confidence I expected, and it never came. It was truly the worst part of this car as I really wanted to like it. It was a rough start. 

You can get a 2.0L Ecoboost on the top-tier Badlands model and while I haven’t driven that one, it must be better than this. It would be great to see Ford offer an engine choice on any trim of the Bronco Sport.

Exterior

How a car looks means a great deal to a lot of car buyers (although clearly not all of them or Kia wouldn’t have survived its first decade of existence). For people like me, a car must look good. This is part of how it speaks to me. When the Bronco Sport was launched, I was deeply underwhelmed. It just looked like weak sauce compared to its bigger brother. This began the process of cementing (in my head) that the Sport is a simple marketing exercise. Imagine my surprise then when I picked the vehicle up and it immediately made me smile. It’s so much better looking in person. The Alto Blue color is one of those strange ones that you can’t fully appreciate unless it’s in full sunlight. It changes from one angle to another. It also looks cute and rather handsome in the full light of day. The various trim and color choices for this Heritage model all work (even the plain white rims) and this was a surprise.

Interior

Plaid isn’t my usual first choice for car upholstery. It came as a shocker then when I immediately approved of the interior in the Sport Bronco. It should have been revolting but it all kind of works. It’s a splash of variety that helps deflect attention from the very dull grey/blue interior color palette. This is typical of a lot of Fords and while the materials are of a decent quality, they’re not the most engaging of choices.

I’ve never seen two shelves in a cargo area before. The Bronco Sport features just such a thing. You can put stuff on either shelf and it isn’t likely to collapse. This would come in handy for a healthy Costco run. It was a clever piece of design.

Pouches on the back of the front seats of a car are common. What isn’t so common are zippers on those pouches. I’m not sure why as it strikes me as a really good idea. Not only do you lose less stuff, but it keeps your stuff private from prying eyes while maximizing storage space. 

I like split windows on rear gates. It makes throwing stuff in the back very useful. The Bronco Sport has just such a feature. I really like it. As I age, not having to heave the full rear gate open every time I need to throw something in the back grows in value. What can I say, it’s the little things sometimes.  

Quality

The Ford Bronco Sport feels well made. There were no rattles or odd sounds from the sunroof area like I get on some other Ford products. While that engine drove me nuts, the rest of the car felt as solid as it should.

CQI – 8.

Value

Cars are expensive these days. I know I sound like your grandpa when I say something like that but it’s never been truer. The chaos created by the Pandemic has thrown the world of car-making into absolute chaos. As a result, car pricing is out of control. The Bronco Sport is no exception. It starts at $41k and goes north from there. As tested, this Heritage model rings in at $46,009 and the top shelf Badlands starts at $48k and goes up from there. This is a lot of money for a five-seater SUV that may be a somewhat interesting design exercise but otherwise doesn’t offer enough to justify the increased expense over its competitors.

Final Thoughts

If you’re in the mood for an off-road oriented SUV that will harken back to the joyous days of your younger years bombing around in dad’s old Bronco, you will need to look elsewhere than the Bronco Sport. If you want something that is an unusual looking family vehicle that handles gravel parking lots just fine, this might be for you. You would have to opt for the Badlands so you can have the bigger engine. Please don’t buy one with the 1.5L, you’ll regret it.

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