When the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport came into the light, it didn’t take long for the internet to start cracking jokes. That’s what it does best, after all. “Beta Bronco,” they called it. Compared to the heroic proportions and capabilities of the 2021 Bronco 2-Door and 4-Door, perhaps. But a beta baby Bronco would be an alpha of pretty much anything else. Just as a coyote is less dangerous than a wolf, it’s nonetheless a creature not to be trifled with. This is especially true with the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands, the range-topping model. Recently, we were able to take a ride in one, and our thoughts are shared below.
The layout of Holly Oaks ORV Park is that of a repurposed quarry. Which means that at the center of a web of trails, obstacles, hills and brush, that there’s a massive pit. Full of loose dirt, in this case. With seven standard GOAT Modes to choose from, the optimal setting was set to ‘Sand’, and we descended down into the quarry. Straight away, the Bronco Sport was enthusiastically kicking up the dusty earth, the rear end swaying port and starboard. Like a horse having itself a dirt bath. It was right at home. As were the 28.5-inch BF Goodrich K02 tires, which wrap around a set of 17-inch Carbonized Gray-painted aluminum wheels.
To demonstrate its hillclimbing abilities in Sand mode, the 2.0L EcoBoost-powered SUV used its might to rush up a steep, loose, low traction hill that really highlighted the adventure-ready nature of its chassis. The engineer in control of the vehicle mentioned to us that the all-wheel-drive system of the Bronco Sport is “very similar” to the late, great Ford Focus RS. Not to say that it’s suddenly the pocket rocket that the RS is, but it’s nevertheless a proven system. It can control torque bias not only from front tor rear, but also from left to right, all depending on the scenario in real-time.
The Bronco Sport Badlands also has a trail control feature, which acts as a low speed cruise control, and the driver doesn’t need to have their feet on the pedals. But they probably should.
Sitting in the front seats, one observation is that the interior of the Bronco Sport has minimal dashboard – almost as if it were not on a front-wheel-drive based architecture. There’s a lot of room in the footwells, perhaps for a backpack or whatever else needs to go there. The center console is otherwise simplistic and absent of gimmickry that can sometimes come off as too much. We’d offer a photo, but Ford was sensitive about the fit and finish of their pre-production vehicles we rode in that day.
Compared to the big Bronco, the 2021 Bronco Sport Badlands doesn’t ride as smoothly over the rough terrain. You definitely feel everything more, and that’s not just for one single reason. It’s unibody, it’s got a smaller wheelbase, it’s got smaller tires, it’s got a more roadworthy suspension, and so forth. But, as we’ve seen from a couple of videos going around, the Bronco Sport is nevertheless highly capable, and by no means should it be considered a compromise of some kind. Especially compared to other compact utility vehicles in the segment. Wherever the adventure will take place, there’s a strong, strong chance the Bronco Sport Badlands can take you there. And that will be even more true after owners spend some time at the Off Roadeo driving school. Look for it at dealers this fall.