The Ford Bronco Sport, being the smaller variation of the bucking horse marking the return of the classic SUV, is a somewhat economical alternative to the larger Bronco. Despite its smaller size compared to the ‘normal’ new Bronco, the Bronco Sport still offers a decent off-road capable package that brings some of the retro attributes to the table that the return of such a vehicle has inspired. Built on a similar platform to the new Ford Escape and Maverick pickup, the Bronco Sport elevates things in somewhat of a literal sense, with certain trim levels offering higher ground clearance and some practical off-roading capabilities.
For the 2023 model year, after a proven success of winning over consumers from its 2021 model year introduction, the Bronco Sport gets a new Heritage edition trim. The new 2023 Bronco Sport Heritage edition brings the retro look in a modernized package sporting the style from the original 1960s Bronco – even bringing back some of the same color combinations that many enjoyed during that time.
The classic Heritage theme pays homage to the original Bronco even though the Bronco Sport is more of a modest vehicle using the C2 unibody platform from the Ford Escape and Maverick pickup truck. What the Bronco Sport Heritage edition is sure to do is turn some heads instead of being on the side of the plebeian crossover that many think when they see a normal-colored Bronco Sport on the road. With a unique palette of bright colors offered, including my test vehicle’s Robin’s Egg Blue body paint accented by a Oxford White roof, white 17-inch wheel aluminum wheels, and red Bronco grille lettering, the Heritage edition is quite an attention seeker that won’t be mistaken for anything else, which can be a good thing.
The new Ford Bronco Sport is surprisingly lively and handles itself well when you opt for the more-powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine found in my test vehicle. With its 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited feels strong out on the road as its 8-speed automatic transmission smoothly lands in the proper gear without unnecessary hunting.
The Bronco Sport Heritage can be had with the standard 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque in the base trim, but the fun is in the Heritage Limited trim with the more-powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in my test vehicle. Here, the Bronco Sport Heritage hits 60 mph in 6.5 seconds instead of 8.6 seconds with the 3-cylinder turbo.
With the extra grunt, the Bronco Sport Heritage can show off its hidden secrets of having Ford’s High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (HOSS) system with its specially tuned springs, and hydraulic front bump stops. Additionally, the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited, playing off its Badlands trim equipment starting point, gets the G.O.A.T (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) drive modes that feature several off-road selectable settings. Having the Heritage Limited trim equipment also gets you a torque-vectoring rear differential with a lockable center clutch pack for its all-wheel-drive setup to put the 29-inch all-terrain tires (235/65R-17) to good use. With all the off-roading add-ons, including an aluminum skid plate, the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited isn’t looked upon as the runt of the Bronco family but more of a retro-styled stand-out that adorns some usable off-roading capability and still retains respectable road-going compliance. Though the steering feels mostly disconnected and numb, there’s an assured sense of where you point the Bronco Sport having a rather high hood line and the sensation of you sitting deep into the body of the small crossover.
The Bronco Sport Heritage Limited gets a class II trailer tow package with trailer sway control as standard allowing you to tow up to 2.200 pounds along with a pair of front tow hooks.
The Bronco Sport is undoubtedly a lot more efficient than its bigger Bronco sibling, where you get mostly consistent fuel economy estimates starting with 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway having the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with the Heritage Limited equipment. That figure is somewhat improved upon in opting for the base Bronco Sport Heritage with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine landing you at 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway but with a great sacrifice in power and overall performance.
Inside the new Ford Bronco Sport is somewhat of a unique space that retains much of what is liked about the smaller Bronco Sport having a versatile and accommodating cabin. While the Bronco Sport’s interior is on the smaller size, Ford makes wise use of the proportions, with the one unfortunate stand-out exception being the rear seat legroom. Rear legroom is disappointingly short, and having taller front passengers adjusting the front power seats back only makes things worse, hardly leaving enough room for even small children.
Up front, the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited uses some retro-inspiration with its white door inserts, perforated leather and vinyl-trimmed seats with plaid inserts, and a retro-styled plaque signifying the vehicle type on the center console. Otherwise, the interior is much of what you find in a loaded-up Bronco Sport Badlands trim featuring the 8-inch Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. There is also a smartphone wireless charging pad conveniently located below the welcomed physical control knobs and buttons for dual-zone automatic climate controls. Below the touchscreen are welcomed physical knobs and buttons for the 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and disabling the start/stop system.
The cargo area of the Bronco Sport is very practical and accommodating, having Molle straps and an optional cargo management system shelf/table. There’s just over 32 cubic feet of usable space with the rear 60/40-split seatbacks in place. Fold them down and you have just over 65 cubic feet of storage.
Ford has bundled the new Bronco Sport with its latest Co-Pilot360 suite of features as standard, which include forward collision warning/emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind-spot warning w/rear cross-traffic warning, and automatic high beam LED headlights. The optional Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ package found on my loaded Bronco Sport Heritage Limited test vehicle adds on adaptive cruise control with speed limit recognition, evasive steering assist, advanced lane keeping system, and a navigation system.
Ford has played it smart with the new Bronco Sport offering the chance to get into a “new Bronco”, albeit a smaller form factor, for a respectable starting price of $29,215. Moving all the way up a list of 5 trim levels, the top-range Bronco Sport Heritage Limited will set you back at the as-tested price of $47,045. Such a price could be the start to a debate if you should opt for the larger Bronco – but you don’t get the cheekiness of the retro looks and the “sportiness” of the compact size – if that’s your thing.