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SUV Review: 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage

Escape-based crossover capable, spacious — but consider the larger engine

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If you’re unfamiliar with the Ford Bronco family, it’s important to be clear up front: there are two types of Ford Bronco. The subject of this story is the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport, the smallest sibling in the family. It comes in a single four-door bodystyle, it’s built like a crossover not a truck, and it shares some of its structure and powertrain with models like the Ford Maverick and Ford Escape.

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Then there’s the larger, more capable full-sized Ford Bronco — just Bronco, no ‘Sport’. There are two versions here: a two-door and a four-door. Compared to the Bronco Sport, the big-brother Broncos can tow more, are built like trucks not crossovers, and are the more rugged, heavy-duty, and thirsty of the trio.

Line these three up, and you’d find the Bronco Sport to be a touch longer than the two-door Bronco, but smaller in other major dimensions.

The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport starts at $36,000, with four-wheel drive included as standard on all models. There are six different Bronco Sport trims to pick from, amounting to a lineup that intends to offer some of the best off-road capability in the crossover segment, which includes models like the Mazda CX-50, VW Tiguan, Honda CR-V, and the more capable Subaru Outback and Jeep Cherokee.

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This tester is a $41,899 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage wearing $600 worth of paint, as well as the optional Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ safety system and Heritage Convenience Package. So equipped, this pushes the as-tested sticker to a hair shy of $46,000.

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After 10 days and a few thousand kilometres of testing the Ford Bronco Sport during early pothole season in northern Ontario, my tester’s ride quality on rough surfaces stood out.

The ride is more forgiving and car-like than the tall-and-blocky look leads on, and even some of Sudbury’s most decomposed roads failed to coax much drama out of my tester’s ride. It feels solid, durable, and quiet when travelling over surfaces that can pull plenty of harshness and noise from the ride in many competitors.

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Testing notes highlight a backroads drive that shines with generous suspension travel; above-average (but not segment-leading) control over rough-road noise, vibration and harshness; and solid control over body motions for an uneventful ride.

Suspension noise levels increase less than expected while the shocks take a beating, and the Bronco Sport’s body only seems to move as much as it needs to, with no squidgy bouncing and rebounding. The overall ride here feels durable and well sorted, with steering that’s isolated nicely from the surface of the road with minimal feedback transmitted to driver fingertips.

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Combined, these attributes work well towards a rough-road and backroads drive that’s easygoing and forgiving. The Bronco Sport travels a little faster over the worst roads I test SUVs and crossovers on, running quietly and more comfortable comfortably than most when the going is at its roughest. I also noted strong control over interior trim and panel rattles, though a few small noises were often apparent in this setting from the cargo area — perhaps from that two-tier divider.

All said, the Bronco Sport’s ability to handle a rough surface without feeling like it’s getting its butt kicked makes it an eager partner for bashing around light bush or cruising the backroads on a Sunday drive.

The turning circle and maneuverability feel small and car-like, and the dial shifter requires just millimetres of fingertip movement to switch from reverse to drive. Add in the light and easy steering feel at low speeds, and the Bronco Sport even pulls off some of the easiest three-point turns I’ve made in a good while.

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That steering lacks much meaningful feedback and feel at highway speeds however; you’ll see its best work at lower speeds in parking-lot and off-road settings, where the Bronco Sport feels especially easy to place.

Tall interior

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Do you often transport tall passengers? If so, fear not: the Ford Bronco Sport is a headroom champ. Its shape gives this away of course — tall and boxy, with a roof that steps up halfway back for a boost in overhead clearance in back, all to the benefit of cargo capacity and rear seat headroom.

In the Bronco Sport, you’ll find more headroom in both seating rows than the Forester Wilderness and CX-50. I had my tallest friend, a 6’4 Finn, assess the headroom: seated comfortably and upright, he had “surprisingly good” headroom up front (his words), and even more in the second row. I figure test-driving shoppers will probably underestimate the available headroom, even given the Bronco Sport’s shape.

Up front, the driving environment meets the requirement for a rugged, chunky, and durable appearance, but without overdoing it. Big openings and squared-off accents give the cabin some visual toughness, with shapes and colours easily overwhelming the relatively small control consoles and display screen. Shapes and colours, not gadgets, are the stars of the visual show on board.

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Tall glass visually opens the cabin and helps improve visibility for the driver, who has two proper cupholders and at least two generously sized open-storage cubbies within arms’ reach. The Bronco logo on the steering wheel replaces the standard-issue blue-oval Ford logo for a more exclusive touch, too.

At a glance, it’s appropriately rugged and connected with the Bronco Sport’s mission of encouraging drivers to get out and explore its capabilities while checking out someplace new.

Bronco Sport as a lifestyle tool

2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage
2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage

Handy touches abound. Favourites include the thick, zip-shut, fuzz-lined seatback pockets that keep tablets and laptops protected from dust, bumps and dirt; and the two-tier shelving system in the cargo area that can slide out and sprout legs to form a pop-up eating, cooking, or working area on the fly.

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As a photographer, I especially appreciated having a handy, accessible workstation at my disposal to swap lenses and camera bodies up on the go. The tabletop surface is hard plastic and fairly low on friction, so consider adding a rubberized mat for added traction if you need it. I’d love to see Ford update the rear cargo area shelf with a grippier rubberized surface, similar to what’s used on the seatbacks just ahead of it.

However you use this functionality, the high-lift tailgate blocks light rain from overhead to keep you dry, and aimable LED lights are positioned overhead, activated with a button press. And with rear glass that can be opened separately of the tailgate and the shelving system in behind, there’s a ton of utility back here.

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In the forward cabin, there’s a generous storage cubby beneath the touch-screen, and a wireless charging pad further below on the forward centre console. It’s easy to access, with a big opening above and a low-profile dial shifter just ahead that doesn’t get in your hand’s (or phone’s) way.

Still, closer inspection may reveal disappointments for some shoppers. Specifically, the central touch screen and graphics are good but not segment-leading, and some of the visuals and controls in the driver’s direct line of sight left me longing for something a bit more modern looking. Specifically, the analog instrument cluster is easy to read but not visually engaging. The button arrangements for the steering wheel controls, climate control console, and media controls look similarly basic and no-frills next to competitors which are increasingly using texture, metallic accents, and dramatic linework in these areas to dial up the flair.

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Three in a row makes it go. 

2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage
2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage three-cylinder engine

The Ford Bronco Sport‘s three-cylinder engine isn’t especially gutsy, but it hits harder than its’ 1.5-litre displacement suggests. Turbocharging helps develop 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, getting busy from low revs where the engine is quietest.

There’s a good mid-range kick when you ask for it, and well-spaced gear ratios optimize the power available to drivers at highway speeds for easy passing and merging maneuvers. Worked hard, the engine’s sound is slightly satisfying, and never sounds winded or wheezy. Thrust stays on strong as max revs approach, and though the eight-speed automatic shifts slower than more athletic competitors, it does respond quickly and reliably to throttle inputs. The exception is stop-and-go traffic, where, low-speed, light-throttle gearshifts can feel more abrupt and clumsy than expected, pulling away a little at the overall refinement.

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I found the Bronco Sport’s three-cylinder powertrain best when driven patiently under light throttle, maximizing the use of its quiet, low-rev torque. If you’re a laid-back driver with fuel economy on the brain, it’s a great setup.

Highway noise levels are acceptable, but not impressive. Pass the highway speed limit, and many drivers will need to raise their voice a little for a phone call or conversation with a nearby passenger. I also noted my tester’s interior noise levels to be largely at the mercy of the pavement surface beneath, with coarse pavement turning up the road noise higher than I expected.

Brakes perform well, with a pedal-feel that’s consistent and reliable but a little too spongy and squishy for my tastes. If you’re coming to a Bronco Sport from another vehicle on the sportier end of the spectrum, allow for a reduction in feel and precision from the controls — specifically the steering and brakes.

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Which Bronco Sport would I buy?

2021 Bronco Sport Badlands
2021 Bronco Sport Badlands Photo by Brian Harper

My trim pick would be the Badlands, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine — not the three-cylinder.

First, the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands features additional content and hardware that add capability and confidence for the sort of driving I tend to do most in my neck of northern Ontario — that is, plenty of driving in severe winter conditions, on rough roads in remote areas, and in various combinations of rocks, mud, sand, and off-road ruts.

Specifically, a more advanced rear axle and all-wheel drive system on this model improve performance in winter- and off-road driving, as well as additional selectable off-road drive modes accessible through the dial selector on the console. Called GOAT modes (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain), these mean more off-road tools at my disposal — including push-button axle lock.

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These attributes, combined with the significant power upgrade delivered by the 2.0L four-cylinder turbo engine standard on the Bronco Sport Badlands (250 horsepower, 277 lb-ft), are well worth the roughly $4,250 step up.

How does the Ford Bronco Sport’s Fuel Economy Stack Up?

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There’s a bit more to the story when it comes to determining which of the Bronco Sport’s engines is right for you: fuel economy.

With the 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder like my tester, NRCan says the Ford Bronco Sport will drink 9.3 litres of gas to drive 100 kilometres in the city, and 8.4 L/100 km on the highway. In combined driving, you’re looking at 8.9 L/100 km. That’s the same fuel economy you can expect from machines like the Mazda3 5-door Turbo AWD, Cooper S Clubman with AWD, and Mitsubishi Outlander AWD.

With the available 2.0L turbo four, NRCan says the Bronco Sport will drink 11.1 L/100 km city, 9.0 L/100 km highway, and 10.2 L/100 km combined. That’s the same fuel economy you’d expect from a Ford Edge with 2.0L engine, VW Atlas with 2.0L engine, and Subaru Forester Wilderness running the flat-four turbo.

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Therefore, in the Bronco Sport, the four-cylinder engine uses 1.3 L/100 km more than the three-cylinder engine, in exchange for 69 more horsepower and 87 lb-ft more torque. That’s 38 per cent more horsepower and 46 per cent more torque from the four-cylinder, while using just 15 per cent more gas.

For drivers who pay $1.50 for a litre of gas and drive 25,000 kilometres per year, feeding the four-cylinder engine versus the three- will add about $40 to your monthly fuel bill. Your preferences may vary, but if you like the idea of a lot more power from a little more fuel, then the 2.0L turbo in the Bronco Sport Badlands shouldn’t disappoint. 

Popular questions about the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport

What engines are in the Ford Bronco Sport?

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You’ve got two choices: a 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder making 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, or a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.

Which Bronco Sport has 4×4?

All Ford Bronco Sport trims include automatic all-wheel drive as standard.

Are Bronco Sport doors removable?

Any door is removable if you try hard enough, but you’d best leave these doors attached. The Bronco Sport’s doors aren’t designed to be removed.

Is Bronco Sport a convertible?

No, but you can option a sunroof.

Does Bronco Sport require premium fuel?

Nope, regular-grade gas is just fine in the Ford Bronco Sport.

Can Bronco Sport tow?

Yes, the Ford Bronco Sport can tow up to 2,000 pounds with the 1.5: engine and up to 2,200 pounds with the 2.0L engine.

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Is Bronco Sport flat-towable?

No, the Ford Bronco Sport will not flat tow.

Which Bronco sport has the 2-litre turbo engine?

This engine is standard on the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands and Bronco Sport Heritage Limited.

Does Bronco Sport have remote start in Canada?

Yes, you can remote start your vehicle (any trim) with the FordPass Connect app. It’s also an available option with the Premium Package on the Badlands, and standard on Bronco Sport Heritage Limited.

Does the Ford Bronco sport have adaptive cruise control? 

Yes, adaptive cruise is an option on all Bronco Sport models except for the base, and is standard on the Bronco Sport Heritage Limited.

Justin Pritchard picture

Justin Pritchard

Justin Pritchard is a Sudbury, Ontario based automotive journalist and award-winning presenter, photographer, videographer and technical writer. Every week, Justin uses his keyboard, voice and cameras to share his latest automotive reviews and discoveries with his audience, via multiple Canadian television programs, print and online publications.


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