Capable Enough For Most. The off-roading craze has become a huge hit in the U.S. While most people look at the Ford Bronco or the Jeep Wrangler and think that they’d be comfortable for daily use, that’s hardly the case. Pure off-roaders sacrifice on-road comfort for off-roading capability. If you live to go off-roading, these options are great, but if you plan on using your SUV every day and want something that’s slightly easier to live with, an option like the 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is a better choice.

The Bronco Sport occupies an interesting spot in Ford’s lineup. It’s named after the Bronco, but is smaller and not as rugged. It’s more expensive than the Escape, which isn’t nearly as capable off-road. For most people, the Bronco Sport has more than enough capability for a rugged trail, but more importantly, it won’t beat you up on the commute to work. With the rugged Badlands trim, you’re getting 7.9 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford through 17.7 inches of water. Spec the Bronco Sport with the available all-terrain tires, and the SUV’s ground clearance increases to 8.8 inches and the SUV’s water-fording depth rises to 23.6 inches.

For drivers that want to go off-roading, the Badlands trim is the best choice. On top of having impressive ground clearance, it comes with an upgraded four-wheel-drive system with a special rear differential to give drivers maximum grip when off-roading. Off-road suspension helps the Badlands deal with bumps and ruts better, while front tow hooks and underbody skid plates are on hand to help the SUV get unstuck and to keep vital components protected. The Badlands also has some high-tech features like trail control and a forward-looking 180-degree camera to make off-roading easier.

Now With Retro Styling. Ford has expanded the Bronco Sport lineup for 2023. While the compact SUV arrived as an all-new model in 2021, Ford is giving it an old-school touch with the addition of the Heritage Edition and Heritage Limited Edition. The new editions are large price increases over the trims that they’re based on, but they’re no denying that they add to Bronco Sport’s catchy exterior design.

The Bronco Sport has a more rugged design than most of its competitors in the compact class. With its boxy proportions, prominent body cladding, and short overhangs, the Bronco Sport looks like it’s ready to go off-roading, while other options have curvier, and sportier lines for a more road-oriented look. It’s a good-looking SUV that stands out for all of the right reasons and manages to mimic more capable off-roaders.

For 2023, the Bronco Sport gains a design that’s meant to make the SUV look like it’s from the ‘60s. The standard Heritage Edition is available in seven paint jobs, while the Heritage Limited Edition is offered in three with most paint jobs being inspired by colors from yesteryear. The Heritage Editions also get Race Red “BRONCO” lettering on the front grille, Oxford White accents, white 17-inch wheels, a white body stripe, and a white-painted roof. The Heritage Limited Edition gets a few unique touches like metal “Bronco” fender badging and 29-inch off-road tires. On the inside, the Heritage Edition comes with special plaid seats, while the Limited gets special interior badges and leather-trimmed seats.

Turbo-Four Is Worth The Upgrade.Ford offers the Bronco Sport with two different engines. The base engine is adequate, while the available four-cylinder is a far better option, though it’s only available on the Badlands and the Heritage Limited trim.

The standard engine in the Bronco Sport is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. The available turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and route power to all four wheels through standard all-wheel drive. In addition to bringing quicker acceleration, the four-cylinder also raises towing capacity by 200 pounds to 2,200 pounds in total.

Despite its crossover-based platform, the Bronco Sport has a firm ride that imitates a truck. The SUV’s steering is heavy and doesn’t provide a lot of feedback, while the SUV’s brakes struggle to bring the Bronco Sport to a stop as quickly as its rivals. The larger issue we have with the Bronco Sport’s powertrain is the SUV’s eight-speed automatic transmission. Shifts have a tendency to be jerky at low speeds, which can make trips in urban areas tiring.

2022 Ford Bronco Sport Interior

Low-Quality, Cramped Cabin. The Bronco Sport’s largest flaw is its interior. In an effort to be seen as a rugged option, Ford’s engineers went a little too far with low-quality interior materials. The compact SUV has a lot of rough plastics and harsh materials that don’t feel or look good. The design looks attractive and the SUV comes well-equipped at its price point, but most people will be disappointed with the way the Bronco Sport’s interior feels.

In addition to having poor interior materials, the SUV is down on interior space compared to rivals and has uncomfortable seats. The Bronco Sport’s seats lack the necessary support to be comfortable on long drives and most trims are only available with manually adjustable seats, especially for the passenger. On the flip side, the Bronco Sport is available with a rubberized cargo floor and stain-resistant cloth upholstery that are easy to clean after a day of trekking through the woods. In the back, the Bronco Sport has 36.9 inches of rear legroom, which is tight for the segment. Taller passengers may have a hard time getting comfortable in the back of the SUV.

While the Bronco Sport is down on interior space, it has a relatively large cargo area. The SUV has 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and a total of 65.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. The interior is full of nifty storage compartments and bins for small items, while the adjustable cargo floor can make it easier to hold taller cargo.

Final Thoughts. The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is a flawed and confusing SUV. It may share the Bronco name, but it’s not nearly as rugged as the larger SUV. Instead, it occupies a strange middle ground with impressive off-roading capability at the sacrifice of interior materials and ride comfort. We’re not sure if the sacrifices are worth the advantages. If you’re looking for a serious off-roader, you’ll be better off with the Bronco. If you plan on staying on tarmac, the Escape is a better choice. If you want to merge the two, then the Bronco Sport is Ford’s clear option with its burly design, sturdy interior, and punchy four-cylinder engine.

Drivers seeking a rugged-looking SUV with an upscale cabin and excellent on-road manners, the Mazda CX-50 stands out as the more well-rounded choice. While it can go off-roading like the Bronco Sport, it can tackle light trails, has an available 256-hp turbo engine, is enjoyable to drive, and comes well-equipped with tech features.

The Hyundai Tucson is a more conventional SUV, though it has a sharp design. It’s available with hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, has a luxurious cabin, and features high-tech features. The Tucson has one of the roomier cabins in the class with a generous amount of passenger space and cargo capacity.

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