Behind the Wheel

2023 Ford Bronco Sport — The Bronco’s Kid Brother

2023 Ford BroncoModel tested: Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Limited 4×4

Engine: 2-liter turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Horsepower: 250

Torque: 277 lb.-ft.

EPA ratings: 21/city, 26/highway, 23/combined

Base price: $44,805

As tested: $46,400

Overview: The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is a compact SUV that’s basically the little brother of the larger Bronco, but offers the same kind of rugged charm the Ford family is known for. Prices start at $29,215. Based on the Ford Escape platform, the Bronco Sport is smaller and doesn’t boast the off-road chops of its big brother. However, it can hold its own in lesser challenging venues — while the Badlands version can handle more rugged terrain. This 2023 lineup adds two Heritage models. Our test-driver was the Heritage Limited 4×4 and this review focuses on that model. All Sport models are all-wheel drive.

Walkaround: Featuring retro-inspired design, the squared-off lines of the classic Bronco are showcased on the 2023 Bronco Sport in such a way that makes calling it cool an understatement. They are also handy from a functional perspective, making it easier to see the corners off-road. The Sport version only comes in a four-door configuration, but shares most styling elements of its big brother — projecting that outdoorsy image at lower price. However, it doesn’t offer a removable roof or doors. The rear liftgate’s window opens separately. The Bronco Sport proudly splashes the “Bronco” badge across the white grille in prominent, red capital letters. The Sport model also offers pale colors like the old Bronco — such as robin’s egg blue — that complement the white highlights, including the wheels and roof. An optional roof rack can handle up to 600 pounds — with the Bronco Sport parked. That’s strong enough for a rooftop tent, which is part of the optional Camp Outfitter bundle.

2023 Ford BroncoInterior: Plastic is abundant in the Sport — but not just to reduce costs and weight. It’s meant to be cleaned easily after an off-road excursion, just like the cloth upholstery in the lower trim levels. The new Heritage model features plaid-patterned cloth, while our Heritage Limited test-driver had leather seating surfaces. Bang & Olufsen audio is usually found in luxury cars like Aston Martin or Audi. Yet this 10-speaker, 560-watt surround-sound system has been tuned especially for the Bronco Sport. It’s optional in the Outer Banks and Badlands models, but standard in the Heritage Limited. Every version of the Sport has an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, although our test-driver enjoyed navigation with a pinch-to-zoom feature. Rear legroom is an adequate 36.9 inches, while cargo space is 29.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and measures 60.6 with the rear seats folded — more than the Jeep Cherokee. There’s also an available interior bike rack that can stow a couple of mountain bikes upright — with their front wheels removed.

Behind the wheel: Our test-driver featured Ford’s 250-horse four-cylinder EcoBoost engine married to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. Performance and comfort were more than adequate, as was handling. While it’s nicknamed the “GOAT,” it doesn’t mean there’s a Tom Brady edition. The tongue-in-cheek reference refers to the Bronco Sport’s ability to “go over any terrain” — like a goat. That’s somewhat optimistic for the basic Sport, but plausible for our Heritage Limited test-driver because of its advanced all-wheel-drive system, which comes with five GOAT driving modes in its terrain-response feature.

Bottom line: The kid brother of the larger, more rugged Ford Bronco, the 2023 Bronco Sport is a reasonably priced, reasonably capable SUV that can do double-duty as a daily driver and weekend off-roader — depending on which model and how far off-road you venture.