Automakers love to revive the past in order to strike a chord with consumers. That’s what Ford did by resurrecting the Bronco a couple of years ago.
Introduced at the same time, the Bronco Sport doesn’t have any history to build on. It actually has more in common with the Escape, but the company gave it the “Bronco” moniker because it’s cool and also to make people feel like they’re driving a little off-roader. And for 2023 Ford took nostalgia a step further by launching limited-run Heritage and Heritage Limited editions inspired by the original Bronco from 1966.
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We took one for a spin in the past few weeks and, unsurprisingly, the package is not enough to eclipse the vehicle’s many irritants.
Retro Looks for a Modern SUV
On the outside, Ford designers matched the legend with an Oxford White heritage grille surround and roof. The same colour is applied to the retro-looking wheels, which aren’t made of steel like in the ‘60s but rather aluminum. White stripes with script “Bronco” lettering run along the beltline.
Fortunately, the practical roof rails were spared. The Bronco Sport Heritage rides on Continental CrossContact ATR tires with mild off-road capabilities, while the Heritage Limited gets Falken Wildpeak A/T tires in a larger size (29 inches) and with more bite. Ground clearance also increases in the process. Metal “Bronco” script front fender badging and front tow hooks are included, as well.
Some things we need to tell you in case you’re not familiar with the Bronco Sport. First, there’s a pretty deep recess between the hood and the windshield, meaning a lot of snow and ice will build up there in the winter. Next, if you pop the hood, you’ll see that there’s no engine cover for protection and noise insulation. What’s more, a front-mounted camera would be nice to have on sketchy terrains and trails, but you can only have it with the Heritage Limited.
Practical Interior With Some Glaring Issues
The interior of the Ford Bronco Sport Heritage stands out with plaid cloth seats and a Navy Pier instrument panel with Oxford White accenting the bin and door ring, among other things. The Navy Pier colour was inspired by the cloth seats that were available in the Bronco back in the ‘80s. In Heritage Limited trim, the seats are appointed in leather instead. Padding is adequate, but lateral support is not, which is too bad—unless you’re a bulky driver.
Headroom is generous no matter where you sit. However, those in the back don’t enjoy much legroom. Of course, that’s not a problem for kids, as the Bronco Sport is primarily aimed at small families.
Visibility is commendable for the most part. We can say the same about cargo room (920-1,846 litres), although the Heritage Limited is a bit less capacious. Remember, you can access the trunk either by opening the liftgate or flipping up the rear window. Extra points for the rubberized cargo floor that’s easy to clean and the bottle opener built into the hatch frame.
What else should we say about the cabin? Well, it’s clearly not as refined or sophisticated as some of the competition as material selection and the design of the controls convey a utility-first approach. Wind noise at highway speeds is annoying, just like the low but noticeable creaking noises we kept hearing from the sunroof in our tester. The 8-inch touchscreen may seem small, but it’s easy to reach. Also, the SYNC 3 infotainment system proves responsive and user-friendly while driving.
Four Cylinders, Please
The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage is based on the Big Bend model, so it features a turbocharged 1.5-litre triple-cylinder engine. For most people, the 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft. of torque will suffice in normal daily driving situations. Too often, however, turbo lag rears its ugly head, the engine starts to complain, and the 8-speed automatic transmission doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do, causing some pretty irritating jolts under acceleration.
And don’t expect to save on fuel because there’s one less cylinder to work with. This Bronco Sport has an official NRC rating of 8.9 L/100 km, and ours achieved a disappointing 9.8 L/100 km after spending 75 percent of the time driving around town and off-road.
If it weren’t for the price (more on that in a minute), we’d be quick to recommend the Heritage Limited edition, which is based on the Bronco Sport Badlands and its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 250 horsepower in addition to 277 lb-ft. of torque. Sure, fuel consumption increases to an NRC-rated 10.2 L/100 km, but performance is a lot more convincing.
By the way, the Bronco Sport’s Terrain Management System offers five different drive modes—Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand. Switching from one to another via the small rotary dial on the console can be done without taking your eyes off the road, which is great. The ride is flat and generally stable, though quite stiff on rougher pavement. Steering could use more precision, but the brakes perform flawlessly.
How Much? Seriously?
The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is more expensive than most other compact SUVs in Canada. The Heritage and Heritage Limited editions start at $44,094 and $58,844, respectively (including freight and PDI), which is $3,000 and a whopping $10,500 above the Big Bend and Badlands models. Naturally, you can add more options and accessories on top of that. Simply outrageous.
The tribute to the original Bronco is nice, but don’t let nostalgia cloud your judgement. If you can afford it, then lucky for you, but it won’t really help you overlook the many irritants of the Bronco Sport. Oh, and Ford: when will we see a hybrid variant similar to the Escape’s?