Class: Compact Crossover/SUV
Miles driven: 175
Fuel used: 10.1 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 17.3 mpg
Driving mix: 50% city, 50% highway
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 17/19/18 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $39,340 (not including $1495 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Hard top molded in Carbonized Gray color ($695), cargo area protector ($120), towing capability package ($595), keyless entry keypad ($110)
Price as tested: $42,355
The great: Impressive off-road capability, especially when properly equipped; more-relaxed on-road driving feel than Jeep Wrangler; configurability for open-air driving
The good: Unique, nostalgic exterior styling, dizzying range of options; clever interior-storage solutions
The not so good: Middling fuel economy; low-rent interior materials; like the Jeep Wrangler, prices are fairly steep compared to conventional compact crossover SUVs
After all the talk, after all the waiting, 2021 finally saw the arrival of the Ford Bronco compact SUV, spiritual successor to the eponymous 1966-77 vehicle. Now, as then, the Bronco’s existence is due to one thing: There’s a Jeep like it on the market. Back during the Summer of Love it was the CJ; today it’s the Wrangler.
Both come in a choice of 2- or 4-door models and in expansive model ranges with varying degrees of off-road capability and luxury (they aren’t all destined for rock climbing and dune running in the wilderness). Sizes and shapes are quite close, even if styling is historically distinctive to each, but they’re still different enough to let customers take sides.
The wait mentioned above dragged on a little longer for Consumer Guide editors who finally got their hands on a Bronco late in the year—the last week of ’21. Changes planned for 2022 aren’t fundamental but if you must know now, you can skip to the bottom of this review.
Seven trim levels were available at the reborn Bronco’s launch. CG’s tester came from near the middle of the pack, a Black Diamond 4-door with an optional removable hard top; the “Advanced” full-time 4-wheel-drive system; and the standard 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine and 7-speed manual transmission. With delivery, a 4-door Black Diamond started at $40,040 in 2021, but the test truck was optioned to $42,355.
Like Wrangler, the Bronco is a body-on-frame sport-ute. The 4-door version has a 116.1-inch wheelbase 15.7 inches longer than the span under its 2-door companion. That’s a little shorter than the wheelbase of a 4-door Wrangler Unlimited, though the Bronco is one inch longer overall at 189.4 inches.
Engine choices are much narrower with the Bronco, just the 270-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter four standard in most models and a 310-horse turbo 2.7-liter V6 standard in the Wildtrak and limited-run First Edition but optional for all others. The 7-speed stickshift—with six conventional gears plus an extra-low “crawler” cog—is standard in base (2-door only), Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Badlands models, with a 10-speed automatic available. The autobox is standard in the rest—including the base 4-door—and required with the V6.
Wending through city and suburban street and expressway traffic, we found the 2.3, with its 310 lb-ft of torque, to be pleasantly eager. The manual gearbox was a little notchy through the gates but geared to help maintain a steady stream of power, and the fairly light clutch was easy to modulate for comfortable driving. EPA fuel-mileage estimates for the tested powertrain are 17 mpg in city driving, 19 mpg on the highway, and 18 combined. This driver recorded an average of 18.49 mpg from a 60.6-mile stint with 37 percent city-type motoring.
Advanced 4-wheel drive, a $795 upgrade from the base part-time system, adds an automatic setting that switches between 2-wheel-high and 4-wheel-high ranges as surface conditions dictate. It was an added bit of confidence on snow-slicked streets. Black Diamonds get the full complement of seven G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) drive and traction modes: “Normal,” “Eco,” “Sport,” “Slippery,” “Mud/Ruts,” “Sand,” “Rock Crawl,” and “Baja.” On the Black Diamond, the independent front suspension and solid rear axle (with locking differential) roll on LT265/70R17 all-terrain tires and 17-inch black-painted steel wheels. Ride can be a little stiff but the Bronco—at least with this wheel/tire package—tracks true on the road, avoiding the constant need for small steering corrections we’ve experienced in Wrangler tests.
Interiors are a little stark, at least in the lower half of the model range. Manually adjusted Black Diamond seats are upholstered in “marine-grade” vinyl and a rubberized, washout-capable covering is underfoot. The steering wheel and shifter knob are leather covered, however. An 8-inch digital instrument cluster includes a vertical-bar tachometer that isn’t as easy to decipher as a sweep type. Amenities include Sync 4, Ford’s easy-to-use infotainment system; a 6-speaker stereo; satellite radio; wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone compatibility; keyless entry and starting; and single-zone manual climate control. Road bumps induced some rattling from the frameless door glass in a cabin that doesn’t seem that well insulated from outside noise. Like its Jeep rival, the top and doors are fully removable, with a tool kit provided for that job.
Overall, Bronco and Wrangler interior dimensions are a near match. The Ford has 1.9 inches more front legroom and 0.1-inch extra headroom; in back the Jeep wins by two inches of legroom and 0.1 inch of headroom. Bronco drivers enjoy a good seating position and the boxy greenhouse opens up sightlines. Rear-seat passengers sit higher than those in front. Interior storage is limited, though MOLLE straps are on the backs of the front seats. A passenger grab handle is attached to the right side of the console. Power-window and mirror-adjustment switches are mounted upside down on the sloped front face of the console box. It’s an unconventional arrangement that will take some getting used to.
The 4-door Bronco has the advantage in cargo capacity. In hardtop-equipped models 35.6 cubic feet of space is found behind the back seat, 3.9 more than the Wrangler Unlimited has; with the seat folded, 77.6 cubic feet are available, 5.2 more than in the Jeep. The 60/40-split seats fold flat, but above the cargo floor.
Should 2022 turn out to be your year to look into a Bronco, note that there will be two midyear (or possibly 2023-model-year) additions, both of which are slated to become available this summer: the Raptor (with special off-road suspension and almost certainly a more-powerful engine), and the Everglades (with a factory-installed winch and snorkel). Ford says other changes include the availability of the manual transmission with the Sasquatch big-tire off-road option package, standard powder-coated steel bumpers on the Black Diamond and Badlands (in ’21 just the rear bumper came this way), standard soft top for the 4-door Wildtrak, Pepper Red and Eruption Green paint colors, and late-in-the-year availability of a tailgate that when opened pulls a platform from under the load floor. The platform can serve as a table or a step for retrieving objects carried on the roof.
2021 Ford Bronco Black Diamond Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)
Ford Bronco Black Diamond
Ford Bronco Black Diamond