Ford Bronco or Bronco Sport: Which One is Right For You?

August 18th, 2023 by

2 2023 Ford Bronco Heritage Editions and Two 2023 Ford Bronco Sport Heritage Editions are shown parked off-road.

Once upon a time, there was a vehicle called the Ford Bronco. This capable SUV was loved by many and was somewhat of a cultural icon, but it was unfortunately shelved in the late 1990s after a restructuring in Ford’s lineup. Most of us thought the Bronco would never return, and some would argue the vehicles that succeeded it picked up the slack and then some. However, in the automotive world, you should never say never, and the return of the Bronco in 2021 was news met with roaring fan reception. Questions came flooding in: Was this new Bronco truly going to recapture the achievements of the original? There was this satisfaction amongst the crowd who were eager to see an old favorite return, fresh with new design elements, principles, and a whole new generation of drivers to cater to.

The Bronco returned triumphant, but it didn’t return alone. Alongside this reunion between Ford fans and their beloved Bronco came the Bronco Sport––a less expensive yet still performant Ford vehicle that put the Bronco name on a smaller chassis. If you’re in the market for one of these two vehicles, you may be wondering if you were to choose between the 2023 Bronco and 2023 Bronco Sport, which one would fit you best? At Jim Ellis Ford, we’re your Ford dealer, and we’re here to help you figure that out, so let’s get a move on!

The Bronco Sport Has Bronco DNA

If you’re interested in the Ford Bronco but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, you should step back and take a moment to learn what the Bronco Sport has to offer. The Bronco Sport isn’t the Bronco but is still in the Bronco family. The Bronco’s DNA is visible in the Bronco Sport, and Ford plays to its strengths. The Bronco Sport is highly performant, spacious, and ready for adventure, but with its specs and size, the best way to describe it is as the Bronco’s younger sibling. The Bronco Sport is a subcompact SUV, making it smaller than the midsize Bronco, but in their base configurations, the Bronco Sport actually has more cargo space because it doesn’t have a Two-Door model. If you’re looking for a Two-Door Bronco, you’ll have to get the regular Bronco. The 2023 Bronco Sport also has a lower starting MSRP of $29,215 against $34,890 for the 2023 Bronco.[a]

What makes the Bronco Sport feel like a relative to the Bronco? The Bronco Sport talks the talk with a design incredibly reminiscent of the regular Bronco, complete with a boxy front end and Bronco badging proudly displayed across the front between the headlamps. Fortunately, the Ford Bronco Sport also walks the walk with incredible performance for its price. While it doesn’t match the lofty ambitions of the Bronco, that’s not the goal––the goal is to envision what a smaller and more cost-effective Bronco would look like, and Ford achieved that. How was that done? One way is by utilizing smaller powertrains, albeit ones that are still turbocharged, just like the options you will find in the regular Bronco.

A black 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is shown from the front at an angle while off-road after leaving a Ford dealer.

Similar Powerful Engineering

Modern-day off-roading vehicles achieve their ambitions and performance levels in many ways. The Bronco and Bronco Sport both offer extreme off-roading performance thanks to turbocharged engines. The scaling between the two turbocharged powertrains on the Bronco Sport and the two you’ll find on the regular Bronco is logical, meaning both vehicles perform as they should for their price. The largest difference is that a seven-speed manual transmission is available for the Bronco’s turbocharged 2.3L I-4 engine, while the Bronco Sport only comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The base Bronco and its turbocharged 2.3L I-4 engine aren’t restricted to a manual transmission––if you want an automatic transmission, you can get a 10-speed automatic instead.

The turbocharged 2.3L I-4 engine makes the base 2023 Bronco an appealing vehicle, especially for those who want that manual transmission, because having 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque is no joke––that’s a lot of power. The base 2023 Bronco Sport uses a smaller 1.5L turbocharged I-3 engine that creates a respectable 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque, plus a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 lbs. Both the Bronco Sport and Bronco are great for off-roading because they also come with 4WD without spending any extra money. The turbocharged 1.5L I-3 engine is expectedly less performant than the larger turbocharged 2.3L I-4 engine in the Bronco, but its smaller size means it is one of the most efficient engines available with four-wheel drive, with EPA-estimated ratings of 25 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway.

Not everybody will want the turbocharged 1.5L I-3 engine because some may believe it’s too far from that traditional Bronco performance, but it’s a fantastic option regardless. The larger turbocharged 2.0L I-4 engine you can get is more similar to the base Bronco engine as you’ll get 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, which is only 16.7% less horsepower and 14.8% less torque than the Bronco, while still being more fuel efficient because it’s smaller than the turbocharged 2.3L I-4 engine in the Bronco.

There’s nothing above the turbocharged 2.0L I-4 engine in the 2023 Bronco Sport, so if you’re hungry for more, the Bronco is the answer with its turbocharged 2.7L V6 engine. While it doesn’t increase the Bronco’s maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs, the output is increased to 330 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, which isn’t only 10% more horsepower and 27.8% more torque than the base Bronco engine, but it’s 32% more horsepower and almost 50% more torque than the best Bronco Sport engine. If you were buying a new off-roading vehicle, these four powertrains are ones we at Jim Ellis Ford recommend because they’re made for off-roaders of all types––beginners, intermediates, and experts.

A red 2021 Ford Bronco WildTrack is shown from the fornt at an angle.

An Easy or Hard Decision?

By the time you’re getting higher-end performance with the Bronco thanks to the turbocharged V6 engine, you’re already beyond the price of the top-tier Bronco Sport models. Price is the barrier between all of us and our dream vehicles, but vehicles like the Bronco and Bronco Sport are fairly priced for what they each offer. These two off-roading vehicles may be in the same family but are targeted at different drivers who have different price ranges. On paper, the price difference may not seem to be that great. However, drivers out there who want to achieve stellar off-roading performance will likely be loading their Broncos up with off-road packages and options, increasing the price difference.

The base 2023 Bronco Sport is a great way to get your foot in the door toward a new off-roading hobby. However, the higher-tier models are fantastic for the price, especially since performance will be more on par with the traditional Bronco model. Still, true off-roading enthusiasts may want to consider purchasing the 2023 Bronco with the turbocharged V6 engine. Drivers may buy different vehicles, but they share the similar goal of bringing their friends and family on fun-filled off-roading adventures where they can create life-lasting memories and enjoy outdoor nature.


[a]MSRP may change without notice. See dealer for complete details.
Posted in Ford Dealer