A lot of focus is being given to the big Bronco, and how we might actually have a Wrangler rival in the coming months… but what about the Bronco Sport? How will that compete with the non-Wrangler Jeeps?
From what we know, we can assume the Bronco Sport will share a platform with the current Ford Escape. So we’ll base some assumption on what Ford offers in that vehicle. A front wheel drive based crossover with a wheelbase of 106.7 inches. Several engine options, respectable towing, and pretty decent fuel economy in non-hybrid form. Since we don’t know (officially) what the Bronco Sport will look like… let’s compare the potential of the Ford vs. it’s most likely Jeep rivals.
Engine options: the Bronco Sport will likely be offered with the 1.5L turbo 3 cylinder or the 2.0L turbo 4 cylinder. The two Ford engines meet or beat Jeep in most comparisons; except for Jeep’s turbo 1.3L, (only engine offered in the 2020 Renegade Trailhawk) which has more torque than Ford’s 1.5L. Jeep’s 2.4L (the only engine offered in the Compass Trailhawk) is rated equal to the base 1.5L engine from Ford. The 2.0L turbo from Ford has more horsepower and torque than the other engines from each manufacturer.
- Ford 1.5L – 180 HP, 177 ft-lb of torque (2020 Escspe rating)
- Ford 2.0 – 250 HP, 275 ft-lb of torque (2020 Escape rating)
- Jeep 1.3L – 177 HP, 210 ft-lb of torque (Renegade)
- Jeep 2.4L – 180HP, 177 ft-lb of torque (Compass)
Jeep is known to tout their vehicle’s crawl ratio, so let’s compare those with the Bronco Sport’s potential.
The Jeep Renegade and Compass both utilize a 9 speed transmission with a 4.71:1 first gear ratio and a final drive (axle ratio) of 4.584:1 (on trailhawk) – giving both vehicles an advertised 21.5:1 crawl ratio (math gives it a 21.59535:1).
There is a good chance Ford will use available transmission and axle gearing currently offered on the escape… the 2.0L Escape comes with an 8 speed transmission with a 4.69:1 first gear and a 3.47:1 final drive ratio. This would give it a 16.3:1 crawl ratio. The 1.5L has a first gear ratio of 5.34 and a final drive of 3.81; giving it a 20.3:1 crawl ratio (very close to the Jeeps). Ford could very easily give an off-road biased Bronco Sport a deeper final drive ratio to beat both of the Jeeps in crawl ratio.
A final drive ratio of 4.56 (as an example) paired with the available 5.34 1st gear would give the Ford a crawl ratio of 24.35:1. I don’t think they’ll go that extreme… but it would be doable.
The Bronco Sport has the potential to beat both little Jeeps in a few other categories as well.
Towing; the 2020 Escape can tow up to 3,500 lbs., 1500 more than either of the Jeep products.
Fuel range and economy; I’m not expecting the 31 mpg of the Escape, but the baby Bronco should beat it’s similarly boxy competition; as Renegade Trailhawk is rated at just 27 highway. The Bronco Sport (if similar to Escape) would have a 15.8 gallon fuel tank; 3.1 gallons more than Renegade and 2.2 gallons more than Compass. At 30mpg (a guesstimate) the Bronco Sport could reach a 474 mile range on a single tank, 131 miles more than Renegade, 69 miles more than Compass.
Nobody is expecting (nobody should expect) any of these crossovers to be hardcore off-roaders; but they can be extremely capable for adventure seekers heading to a trailhead or campsite. Buying a vehicle like these means not hesitating on rutted dirt roads covered in snow and ice. Having plenty of room to load it up with friends, dogs, and gear. Towing a small utility or camper trailer. And having available roof load capacity.
Ford has a real opportunity to take sales away from Renegade and Compass Trailhawks, especially if the price for an off-road version (FX4?) is comparable with the Jeeps ($28,495 and $30,595 respectively, with destination).
Ford could very well surprise us and go directly after the Jeep Cherokee as well. To compete with the Cherokee Trailhawk, in my opinion, the Bronco Sport will need a true low range 4×4 system. The Cherokee uses a unique gear reduced low range 4×4 system as well as a rear locking differential (two things that Ford should be paying attention to if they plan on taking on the most off-road worthy crossover available today). If Ford can match the capability of the Cherokee Trailhawk, with the appearance of a Renegade Trailhawk for around $30,000; they’ll certainly have a winner on their hands.