By on April 1, 2021

I was running an errand earlier this week and spotted a Ford Bronco Sport street parked on Chicago’s famed State Street. Coincidentally, I had just tested one off-road a bit over a week prior.

The baby Bronco impressed me on our first drive, despite some flaws. And our own Adam Tonge has argued that the Escape-based Bronco Sport may spell the end of the line for the venerable crossover that lends it its platform.

The argument goes like this — the Bronco Sport looks cooler (indeed, the boxy styling reminds some of the first Escape, in a good way), has the same engines, has four-wheel drive, isn’t significantly more expensive, and offers as much or more utility.

Unless you want a hybrid powertrain or want front-wheel drive, there seems to be no reason for the Escape.

I am not sure I totally agree. While the Escape’s looks are polarizing, and I prefer the Bronco Sport’s style, there will be people out there who think the Escape looks good. Lower-trim Escapes are also a tad cheaper, at least to start.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Bronco Sport will be popular. I think it will do quite well for Ford. It has a cool factor about it that isn’t often present in the segment, it offers off-road capability (at least in Badlands trim), it’s new and has that novelty going for it, it bears the Bronco name, and Ford has marketed the hell out of it.

Certainly, Ford thinks the two can co-exist in its lineup without cannibalizing sales from one another. Ford reps told me as much last fall during the drive event.

What say you?

[Image © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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67 Comments on “QOTD: Will the Ford Bronco Sport Kill the Escape?...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Hot take: the Bronco Sport is more attractive than the regular Bronco, which is overdone to the point that it pushes into 2006 HUMMER territory

    Mild take 1: the Bronco Sport is very well executed. My only issues are (1) the name is stupid. (2) The base 3-cylinder engine isn’t great and requires a big trim-level paywall to get the 2.0t. The 2.0t should be optional on every trim. (3) The towing capacity blows. The 4,500lbs you can get on the Cherokee is a selling point for Stellantis that the Ford is missing.

    Mild take 2: everyone has such a big hard-on for CUVs right now that I don’t think the Bronco Sport will “kill” the Escape. However, I do think it will outsell the Escape. I also expect we’ll see FWD and hybrid versions of the Bronco Sport in the next two years.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Ford sold 178,000 Escapes last year. You think the Bronco Sport will do better?

      To quote my favorite heroin addict from the Tarantino universe: that’s a bold statement.

      My guess: Ford sells 75,000 Bronco Sports and 150,000 Escapes this year.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        I think you may be right. But your numbers remind me yet again of how strange the auto industry can be: How many Fusions did Ford sell when they decided to pull the plug on cars – something like 166,000 in the U.S. alone in 2019?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I think they killed the Fusion because:

          a) The Bronco Sport and upcoming Maverick pickup were both in the product pipeline and both were being made at the same plant the Fusion was
          b) Domestic sedans were dying and, it’s worth noting that the Fusion was a rental fleet queen. I’d have to think the margins on that car were VERY low.

          So, yeah, they were “selling” 166,000 of them a year, but clearly they were going to make more money off the other products they were going to make at the same plant.

          • 0 avatar
            cardave5150

            I completely agree that the Fusion was a Rental Queen, and the Detroit 3 seem to be killing off Rental Queens like there’s no tomorrow.

            However, the rental companies are going to have to rent more and more crossovers (since everyday crossover drivers won’t stoop to renting a sedan (Nissan) when they’re on vacation. So, what’s going to be the Rental Queen of the crossover world?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Nissan Rogue.

          • 0 avatar
            teddyc73

            Last time I rented a car about a month ago it was all Kias. Hum, maybe the dowdy Koreans are becoming the “rental queens”.

      • 0 avatar
        Clueless Economist

        FreedMike gets it.

        Sure the buttugly Escape sold in okay numbers the first year without the Bronco Sport around.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I’ll mention it in my review, but the refinement needs work, too. Especially if you don’t add the Badlands Package to the Badlands trim. And once you add that package, the price gets too close to $40K.

      I have yet to drive the 1.5, but I am hoping it’s decent, because a loaded Big Bend appears to be a nice value.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’ve driven the 1.5L Escape and the 1.3L Encore GX. Neither of them are *terrible* but they still feel like a $20K engine in a $30K+ vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @ajla – remember when GM Powertrain made you feel like you paid for the engine and got the rest of the car for free?

          Pepperidge Farm Remembers

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            The Zeta Camaro was like that. The Alpha Camaro is close to that but the chassis tuning is sharper too.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve Biro

          Somehow I just can’t get past viewing that 1.5-liter three-cylinder as nothing more than a glorified snowmobile engine. Even with turbocharging – but especially in a vehicle that pushes $30K. Perhaps that’s unfair but it will take some effort to convince me otherwise. Maybe Tim’s review will do the trick. I don’t expect miracles. But how does the three-banger comapre to, say, Subaru’s 2.5-liter four?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I’ll caveat this by saying that I don’t like Subarus and I’ve never driven a 2.5L Crosstrek. However, compared to the 2.5L Outback/Forester the 3-cylinders are fine.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Steve, it took me a long time to go from 8 cylinders to 6 and a long time to go from 6 cylinders to 4, but I think from here I go straight to EV completely avoiding having to tell anyone I drive a 3 cylinder car

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      This baby Bronco is what the Escape should have become. The first generation Escape was a boxy little vehicle with similar offroad intentions, which is to say not much. But that didn’t stop many owners from taking them out on trails. Then they turned the Escape into a basic hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      The Bronco Sport is not going to sell because the entry level model is $28K for a 3-cylinder vehicle. And it will be a dog to drive with that engine.
      Awesome vehicle, wrong engine, overpriced. The 2.0T should be the sole power train.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      From a distance, the new Bronco bears a close resemblance to a Honda Element. The difference is that the Bronco has less anti-chip cladding and a much smaller engine.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      The interior (of the BS) is pretty sad compared to its competition, though I suppose if you’re going offroading a lot, more concern would be for how well it holds up rather than ‘luxurious material quality’.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    No. The Escape still sells – 178,000 units last year. That’s down from where it was, but it’s still a high-volume car. With a little incentive juice and some product improvement (that interior is AWFUL), they could at least build on that.

    I think the Bronco Sport will cannibalize some Escape sales, but Ford needs a less-expensive mommy-mobile, and not all mommies are going to go down the Fake-Macho Off Road route.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      You nailed it…it is a CAR and there is room in Ford’s lineup for an Escape sized Car Since there is nothing on the lot in the traditional Escort/Focus slot.

      Bronco Sport = Escape
      Escape = Focus

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @Art

        And Ecosport = Fiesta

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Exactly this, The Bronco Sport is what the Escape used to be and the Escape is now the missing Focus. Ford knew what they were doing when they dropped the Focus, make the Escape more car-like for the world stage where it is sold in almost every market that Ford sells cars and bring in the Bronco Sport for those who miss the original boxy little SUV that was the Escape. Same car, same platform, more appeal.

        As a current Escape owner with the 2.0T I look forward to eventually replacing it with a loaded to the teeth Bronco Sport. Also as co-founder of Escape City I talk about these two vehicles with co-owners every day. A lot of us old Escape fans are happily trading into Bronco Sports the general consensuses being our beloved gen I & II Escape is back

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Bronco Sport will become a switch car for Escape but its entirely possible it replaces the Escape moniker if Ford decides to create some kind of Bronco sub brand. If the latter is the case, Adam could indeed be very correct.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The existence of the Bronco Sport selling in smaller (but still profitable) numbers could actually give incentive to quietly make the Escape even more car like.

        I still argue that things will come full circle and CUVs will quietly loose ground clearance in the name of fuel efficiency.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “I still argue that things will come full circle and CUVs will quietly loose ground clearance in the name of fuel efficiency.”

          Interesting idea, however for that to occur the wheels have to shrink.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Current (non-TRD) Camry has a ground clearance of 5.7 in and the current escape has a ground clearance of 7.0 – it’s not a long walk to that conjecture.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      The escape sold 178k units because there was no bronco sport. I walked out of a meeting 2 weeks ago and 3 of my female coworkers were all talking about how much they liked the bronco sport. They were specific enough to let me know at least 2 of them had actually been looking (one wanted badlands, one wanted outer banks). Knowing these people, I’d guess that 2 of the 3 would have looked generically for the best CUV deal or a toyota. Now they were drilling down to models. This is not typical behavior. They were all talking about waiting until the end of the year but I think the Bronco Sport is going to be a hit and it will definitely cut into escape sales. I’d bet deeply by 2022 and by 2023 the Escape will be a loss leader on it’s way out.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Some of us remember the first and second generation Escape and think if someone was in a coma since 2012 and woke up and saw this drive by they’d wonder why Ford hadn’t changed it in all these years.
    It certainly looks like a half-hearted design concept for the third gen.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    As painfully generic as the new Escape looks, it still sells and Ford dealers can keep advertising cheap leases on the base models for foot traffic. Once people are in the dealership, then they can be upsold to a Bronco Sport – something a little more different than a basic Escape.
    Ajla is right with his second point – right now there are so many micro-niches of CUV categories that anything mildly competitive will sell, even if it’s only a few inches here and there of a similar model. It will take some type of automobile sales downturn or economic slide to start a culling of the CUV herd.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “there are so many micro-niches of CUV categories that anything mildly competitive will sell”

      You know what grinds my gears? For years now there have not been multiple offerings of a model and this was partially explained because of certification costs, i.e. a coupe variant which only may sell 5-10,000 units is too expensive to design and certify. Yet as you point out, there are many low volume niche variants of these CUVs despite the fact they are all really the same thing.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Not a chance. Not only do they appeal to slightly different demographics, there is a substantial size difference between the two models. It looks larger than it is, but the Bronco Sport is the size of the Trailblazer — a full class below the Escape. If Ford learns anything from the hot-selling Bronco Sport, it’ll be that they went too soft on the Escape’s styling in trying to appeal to Fusion and Focus owners. Butch sells. But even Ford wouldn’t replace the Escape with a Bronco Sport Plus. Or would they?

  • avatar
    Dan

    Did the Tempo kill the Escort? There’s room for more than one.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Escape is DOA. Remember when it was a nice SUV and sold north of 300K. This year it is on the pace to sell 90K. Down from 178,495 last year

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Standard AWD for not much more money, much better looking…to me the Bronco’s a no-brainer over the Escape. Would be interesting to see a head-to-head comparison.

  • avatar
    sentience

    Fleet sales. We field a mix of Subarus Crosstreks, Ford Escapes, and Toyota Rav4s in our fleet. So far, Fords still have the lowest operating cost (fuel expenses tallied differently). We use base model Escapes. No fancy 4×4 drive system, fancy electronic goat modes, etc. Less features, less things breaking. I like the Ford Bronco Sport, but don’t see a practical argument to switch away from the Escapes. Heard about the 4×4 system disabling itself. I’ve seen at least three different new outlets reporting it’s happen to them on their test drives. (off top of my head, “driving sports TV” mentions it in their youtube review, while doing a snow hill climb.)

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Heard about the 4×4 system disabling itself.

      Yup I’ve heard that one too. The scary part of that is the system (at least when GOAT equipped) has its own auxiliary cooling system. Non Ford engineers are whispering that “The clutches are undersized” & “The system is programmed to not tolerate much temp rise before shutting down from self defense.”

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Just purchased a 2020 Escape Hybrid. Not at all interested in an off-road vehicle like the Bronco

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Not that auto enthusiasts are any better, but the automotive press continues to mis-estimate the desires of most buyers.

      The Bronco Sport is cool and it will sell to the right crowd. Good move for Ford. However, the masses are not interested in off roading. They’re interested in getting to work and the supermarket. For that purpose, the Escape is a better vehicle for a better price (and more cash on the hood).

      They also underestimate the attraction to low/mid trim levels, because they drive press cars, which tend to be upper/top level trim.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’d add:

    I think the biggest threat to the Escape isn’t the Bronco Sport – it’s the upcoming Fusion Active (think Ford’s version of a Subaru Outback).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I thought that was canned?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I hadn’t heard that, and I’ve seen very recent spy shots of it. I think it’d be a good move for Ford – Subaru basically has that market to itself, and as lame-a** as it is, and as little as we need an Outback clone clogging up more left lanes everywhere, people do buy them.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I don’t think the Escape dies. The styling is very differentiated, as is the marketing. I’d say they appeal to very different buyers, despite being similar under the skin. Ford could easily take the Escape further from the Bronco Sport by making it hybrid only, or by adding an EV option.

  • avatar
    86er

    No way. Not with the Bronco’s wind tunnel profile. Escape will stay if only for the CAFE alone.

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    As a past owner of a 2005 Escape and current 2012, I find the current edition to be horrible. Looks like a guppy that morphed in the wrong direction.

    Prior to the release of the Bronco Sport, would only entertain a Jeep Cherokee or Hyundai as a replacement. The Bronco Sport has the vibes that the original Escape had; quirky, not afraid to get dirty, snow skis lashed to the top while climbing the mountain. The comfort zone of the current Escape is the Target parking lot.

    Should William Clay grant warrants for a FWD version of the Sport, I’d be at the Ford dealer in a flash. I’d even pay extra for the 4 cylinder. The 3 pot does not excite me.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    We are in a moment where every car has to look as off-roady as possible. I think it’s likely that there will be a lot more retail demand for the Bronco Sport than the Escape. But they’ll keep selling Escapes into fleets for fuel economy purposes, with a few sold at retail to the people who don’t feel compelled to pretend their suburban commute is Moab.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    The Bronco Sport’s main shortcoming which is its relatively poor fuel economy compared to the Escape and its competition is what will keep the Escape viable in Ford’s lineup along with consumers who prefer their CUVs to look like jellybeans instead of bricks.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The problems I have with the Bronco Sport is the 2012 boxy shape and the cheap all black oriented exterior that tries to look so tough on most trim levels. The Escape, though hardly great looking is a bit more normal everyday accessible, come in cheaper with FWD versions and as stated marketing and styling are completely different. The base 3 banger gets the job done but has an unpleasant idle and growl on throttle. The 2 liter is a much better choice

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Every new Escape I’ve seen so far here in the LA area has been fleet / rental except for 2.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The truth of the matter is that the new redesigned Escape isn’t being accepted-and the sales will only get worse. Ford designed it as a “bridge vehicle” hoping to keep their buyers of small sedans-hoping they would migrate to a “softened” Escape. Instead-they made a vehicle that a buyer looking won’t buy no matter what category it’s in.

    QUOTE-
    For some context, Escape sales were down about 26% from the year before. In 2019, dealers shifted 241,388 units. By sheer volume, that made it Ford’s best-selling car, and only second to the F-Series trucks. Last year, that figure fell to 178,496.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Yep! this year is on target for 90K sales

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        Slavuta please provide a link to the numbers. As far as I can tell they have sold 11k per month for the last three months. That does not equal 90k cars. Adjusted month to month it looks more like 120k for the year unless they drop below 7k per month for the rest of the year.

        • 0 avatar
          CKNSLS Sierra SLT

          Ford has sold 40,000 Escape units the first three months of 2021.Impossible to know how many went to fleets now the the travel industry is on an upswing. Compared to the competition-it will be a struggling model sales wise. I find it hard to believe there will be any conquest sales over a Honda or Toyota with this retro oval Taurus look on the front of the vehicle.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I can see the Escape still continuing to exist since there’s a sizable market for the aerodynamic CUV vs the rugged mixed roader. Toyota’s best seller is the RAV4, sure it comes in a more burley edition but they also sell plenty of Tacoma based 4Runners.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I like everything about Bronco Sport except one thing: it’s made by Ford.

    Formerly avid reader and commenter at TTAC since the RF days, a true enthusiast, and someone who regretfully no longer hangs around this place, Mr. Finfrock, told me once: “I had many Ford cars and every one of them disappointed”. I think he changed Mustang for a Corvette when I asked about it.

    Ford will find a way to screw it up. I am very afraid for Maverik, too. I’m sick of loading manure and compost bags through the hatch of my cross-over but I draw the line at the humongous pick-ups of today. Maverik would be ideal for me, size-wise. I don’t want to carry that phantom piece of plywood every car writer is so obsessed with. Last time I needed that plywood, I cut it in half right there in Home Depot. They have a special machine just for that! Didn’t even need a trailer!

    I swear, when Maverik comes out, I’ll give it a good look. Maybe Ford can overcome The Finfrock Curse just that one time.

  • avatar
    phreshone

    betting the interior comfort differences will keep a demand for the Escape… They may have to change the value proposition in terms of interior materials, and package pricing… The reviews indicate that the Bronco Sport has properly keep down scale (washable) interior panels, but the Escape has to compete against the rapidly improving interiors of Mazda and Hyundai

    UP the interior quality, lower the trim level pricing on the Escape to drive sales

    The Escape is going to be its primary hybrid/PHEV platform for a while too

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Wow, Ford isn’t just marketing the Bronco Sport they are marketing the “hell out of it”.

  • avatar
    slow_poke

    You know, all this talk about the Bronco i was psyched up. Pics look good on the website. Saw one in real life the other day and was massively underwhelmed. Really bummed actually. Weird how some cars look bad on paper and good in real life (Alfa 4c) and now vice versa… anyway… Bronco, more meh than i wanted. Guess i don’t know what i wanted…

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    its about time jeep had some competition. the renegade is just too soft looking

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