When you want an SUV, it’s nice when it can actually do sporty things like driving on rough terrain or getting you safely home in a snowstorm. Sadly, not all SUVs have the chops to handle adverse driving situations any more than your average sedan. Ford has a long history of building all-terrain vehicles that can tackle just about anything, and Chevy has its own list of vehicles that can take on what the backcountry can dish out. Comparing the 2022 Ford Bronco Sport vs 2022 Chevy Trailblazer should reveal which of these SUVs with a youthful vibe can deliver when it comes to fulfilling sports duties both on and off the pavement, particularly if you happen to enjoy getting into the backcountry for adventures.
Driving Modes and Powertrains
Engines are always getting tweaked for improved performance and better fuel economy, and with SUV popularity skyrocketing, it makes a difference whether or not your engine can handle the load it’s hauling. Even with compact SUVs like the 2022 Bronco Sport and 2022 Trailblazer, the engines matter when you need the power for tasks like taking a rough dirt road into the wilderness. Both SUVs here have two choices of powertrain, and both start out with an entry-level three-cylinder. The Trailblazer comes standard with a 1.2-liter that makes 137 hp with 162 lb-ft of torque. That engine is paired to a CVT, while the slightly upgraded engine is also available with a nine-speed automatic.
Buyers who want to gain all-wheel drive capability will automatically get the upgraded 1.3-liter engine in the Trailblazer, which makes 155 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. Choosing the Activ trim for the Trailblazer also automatically upgrades the engine. In a similar vein, the Bronco Sport starts buyers out with a 1.5-liter powertrain that makes a healthier 181 hp with 190 lb-ft of torque. Choosing the Badlands trim level, which is the most capable off-roader, means automatically gaining the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 250 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. In numbers alone, the Bronco Sport already has a leg up on the Trailblazer. But what about the driving modes?
With the 2022 Trailblazer, three available drive modes include normal, all-wheel drive, and sport. In front-wheel drive models, you get a snow mode instead of all-wheel drive. At the most basic, normal mode is for cruising on the highway and running errands around town, while the all-wheel drive and snow modes provide more traction, and the sport mode improves responsiveness.
The 2022 Bronco Sport comes standard with five modes Ford calls G.O.A.T modes (Goes Over Any Terrain): sand, slippery, sport, eco, and normal. Choosing the Badland model adds two more modes called mud/ruts and rock/crawl. Because the Bronco Sport comes standard with 4×4 capability, the powertrain always delivers power to all four wheels. Each driving mode changes the driving dynamics and power delivery to be better suited to the selected terrain. Between the powertrains and driving modes, the 2022 Bronco Sport definitely shows a stronger hand.
Features Built for Adventurers
If you happen to be a person who likes to get out for outdoor activities on a regular basis, especially if you tend to camp often, having a vehicle built with handy features for such experiences can make your recreation time a lot more enjoyable. Starting with cargo space, Ford took the time to consider that the interior should accommodate large items like bikes, so on top of having 65.2 cubic feet of room with the seats folded down, the Bronco Sport also has a safari roof that allows you to put two bikes in the back without having to take them apart. Though the Trailblazer has a folding front passenger seat to accommodate long items like a kayak, the total cargo space only measures out to 54.4 cubic feet, and it doesn’t accommodate tall items as easily.
Both SUVs offer rubberized covers for the cargo area, including the rear seatbacks for easy clean-up, and each SUV can be optioned with roof rails and racks for carrying extra cargo. Where the SUVs differ is in the equipment that can be added, like the Bronco Sport’s options for a basket-style rack that can hold items more securely in place and a rooftop tent that can be purchased as an accessory. Numerous other clever features are included as standard equipment for the Bronco Sport, like adjustable flood lights built into the liftgate to have a lit workspace in the cargo area, tie-downs for cargo in the rear, and even a bottle opener built into the rear pillar.
When you go for the Badlands model, you get additional equipment like a MOLLE organization system for the back of the driver’s seat, and you can choose to add a cargo management system for any trim. This adds moveable shelves and a table that come in handy for backcountry camping. Unfortunately, the Trailblazer doesn’t offer anything remotely as useful for either organizing or traveling with gear since the optional organizer is small, and the extra equipment for the trailering package is only good for towing up to 1,000 pounds. The 2022 Bronco Sport can tow up to 2,200 pounds if you need to take a trailer of equipment along, and Ford even made the rear hatch glass fold up so you can get access to cargo without having to open the whole hatch.
Performance On and Off the Road
Most people aren’t going to buy a vehicle just for adventuring in the wilderness unless that’s your job or you happen to be independently wealthy, so it matters when you buy an SUV that can serve capably both on and off the road. Often, when you have a vehicle that can tackle the kind of terrain you find on trails and dirt roads, it’s likely to feel stiff when you drive on the pavement. In terms of the 2022 Trailblazer, ride quality from the suspension is fair, but it tends to be somewhat harsh on the pavement. Seats are firm and probably better suited to short drives, but even with the more capable Activ trim level, the all-wheel drive performance isn’t going to stand up to much punishment.
For the 2022 Trailblazer, the off-road capability is limited from the lack of a rear limited-slip differential, the front skid plate isn’t built for getting bashed by rocks, and the driving modes aren’t going to help much when facing a steep incline. When you compare all this to the 2022 Bronco Sport, it seems unfair to even mention all the equipment that can take on trails and rough roads. Even on the road, the Bronco Sport is refined and comfortable with supportive seats, and highway noise is unobtrusive.
Tackling rough terrain, the Bronco Sport will inspire a lot more confidence with a rear twin-clutch differential, true 4×4 capability (even without a transfer case), and with the Badlands trim, you gain water fording up to 23.6 inches. The independent front and rear suspension system mean less of the jarring from ruts and rocks on trails will translate into the cabin than a dedicated off-road vehicle, but the bash plates from Ford can still take more punishment than the Chevy Trailblazer. Add to the list that the Bronco Sport has up to 8.8 inches of ground clearance compared to the Trailblazer’s flat 8 inches, and the Bronco Sport takes the cake and eats it, too.
Which Compact SUV Is Built for Adventure?
Hands down, the Ford Bronco Sport gets the vote for adventurous souls who want to get out into nature. This is how Ford markets the Bronco Sport, and Ford did a good job of including a lot of inventive features to make it attractive to the outdoor crowd. If you want an affordable, capable SUV that can take you to more remote places for challenging outdoor fun, the 2022 Ford Bronco Sport is the way to go. As much as Chevy has offered a sprightly, youthful look with the Trailblazer, the style is built for the pavement rather than for outdoor adventuring. Even with a higher price tag, the Ford is the better choice for daily driving comfort and off-road readiness.