This week we get two American (in name only) small SUVs to drive, starting with the all-new Ford Bronco Sport. This shares the same basic platform as the Escape SUV but has a different body and other features to assist off-road driving.

We were hoping to try the large 2.0-liter engine with its hefty 245 horsepower but ended up with the base motor instead. With a tiny size of 1.5 liters and only three cylinders, it doesn’t look like much on paper. But with turbocharging, power output is impressive at 181. It is hooked to an eight-speed transmission and part-time all-wheel-drive system. Fuel economy is claimed to be 25/28 mpg. In 600 miles of driving, we observed 25/26.

We took this vehicle off the pavement, and it did very well overall. But keep in mind, this is really a car platform and is for light-duty adventures only. There are no low-range gears for rough use. Don’t worry, because soon to come is a Badlands option, with that larger engine, beefed suspension, giant tires and locking differential, which should work out great for more serious dirt trails. That Badlands version is estimated to be around $40K. The base Bronco starts at $28K. This one is $33K.

All Bronco Sports will be made at Ford’s new plant in Mexico. This brings us to the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Its engine and transmission are also made in Mexico, then shipped to Korea, where the rest of the vehicle is assembled, then shipped back to the USA. Seems like a lot of effort to me! But this is a nice-looking SUV, and even more so here with the bright red paint.

The starting fee is $19K, and that gets us a tiny 1.2-liter, three-cylinder turbo with 137 horsepower and CVT transmission. Our vehicle is loaded up at $30K. This provides a “larger” 1.3-liter, three-cylinder turbo, but with a real nine-speed transmission and AWD.

The Trailblazer is more at home on the street instead of dirt, although it was taken off road for a short time. Fuel economy is claimed to be 26/30 mpg. We observed 27 overall.

Chevy dealers give good discounts on the Trailblazer, but since the Ford Bronco Sport is all new and in short supply, expect to pay more to drive one off the lot.

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Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.

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