Five-Point Inspection: 2015 Ram ProMaster City
Generally there’s not a lot to get excited about with commercial vans, unless of course you’re a fleet operator, sub-contractor or anyone else in need of spacious transportation that doesn’t break the bank. If you fall into one of these camps there’s really never been a better time to buy.
Right now there are several excellent schleppers available in North America. Of course there’s the ever-popular Mercedes-Benz Sprinter but if you need something smaller and more economical there are plenty of options as well. There’s the recently updated Transit Connect from Ford, Nissan has its NV200 van and Chevrolet a rebranded version of this Japanese vehicle. But Chrysler is not about to let rival automakers carve up a potentially lucrative market. Oh no, the Italian-American company is introducing a version of the hard-working Fiat Doblò to drivers on this side of the Atlantic.
The Ram ProMaster City fills out this firm’s commercial-vehicle lineup and tussles with the abovementioned rivals, topping them in several areas. Company spokes-folks proudly trumpet this vehicle’s best-in-class payload, cargo capacity, horsepower, torque and powertrain warranty.
Europeans get either a 1.4-liter gasoline engine or a 2.0-liter diesel; both are paired with a manual transmission. Regrettably though, American buyers get no such options; just one propulsion unit is available, a 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine matched to a nine-speed automatic. Output is 178 ponies and 174 lb-ft of torque.
The 2015 ProMaster City should provide some nice incremental growth for the Ram brand, which is already growing at an impressive rate in North America. They had their best November yet, with year-over-year sales increasing 31 percent.
This commercial van’s long list of virtues should help it appeal to even more companies. For instance, the space between its rear wheel arches spans 48.4 inches and that’s larger than its key rivals’. Also, with nearly 132 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume the ProMaster City trumps its competition in this area as well.
From a standstill the sprint to 60 miles an hour should take an advertised 9.8 seconds, which is a perfectly adequate time though one that’s hardly brisk. Of course the company is also keen to talk about this vehicle’s zero-to-30 acceleration, which takes a claimed 3.7 seconds. This figure is particularly relevant because the ProMaster City is designed to operate in urban areas, where speeds are low and traffic dense.
Fuel economy is another one of this vehicle’s strong suits. According to the EPA is should return 21 miles per gallon in the, er … city, and 29 on highway drives. Combined it should average 24 MPG.
Imported from Detroit may have been the Chrysler brand’s radical slogan but you’re going to have to look a lot farther than Motown to find out where the ProMaster City comes from. In fact this vehicle is assembled in Bursa, Turkey.
In order to sidestep the ridiculous “chicken tax” levied on imported trucks, cargo-van models are finished at Chrysler’s Transformation Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Curiously Turkey is where the previous generation Ford Transit Connect was built, though now it’s assembled in Valencia, Spain. This minutiae is at best Byzantine, at worst it’s Istanbul-s**t!
With Asia Minor as its chosen assembly location Fiat has sold in excess of 1.3 million Doblòs over three generations. It looks like the ProMaster City will continue this success, though in the U.S. it’s not quite on sale at this time. Look for a big marketing push to begin in February.
Unlike the Transit Connect, its primary rival, the ProMaster City is offered in just one length; the Ford comes in regular- and extended-wheelbase models. Accordingly, the Ram is designed to compete with elongated versions of the Transit Connect. Appropriately, the up-sized Ford spans 120.6 inches from hub to hub, the Ram 122.4.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Review
Base price for a cargo version of this compact hauler is $24,125 including $995 for shipping and handling. The passenger model is slightly richer, costing a grand more. These figures are all over the Transit Connect, though Ford’s long-wheelbase wagon model is about $2,500 more expensive.
To help prove their latest commercial vehicle’s capability the folks at Ram provided a couple competitive vehicles to drive back-to-back. But before diving into all of that here’s how the ProMaster City drives.
One other minor complaint is the speedometer. I found it to be a little on the small side, which makes it difficult to read.
The ProMaster City is rated to tow up to one ton and I was actually able to sample it with a trailer loaded to about 1,500 pounds. The vehicle handled this task with ease. Acceleration was more than adequate and the van never felt out of control with the extra mass dangling off its rump.
As for steering, the Ram’s tiller is appropriately weighted though overall it doesn’t feel as agile as the Transit Connect. The Ford’s wheel is a little lighter to the touch yet more precise at the same time.
Overall I think the Transit Connect drives a little better than the ProMaster City and its seating position is slightly more comfortable. Also, its sliding doors open much wider, making it easier to load passengers and cargo. The Ford’s convex side-view mirrors seem better as well.
Of this trio the Nissan NV200 feels the crudest. Its engine groans and its CVT seems to slip more than anything else, delivering performance that feels lethargic. The overly tall seating position is not very comfortable, either. The ProMaster City drives much better than this Japanese rival, though not quite as nicely as the Transit Connect.
Now that’s all well and good but fleet customers don’t give a damn about on-road performance or styling; to them it’s like arguing over what font to use for the Hindenburg’s lettering. What counts here is total cost of ownership, something Ram folks kept hammering home. This includes things like maintenance costs, fuel economy and reliability, areas the new ProMaster City excels. For commercial customers and perhaps even some active families this vehicle is a compelling option.
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Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
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