2015 RAM Promaster City Review
2015 Ram ProMaster City has Italian roots.
THE PROS & CONS
What’s best: Easy to maneuver compact cargo carrier for urban areas.
What worst: Visibility sometimes difficult in cargo van version.
What’s interesting: This is an ideal vehicle for urban tradesmen or for small delivery businesses.
AUSTIN, TX: Compact commercial vans have long been popular among tradesmen in Europe and used for urban cargo hauling all over the continent.
But this style of vehicle was unavailable in the North American market until Ford brought its Transit Connect van here in 2010. Nissan and General Motors have followed with their NV200 and Chevrolet City Express twins.
And now for 2015, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), formerly Chrysler, has joined the compact van ranks with the new Ram ProMaster City.
Available in both two-seat cargo van and five-seat passenger wagon configurations, the Ram ProMaster City is not a new vehicle at all; it’s simply new to North America.
The Ram ProMaster City is based on the successful Fiat Doblo, a two-time International Van of the Year winner with more than 1.3 million units on the road over three generations and 15 years of service.
Now the ProMaster City has been “Ram-icized” for North America with the signature crosshair grille and the Ram’s head logo front and centre.
A few years ago, Chrysler spun off Ram trucks into a stand-alone brand. All pickup trucks and commercial vehicles in the Chrysler family are now part of Ram and the switch has proven successful with three years of successive month-over-month sales increases. Ram now has a 30 per cent market share, up from 13 per cent in 2009 when it became a stand-alone entity.
Now with a mid-size commercial van in the mix, the Ram brand has another vehicle in its product arsenal.
The Ram ProMaster City features the same 2.4-litre Tigershark inline four-cylinder engine found in the Dodge Dart. It is mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine delivers fuel economy of up to 8.1 L/100 km highway and 11.2 L/100 km city.
Ram boasts of several best-in-class features with the ProMaster City including:
• 178 hp and 174 lb/ft of torque;
• 854 kg (1,883 lb) payload;
• 3,729 litres (131.7 cu ft) of cargo volume;
• 3,109 mm (122.4 in) wheelbase;
• 1,229 mm (48.4 in) distance between wheel wells.
The ProMaster City is Ram’s second shared collaboration with Fiat, following on the heels of the full-size Ram ProMaster that debuted in 2014.
In order to ready the vehicle for more extreme road and weather conditions in North America, engineers decided to strengthen the ProMaster City suspension and chassis and raise the ride clearance height.
With its near vertical side walls, the ProMaster City is ideal for tradesmen who require shelving units and rack systems. And with the 48-plus inches between the wheel wells, the vehicle will accommodate sheets of drywall or pallets.
The rear of the ProMaster City has 60/40 split swing doors. The larger door swings open toward the traffic side of the van, making it easy to quickly access larger cargo items and not block the path to the curbside. Both doors swing 90 degrees initially, but can swing to 180 degrees by pressing a release button on the door latch.
The Ram ProMaster City uses a front-wheel drive system that among other benefits allows for a flat floor in the cargo compartment.
Where the ProMaster City has a leg up on the opposition is in driving dynamics, thanks in part to the independent bi-link rear suspension and the MacPherson struts up front, tuned for rougher North American roads. This increases driving comfort and enhances stability.
The ProMaster City Cargo Van is available in ST and SLT trim levels, priced at $27,995 and $28,995 respectively. Among the standard features are an Uconnect 3.0 multimedia centre with four speakers, air conditioning, power door locks/front windows and tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
Meanwhile, the ProMaster City Wagon is priced at $28,995 and $29,995 for the ST and SLT models respectively.
My co-driver and I had a short test drive in a ProMaster City Cargo Van. Unlike many pickups on the road today that are more luxurious than high-end cars of a decade ago, this is a utilitarian vehicle, built for rugged, day-to-day cargo hauling and work use.
There’s no leather here, simply cloth seats and an overhead storage bin that’s ideal for the tradesman who has to have clipboards and paperwork at the ready.
With limited glass area for rear visibility, good side mirrors are crucial and the ProMaster City has them. We tested one with a rear back up camera and would recommend this optional feature.
I wouldn’t describe the ProMaster City as nimble, but there’s no doubt it is much easier to maneuver than most cargo vans. It has a turning radius of only 32 feet, making it parking lot and urban friendly.
We even had an opportunity to take it through a fun autocross exercise to test its maneuverability under a variety of conditions, both loaded with cargo at the rear and empty.
Handling was better with the extra weight, good news for drivers of such vehicles who will spend much of their time with cargo in the rear.
Commercial vehicles make up 32 per cent of all fleet sales these days so the ProMaster City could be an important addition to the Ram brand. The cargo van variant is expected to account for about 90 per cent of ProMaster City sales in Canada.
The ProMaster City is available at dealers now.