Ram ProMaster City is a transit van that competes with the Ford Transit Connect, Chevy City Express, and Nissan NV200.
Transit vans are becoming popular because they are practical, versatile, affordable, and better than ever. Chrysler, Chevrolet, Ford and Nissan all make good and similar ones. They started out being commercial vans for plumbers, florists, and other tradesmen. And they still are. But they work as private vehicles too, for the same reasons they work for carpenters.
They’re maneuverable, get good fuel mileage, and they are all about carrying cargo. That includes people as cargo.
For that matter, we could say these vans are all about living. You want to live in your car? If your lifestyle is traveling, nothing could beat a transit van, for living in RV parks or national parks. So easy to install a bunk and solar power. Your kayak, mountain bike, or kiteboard go on the roof, and you’re done. We don’t need no stinkin’ mortgage. Don’t forget your dog.
The bedrock strength of one of these is maneuverability, because of the compact size, the small footprint. It works in small places, including the city. You can travel to a city and sleep in it.
Ram ProMaster is based on the Fiat Doblo passenger van that has been sold for many years around the world. It’s built in Turkey and imported by Fiat-Chrysler to Baltimore, where modifications are made.
The Ram ProMaster City comes as the Tradesman or Wagon. The Tradesman is a cargo van with no rear side windows (but they are optional) or seats, while the Wagon has seats and windows. One work van, one people-hauler. They’re perfect for small shuttles.
The front-wheel-drive van is powered by Chrysler’s 2.4-liter engine making 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, mated to their nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s EPA-rated at 21 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 24 combined.
It hasn’t been crash-tested. Standard safety features include stability control, front and curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag. A rearview camera system is optional, but a must. Parking sensors too. Automatic emergency braking isn’t available.
The 2017 model has no significant changes, just some interior lighting.
The Tradesman and Wagon both come as base or SLT, with upgraded upholstery and wheels, plus a 5.0-inch touchscreen and some cosmetic things. Most of the options are meant for tradesmen: roof racks, cargo partitions, towing bits, graphics, navigation.
It doesn’t exactly look Italian. Designed by Fiat, it’s a boxy panel van mated to the nose of a compact crossover. Or a minivan with an extended aero snout. Its bulbous face is like the full-size ProMaster van, not the Ram pickup. Its crosshair grille and big headlamps can be seen as cartoonish.
The interior was designed for the U.S. market, to approach the level of the other Rams. It’s far from luxurious, but it’s comfortable and thoughtfully laid out, with nice details, and places for things, including writing or clipboard spots. The interior noise is not bad, having been improved in 2016 with more sound insulation and different tires.
The Wagon seats three passengers in the rear, on a 60/40 split bench, with each section folding forward. That leaves nearly six feet in the back–enough room to sleep, even in the passenger model. Even if you have two kids, it can still work as a family camper.
The Tradesman has six rings in the floor, rated to tie down 1000 pounds. That’s two motorcycles.
The cargo width beats all other transit vans at 60.4 inches, with 48.4 inches between the wheelwells, wide enough for a pallet. Its total capacity is nearly 132 cubic feet. Forward side windows are available for the Tradesman.
One big drawback is that, unlike the Ford Transit Connect, there are no side-opening doors. The only opening is in the rear, 60/40 split barn doors that open 180 degrees, smaller door on the right, the curb side.
In the city, the ProMaster is a confident runabout, nearly as responsive as a small car. The visibility is excellent from the high seating position. It gets
With its terrific sight lines afforded by a high seating position, it is a confident urban runabout. On the highway at 70 mph it feels more nervous, but that’s not to be unexpected.
It can keep up with the cars around it. Its time from zero to sixty is 9.8 seconds, and the 9-speed automatic transmission supports the spurt. It can tow 2000 pounds, and that’s a ton of stuff in a utility trailer … or a motorcycle trailer or a jetski trailer or even a food cart or popup camper tent.
If you’re comparing transit vans, look at the powertrain. The ProMaster brings Chrysler’s proven 2.4-liter four-cylinder with decent power, and its new nine-speed automatic transmission. The interior is pleasant and well thought out. Around town, it’s responsive and easy to drive. Don’t forget to order the optional rearview camera.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.