2015 Ram ProMaster City road test: Small enough for urban traffic, big enough for many businesses

2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT Cargo van

2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT Cargo van

The name alone — 2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT Cargo — probably won’t sell this vehicle, but if you are a florist, an appliance repairman, an interior decorator or member of a rock band it might just be exactly what you are looking for. Heck, outfitted with rear seating for three, it might be just the right vehicle for a taxi driver or maybe even a growing family.

What we are talking about is an urban-oriented, compact panel van designed primarily for commercial applications. it is Fiat Chrysler’s competitor to the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200. In fact, it is not exactly new.

It is a European Fiat Doblo, modified for American roads with a .4-inch increase in ride height and a stronger suspension. The basic van is assembled in Bursa, Turkey, and it is Americanized at the Chrysler Group Transformation Center in Baltimore, MD.

Ram ProMaster City cargo space

Ram ProMaster City cargo space

The test vehicle was a panel van, with no windows aft of the front seats and a bare-bones interior, perfect for modifying to the specific requirements of its owner. To be honest, it wouldn’t be the vehicle for me, an empty nester with no tradesman or musical skills.

Still a week with the vehicle was enough to convince me that it has specifications that could make it a sensible purchase. Consider this:

• It has a tad more more cargo space (131.7 cubic feet ) than the Transit Connect (128.6) and a whole lot more than the NV200 (122.7).

• It is the most powerful among its competitors with a 4-cylinder engine that directs 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through a 9-speed automatic transmission. It should be noted, though, that the transmission, did not shift very smoothly under heavy acceleration.

• It can hold the greatest payload at 1,883 pounds, some 263 pounds greater than the next best Transit Connect. The Nissan trails at 1,480 pounds.

• It has the widest dimensions between the wheels (48.4 inches) and above the wheels (60.4 inches).

Of course, none of those differences may mean much to the cost-conscious customer who can get by with less space.

Ram ProMaster seats

Ram ProMaster seats

The Ram ProMaster City has a starting price of $24,655, compared with $21,825 for the Ford and $20,720 for the Nissan. Keep in mind, however, that suggested pricing can change with special offers and financing enticements. And, price is also dependent on the amount of standard equipment offered.

What makes the ProMaster City particularly well suited for urban use is the off-the-line acceleration (0-30 mph in under 4 seconds). However, the turning circle of 41.7 feet is not ideal for narrow city streets.

But, it was also a satisfactory suburban cruiser, the use to which I put it most of the time. The ride was comfortable, but, as is to be expected of a tall vehicle, there was a fair amount of body lean around tight turns.

One thing that it took me a while to become comfortable with was the cargo van’s lack of windows. I know panels make more sense for maximizing cargo space, but I was never completely at ease relying solely on the large outside mirrors. My boyhood fantasy of becoming a bus or tractor-trailer driver was finally put to rest. Of course, anyone purchasing the smallest Ram as a passenger vehicle will get side and rear-view windows.

The EPA estimates fuel consumption at 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway/24 mpg overall. I averaged 22 mpg in a week of driving on mostly level roads with no cargo behind me.

Ram ProMaster gauges

Ram ProMaster gauges

Safety features included a full complement of airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes with vented discs up front and drums at the rear wheels, traction control, stability control and emergency brake assist.

The test vehicle was nicely equipped with trip computer, air conditioning, cruise control, stereo sound system with available satellite radio and a USB port. Options included a trailer-towing package, the lights and wheels group, a back-up camera and a roof-rack system. Individual costs wee not specified, but the price of the test vehicle rose to $27,815, not including the delivery charge.

Since a compact van is not one of my vehicle requirements I am not sure which vehicle would make the most sense for an individual buyer. But, I do know that the 2015 Ram ProMaster City cargo van deserves a close look by any in the market for an urban work truck.

To read John Matras take on the 2015 Ram ProMaster City click here.

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