2015 Ram ProMaster CityPosted on December 23rd, 2014
Urban-sized cargo van is the perfect ALV
By Nina Russin
The ProMaster City might just be the best active lifestyle vehicle Ram has ever produced. Based on the Fiat Doblo sold in Europe, the newest ProMaster is the smaller, urban sibling to the cargo van based on the Fiat Ducato that rolled out last fall.
Power for the US version comes from a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine and the same nine-speed automatic transmission found in the Jeep Cherokee.
Fiat also sells a diesel version with a manual transmission in Europe but has no plans at present to bring that model to the states. This writer hopes that they will reconsider, since that engine’s low-end torque would make it a better platform for driving at altitude.
Buyers can choose between the two-seat van and five-seat passenger wagon. Seats on the wagon version fold and tumble forward when not in use, leaving a six-foot long cargo floor.
Both sliding side and 60/40 split rear doors have large enough openings to accommodate regular-sized pallets. The van’s low lift-over height makes it easier to load large items in the cargo bay.
The ProMaster City has enough room in back to hold multiple bicycles, kayaks, skis and snowboards. The cargo van includes six 100-pound load tie-down hooks in the floor; the wagon version has four. The cargo floor is big enough to spread out a couple of sleeping bags, so athletes can get to the trailhead early or bed down in between segments of a stage race.
Priced from $23,130
Base price for the cargo van is $23,130 excluding the $995 destination charge. There are two trim levels: the base Tradesman and upscale SLT with a $24,655 base MSRP. Base price for the passenger wagon is $24,130, with the SLT starting at $25,655.
All models come equipped with electronic stability control, antilock brakes, hill start assist, trailer sway control and drift compensation, and are available with a rearview camera with audible warnings. The wagon comes with a full-length headliner and carpeting on the floor.
Bluetooth connectivity is standard. Buyers can add a five-inch color touchscreen with navigation and Uconnect that turns the van into a mobile hotspot. Both the cargo van and wagon are available with side and rear windows.
Test drive in Austin, Texas
During a recent media program I drove the ProMaster City cargo van on a short route through the Austin, Texas metropolitan area as well as on a special course at Troublemaker Studios. The studio, run by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is known for a number of Hollywood blockbusters including the Spy Kids series.
Its small footprint makes the ProMaster City as easy to drive as a minivan. Engineers beefed up the chassis anchor points and suspension on the European car to make it more durable on the rough road surfaces common in the upper Midwest. The ride height is also slightly higher so the suspension can manage bigger vertical loads.
The van is noisier inside than a passenger car due to the lack of insulation, but the suspension, consisting of MacPherson struts up front and an independent bi-link design in the back is surprisingly good. Not only does it offer up a comfortable ride, but is capable of handling some pretty ragged surfaces. I drove the van over some steel obstacles in the Mad Max-style course the PR folks had set up on the Troublemaker studio grounds and was duly impressed.
The turning radius is 42 feet: about the same as a midsized crossover vehicle or long wheelbase sedan. The van fits easily into average parking slots and is short enough to parallel park on the street.
The engine has enough power for average driving situations, although its lack of low-end torque makes it a bit anemic accelerating off the line and in the midrange drivers use merging into highway traffic. Fuel economy is 29 miles-per-gallon on the highway and 21 around town.
Ventilated disc brakes up front and drums in the back stop the van in firm, linear fashion. I’m not a huge fan of drum brakes because of their tendency to accumulate water and more difficult service procedures, but the ABS system on the van takes care of any drivability problems. On one section of the course I did a full brake on a surface where half of the wheels were on wet pavement while the other half were on a dry surface. Maintaining directional control was not an issue.
The ProMaster City’s cavernous cargo area can be upfitted with a variety of Mopar accessories to add shelving, a tow hitch, a roof rack, bicycle or ski racks. Those who can make do without the second row of seating should probably opt for the cargo van as opposed to the wagon, since the van has a waterproof floor that will be easier to clean and resist mold when athletes load in dirty mountain bikes or wet suits.
The number of seat adjustments depends on the model and trim level, but I found the front seats comfortable using the basic adjustments. Access and egress is better than for the larger ProMaster because of the lower step-in height.
Navigation graphics on the center stack screen are easy to read. The rearview camera image is on the small side but certainly workable. Creature comforts such as satellite radio and cupholders make the ProMaster City feel more like a passenger car than a work truck.
The 2015 ProMaster City is currently in production and en route to Ram dealers nationwide.
Like: An affordable, versatile cargo van that’s ideal for athletes who want a large cargo space to upfit for their specific sporting needs.
Dislike: Lack of low-end engine power.
Model: ProMaster City
Base price: $23,130
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 178 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 174 lbs.-ft. @ 3800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 21/29 mpg city/highway2015, Best Value 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, Ram, standard safety
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