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2015 Ram ProMaster City First Drive

Your Latest Italian Delivery Has Arrived

Scott Evans
Jan 6, 2014
As someone who held several delivery jobs in college, I'm one of the few people not completely sick of the "look at all the new vans" narrative on replay in the motoring press. I delivered pizza in a gutless Geo Metro hatchback and flowers in an oversized-for-the-job Ford E-350, so all these new vans have grabbed my attention. It's high time we had delivery vehicle options that weren't designed in the Iron Age, and the new ones, such as this 2015 Ram ProMaster City, are very good.
As you probably know, the Ram ProMaster City (PMC) isn't, strictly speaking, an all-new product. Rather, it's an adaptation of the third-generation Fiat Doblo on sale around the world. The Ram people have done a bit of work setting it up for America, reworking the crash structure to meet our requirements, raising the ride height for better suspension travel on our crumbling roads, and dropping in a bigger engine and new transmission.
Photo 2/24   |   2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon Front Three Quarters 02
Photo 9/24   |   2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon Rear Three Quarter
Exclusive to the U.S. market, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder Tigershark engine has been retuned for better low-end torque delivery in van configuration and returns 178 hp and 174 lb-ft. It's mated to Chrysler's new nine-speed automatic transmission, which has a special short first gear for quick 0-30 mph acceleration. This is the best application of the nine-speed automatic to date; the prototypes I drove exhibited none of the occasional gear hunting and low-speed shuddering that have plagued other Fiat Chrysler vehicles equipped with it. The short first gear does its job, making the PMC feel peppy off the line and zipping through traffic. The four-cylinder engine has plenty of power for this little van, even when loaded with 600 pounds of cargo. It does, however, vibrate quite a bit while idling in gear, enough to feel through the seats.
Ram says the combo will return 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined, easily besting the Nissan NV200 (and its Chevy Express City twin) and its CVT and jostling with the Ford Transit Connect for class leadership. On Ram's side, the PMC makes more power and torque than the base Transit Connect's 2.5-liter four-cylinder and matches its best fuel economy. Spring for the optional 1.6-liter turbocharged-four and the Ford regains both the output and fuel economy crowns, if only slightly.
Photo 10/24   |   2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon Front Three Quarter 02
The PMC's fully independent suspension is, like the Ford's, a blessing. Ride quality is pretty good, if slightly brittle when unloaded, as all cargo vehicles are. Put a bit of weight in it and, as in most cargo vehicles, the ride improves. Ram claims best-in-class payload at 1,883 pounds and maximum gross vehicle weight at 5,395 pounds, the former eclipsing the Ford by more than 200 pounds and the latter by more than 100. It's a tie between the two in towing, at 2,000 pounds each.
The suspension is good for more than just hauling stuff, too. With its quick steering and what feels like a pretty low center of gravity despite its height, the PMC is a nimble little van around town. It darts quickly around corners and through traffic, as if Ram and Fiat's engineers knew going in that delivery drivers are going to be in a hurry. Pushing the wheels out to the corners not only made the van stable while cornering but also makes it easy to maneuver in tight spaces. If you do manage to drag the bumpers across anything, they're cheap plastic pieces that are designed to be quickly and easily replaced, just like on the big Ram ProMaster. Also like on the big van, the PMC's headlights are mounted high so you're unlikely to smash them. (They're a lot more expensive to replace than the bumper pieces.)
All that darting around will be handled from a classically Italian cockpit. By that, I mean the steering wheel will feel too flat, like one on a bus, and too far away, while the pedals feel too close. It's not as bad as on the big ProMaster, but you're going to notice it. The Ford suffers no such issue.
Photo 11/24   |   2015 Ram ProMaster City Interior
Once you make peace with the driving position, you'll find more to like. The PMC has tons of little storage cubbies around the front seats, something the Ford sorely lacks, though none of the ones nearest the 12-volt outlets and USB ports is big enough to rest your phone in. Invest in a long charging cord. The information and entertainment system has some slightly unfamiliar controls, but overall it's pretty intuitive. TomTom-based navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio are optional. Also somewhat unfamiliar are the door handles and locks. The handles themselves lie flat on the armrest and work by pulling up on them. Nothing too complicated there. The locks, however, work by pressing the handle down to lock and pulling up partway to unlock. It makes sense once you've used it, though I wouldn't leave your dog in the front seat and the keys in the vehicle, lest he or she step on the handle and lock the doors.
During the launch event, Ram provided a long-wheelbase Ford Transit Connect cargo van and Nissan NV200 cargo van for comparison. My time with each was brief, but a few initial impressions are worth mentioning. In terms of refinement and usability, the Nissan trails substantially. The real competition in this segment is between the Ford and Ram, each of which rides well, handles nicely, is decently well-equipped, and has plenty of power. The Ford has a better driving position, while the Ram seems to ride ever so slightly better when empty. The Ram claims a few more cubic feet of cargo space and slightly more space between the wheelwells (less than an inch), while Ford claims a slightly longer cargo floor (less than an inch). Determining the better van will have to wait for a full comparison test. It is worth noting that the PMC wagon is only available with five seats, while the Transit Connect Wagon is available with seven. Ram doesn't currently see enough demand to produce a seven-passenger van, much like it doesn't see enough demand for a diesel model.
Photo 15/24   |   2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman Front Three Quarter In Motion
At $24,125 to start, the Ram is the most expensive entry in the segment, coming in nearly $800 more expensive than the Ford and $2,500 more than the NV200. Ram would, of course, argue you're buying a bunch of class-leading features for the price, and it's a valid point, even if it's only leading by a little bit.
You're also getting a van whose features have clearly been designed with input from the end users, the drivers who have to live with them every day and the fleet managers who have to gas and repair them. It gets the stamp of approval of this former delivery driver. It's easy to load and unload, it's the right size for most small businesses, it gets good fuel economy, it fits nicely through small alleys and tight parking lots, and it's even a bit of fun to drive. If you're going to drive a van all day, you can do much worse than this one, and you'd be hard-pressed to do better.

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