2015 Ram ProMaster City First Look
Ram Joins the Urban Cargo Van Party
The small but growing compact cargo van segment first touched down in the U.S. with the 2010 Ford Transit Connect, which was joined later by the 2013 Nissan NV200 (soon to be sold here as the 2015 Chevrolet City Express as well). Now, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is entering the fray with the 2015 Ram ProMaster City. Like the Transit Connect -- and full-size Ram ProMaster -- the ProMaster City traces its roots back to Europe.
The ProMaster City is based on the third-generation Fiat Doblo, and has been adapted for the U.S. market. Like the first-generation Transit Connect, all ProMaster Citys will be built in Turkey (at Fiat’s joint-venture Tofaş plant in Bursa), and shipped to North America with windows and rear seats to dodge the “chicken tax.” Changes include upgraded chassis pieces and anchor points, as well as a 0.4-inch higher ride height to deal with rougher roads and strengthened unibody structures -- primarily to satisfy the U.S.'s side-impact pole-test (no revisions were made for the IIHS small-offset test, as the insurance industry group has yet to test this class of vehicle). The ProMaster City also gets standard 16-inch steel wheels wrapped in all-season tires for a higher payload rating.
With its 122.4-inch wheelbase and 131.7 cubic feet of cargo volume, and 1883-pound payload, the ProMaster City compares favorably to the redesigned 2014 Transit Connect (103.9-128.6 cubic feet of cargo volume, 1710-pound payload) and NV200 (122.7 cubic feet of cargo volume, 1477-1500-pound payload). The ProMaster City matches the Transit Connect’s 2000-pound max tow rating. The NV200, on the other hand, is not rated for towing.
Measuring 66.4 inches wide (with 48.4 inches between the wheel wells), the cargo area features near-vertical walls that are said to be more “upfitter-friendly” for installing aftermarket racks and shelving. A custom-fit, non-slip vinyl floor mat is available, and cargo can be secured with six standard D-ring tie downs. The ProMaster City features sliding doors on both sides that reveal a 26-inch opening, while the rear 60/40 split doors open 90 degrees, or a full 180 degrees after pushing a release button. The shorter rear door opens toward the curb for more convenience. The exterior door handles are large so they can be used by gloved hands. Threaded mounting points in the roof simplify installation of load rails and roof racks available from Mopar. Weight capacity is rated 154 pounds for the roof accessories.
Ram also widened the ProMaster City’s engine box and front track to fit the automaker’s 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 and nine-speed automatic transmission. The Tigershark engine is rated at 178 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque in the ProMaster City. These figures are down somewhat from some of the car applications of the Tigershark, because this one is tuned for a broader torque curve that peaks lower (at 3900 rpm). Though down from other Tigershark applications, the City's output numbers still outgun the Transit Connect’s base 169-hp, 171-lb-ft 2.5-liter I-4 and the NV200’s 131-hp, 139-lb-ft 2.0-liter I-4. The Transit Connect’s optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 matches the Tigershark’s horsepower output, but trumps its torque output by 10 lb-ft. Both Ford engines are mated to a six-speed automatic, while the NV200 features a CVT. The ProMaster City’s nine-speed automatic features an Electronic Range Select (ERS) that allows the driver to set the highest gear used during heavy-duty jobs. Acceleration to 60 mph is estimated at under 10 seconds, besting the NV200 (10.4 seconds) and Transit Connect 2.0-liter (12.3—the 1.6 turbo needs just 8.7 seconds). Chrysler Group has yet to release official fuel economy numbers for the city van, but claims it will boast "best-in-class" combined mpg. We’re told that fuel economy is a big reason the ProMaster City’s cost-of-ownership will also be best in class.
Up front, the ProMaster City uses a strut suspension with stabilizer bar, while the rear suspension consists of an independent trailing-arm-and-lateral-link setup, which contributes to the 21.5-inch step-in height. The brakes consist of 12-inch front discs and 10-inch rear drums with heavy-duty pads and shoes. The ProMaster City is the first vehicle to combine the Tigershark engine with a hydraulic power steering system.
In addition to the standard cargo van body, the ProMaster City is available as a five-passenger wagon. The ProMaster City has 4 feet of length behind the 60/40 split second-row bench, and nearly 6 feet of length with the rear seats folded forward. Other cargo area dimensions are unchanged.
The ProMaster City is available in four trims, two for each body style: Tradesman and Tradesman SLT, and Wagon and Wagon SLT. Although based on the Fiat Doblo, the ProMaster City features Ram styling cues including the brand’s crosshair grille and Ram emblems all around. High front and rear bumpers protect exterior lights from damage, while protective cladding on the sides and back protect from parking lot damage.
Base Tradesman models feature a black grille and bumpers, while the SLT adds body-colored bumpers and fog lights. Body-colored side mirrors and a silver grille are available on SLT models. Tradesman vans come with 16-inch steel wheels with or without wheel covers, while the SLT is available with 16-inch alloy wheels. Rear windows are also optional.
Inside, the ProMaster City is finished in black with gray accents. Different inserts distinguish between base and SLT trims. Up front, the ProMaster City features nine storage compartments including an overhead storage unit. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel is standard, while a leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated cruise control and infotainment controls for the Uconnect system is available. Uconnect features a 5.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, a text message-reading function, four-speaker audio system, powered USB port for charging devices, and a second USB for music streaming. Available infotainment features include navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Uconnect Web.
Standard safety features include an electronic stability control that incorporates four-channel ABS braking system, brake assist, traction control, engine drag control, trailer sway control, hill-start assist, rollover mitigation, and automatic brake lamp actuation.
A Ram spokesman tells us we'll start seeing ProMaster City vans by the end of the year, but we won't see real volume until 2015. Can it take on the urban cargo haulers from Ford and Nissan when it arrives? We'll soon find out.