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First Drive: 2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman

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Old 12-23-14, 03:32 PM   #1
Hoovey2411
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Default First Drive: 2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman

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Gallery:
http://www.autoblog.com/photos/2015-...drive/#image-2

Engine: 2.4L I4
Power: 178 HP / 174 LB-FT
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
Engine Placement: Front
Curb Weight: 3,512 LBS
Seating: 2
Cargo: 131.7 CU-FT
MPG: 21 CIty / 29 HWY
Warranty: 3 Years / 36,000 Miles
Base Price: $23,130

From the perspective of a reviewer, there's a refreshing clarity to be hand when approaching a vehicle like a small commercial van. Where the inherent value equation for most vehicles is composed of both objective facts (price, fuel economy), and subjective opinions (looks, emotional response while driving), the reckoning of something like the new Ram ProMaster City is more straightforward.

The light commercial van segment in the US has seen a remodel over the last half-decade, moving from paneled-over minivans to the versatile, economical, European-style boxes on wheels you see with increasing frequency today. Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet are all players here (though Chevy's City Express is essentially a rebadged version of Nissan's NV200), and though Ram's entry could be seen as late to the party, it also matches up very nicely in many of those straightforward areas of measure.

Kindly, Ram brought along both the Nissan and the Ford for us to test alongside its new product, so we could get firsthand comparative impressions.

The 2015 ProMaster City is roomier, more powerful and more maneuverable than its competition, though it trades those advantages for a higher price and a thirstier engine around town. We headed down to Texas where, between breaks for tacos and Topo Chicos, our goal was to see if Ram had created the new best box van in the US.

Based on the already successful Fiat Doblo van from Europe, the baby ProMaster's visual transformation after its continental hop isn't radical. Ram has fitted a crosshair grille, new headlights and taillights, but largely the curvaceous, nose-forward styling remains the same.

As we mentioned at the top: style is going to be very low on this list of priorities for a buyer of light commercial vans. Still, we'd rate the City as mid-pack for the options in the US; more attractive than the Nissan/Chevy twins and less so than the crisp Ford Transit Connect. (Though the optional five-spoke wheels of our test vehicle make it seem downright sporty in this group).

Open the driver's side door and slide into the almost totally flat front seat, and any notion of "style" goes right out the window. Surfaces are almost exclusively black and gray, with workaday textures and frustratingly easy-to-scratch-plastics.

Click the image to open in full size.

This is a functional space though; trays, cubbies, cupholders and bins are far more numerous than you'd expect from a compact, two-seat cabin. We especially appreciated the huge storage shelf that runs over the driver and passenger seat, which is big enough to hold water bottles, notebooks, or any loose tools that a van driver might need pretty close to hand. The shelf has a small cargo net at the lip, too, which should keep all of those items from flying over the drivers head when coming to a quick stop.

But the most important space is that gaping one behind the one row of seats. And it's in terms of cargo space that the ProMaster City strikes its first blow against the competition. With 131.7 cubic feet of space, the Ram offering easily beats the NV200 (122.7 cu-ft) and even the long-wheelbase version of the Transit Connect wagon (130.6). Its cargo doors are split 60/40 so you can reach many items just by opening one. They can also be folded back a full 180 degrees for flush loading against a dock.

That big empty space back there doesn't help ride or noise quality, either. The ProMaster was boomy and rattly on the road when empty, and a lot more pleasant when loaded down with cargo (or in passenger-ferrying Wagon form, which I'll review in depth soon). The City is, perhaps, slightly more refined than its predecessors in this class, but it's certainly no monastery at speed.

The ProMaster City is roughly the same size on the outside as the other light cargo vans (though a bit wider than the Nissan and shorter by a few feet than the LWB Transit Connect), but it's slightly more maneuverable than all of them. The most impressive stat here, especially for those looking for a work vehicle in the tight confines in the city, is a total turning circle of just 32 feet, some four feet tighter than the other guys.

Ram wanted to highlight the maneuverability of its van, so it assembled a kind of atypical autocross course for us to run in it, along with the normal street driving. Emphasizing tight turns, stability and maneuverability, the ProMaster acquitted itself well, but annoyingly, comparative vehicles weren't invited to try the same torture test.

Click the image to open in full size.

In regular driving, the advantage that the ProMaster might offer over its rivals is harder to suss out. The Ram was clearly more agile than one would guess from its exterior dimensions, but a sterling quality of all these Euro-style light vans is their capacity for tight handling.

There was much more of a noticeable edge when it came to the powertrains, however. Ram will offer a single engine and transmission for the ProMaster City to start: the 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine and the company's advanced nine-speed automatic. (Yes, we asked about diesels and manuals for the van. No, Ram wouldn't cop to any plans to bring them here to the US.)

Making 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, the City offered plenty of pep in and around town, and accelerated with traffic in an unfussed way. Acceleration still felt adequate when driving a rig loaded with some 600 pounds in the hold, too. The four definitely sounded thrashy when we gave it the spurs, but it wasn't any coarser than rivals' powerplants.

Click the image to open in full size.

Around town, the 9AT was mostly invisible in operation. We didn't notice it changing gears with inappropriate frequency, or being otherwise intrusive to the driving experience.

And, of course, it's those nine ratios that help the ProMaster net an impressive 29 miles per gallon (still and estimated figure) on the highway, per the EPA cycle. That number dwarfs the 26 mpg highway of the smaller-engined Nissan and ties the rating of the Ford. But, get off of the highway they do call this van "City" after all and the extra power of the Ram stats to take its toll. The ProMaster musters just 21 mpg city, and 25 mpg combined identical to the Transit Connect compared to 24 and 25, respectively, for the NV200. Clearly, your own driving cycle will play a huge roll in how important those figures are, day to day.

With a lot more power and slightly better space and handling, the ProMaster City makes a compelling case for itself. It does not offer that ability without charge, however.

Click the image to open in full size.

The Nissan NV200 is still the MSRP leader in this growing segment, asking $21,605 when you add in destination. Chevy will ask $22,950 for its formulation of the NV200 DNA, while Ford wants $23,325, plus another grand for the LWB that makes it cargo competitive. Ram is at the top of the pricing chart, with an base sticker of $24,125 including destination. Typically a delta of just $2,500 between the top and bottom of a price class wouldn't merit significant notice, but for small business owners watching every penny, or those perhaps looking at buying a group of vehicles all at once, those dollars add up quickly.

For us, the added drivability and flexibility of the ProMaster City make it worth the extra cost. At the very least, for our money it enters a dead heat with the Transit Connect. Reliability and resale rankings will play huge here over time, too, of course.

Really, the best news is that, with another super strong competitor in the US mix, light commercial van buyers have got better options to choose from than ever before. The ProMaster City may not exactly redefine the small work van, but it's not to be missed when your test-driving begins.

http://www.autoblog.com/2014/12/23/2...-review-video/
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Old 12-26-14, 05:38 PM   #2
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Oddly I want to see a shootout with the Transit Connect and NV200
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Old 12-26-14, 06:45 PM   #3
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Definitely a weirdly hot segment right now. The added length on the new Transit Connect is great, I just wish Ford had kept a high-roof option on this generation. Helps with a lot of the taller cargo options without having to jump to the bigger vans.
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Old 12-27-14, 01:40 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by pbm317 View Post
Definitely a weirdly hot segment right now. The added length on the new Transit Connect is great, I just wish Ford had kept a high-roof option on this generation. Helps with a lot of the taller cargo options without having to jump to the bigger vans.
Lends to better utility agreed
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Old 12-27-14, 11:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by pbm317 View Post
Definitely a weirdly hot segment right now. The added length on the new Transit Connect is great, I just wish Ford had kept a high-roof option on this generation. Helps with a lot of the taller cargo options without having to jump to the bigger vans.
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Lends to better utility agreed

But that high roof prevented the old Transit Connect from being garageable.
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Old 12-28-14, 12:08 PM   #6
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But that high roof prevented the old Transit Connect from being garageable.
Perhaps for small business owners who park at home sure. Larger ones may have a fleet they park elsewhere
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Old 12-28-14, 04:29 PM   #7
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But that high roof prevented the old Transit Connect from being garageable.
So if you need to garage it, don't get the high roof option.....

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Old 12-28-14, 11:14 PM   #8
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But that high roof prevented the old Transit Connect from being garageable.
I'd debate that, my parents use the 1st gen Transit Connect and bought it strictly because it did fit in their garage, and they have a pretty standard garage door opening. They don't have any exterior racks though, in which case, yes, it wouldn't fit.
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Old 01-20-15, 06:39 PM   #9
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Default Quick Spin: 2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon

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Gallery:
http://www.autoblog.com/photos/2015-...-spin/#image-1

Engine: 2.4L I4
Power: 178 HP / 174 LB-FT
Transmission: 9-Speed Auto
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
Engine Placement: Front
Curb Weight: 3,695 LBS
Seating: 2+3
Cargo: 101.7 CU-FT
MPG: 21 CIty / 29 HWY
Warranty: 3 Years / 36,000 Miles
Base Price: $24,130
As Tested Price: $27,185

At the tail end of 2014, I brought you a First Drive feature on the new Ram ProMaster City cargo van, a remarkably solid entry into the exploding light-commercial segment. While I was down in Austin, TX playing with those box vans, I also had time to sample Ram's slightly more civilized version, the ProMaster City Wagon.

From the driver's seat forward, the Wagon and Tradesman (Ram's name for the cargo version) are practically the same, but the former trim is a lot different in the back section. The rear gets a folding, three-passenger-wide bench seat in the middle, and a carpeted cargo area behind that.

This isn't exactly a new formula for the market; Ford has been selling a passenger-friendly five-seat version of its Transit Connect for a few years now. But the baby Ram is another competitor for small business owners in need of shuttles and such, or individuals who place a premium on interior space over creature comforts.

Drive Notes
  • Just as with the cargo version, the 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque from the 2.4-liter four-cylinder makes the City Wagon feel ably fast in urban traffic. Our short driving loop (along with the dozens of extra miles I logged around Austin), didn't offer much in the way of high-speed cruising, but I did dice with other city drivers confidently. The engine pulls adroitly if you really trample the throttle, though it certainly won't tempt you to race that punk kid at the red light.
  • Handling is nippy relative to the size of this small van, with a tight turning circle and quick turn-in around town. The added weight in the back offered by the seats and trim not quite 200 pounds also helps to dampen the ride and improve smoothness over the road. The Short Cut video at the bottom of the page was shot with a cargo version of the City, but it should give you the general idea about the nimbleness herein.
  • The extra seats, carpeting and stuff found inside the wagon also do a successful job of masking the strained sound of the engine and exhaust when you do rip through those nine gears. The ProMaster City Wagon is a significant number of decibels quieter than the Tradesman always. That said, no one will ever mistake this Ram for a Lexus; wind and road noise can be heard at all speeds.
  • Ram has effectively cut the cargo area in half compared to the box van version; though bias seems to have been given to cargo over passengers. Leg and elbow room isn't abundant in that second row, though it's probably tolerable for stretches of 10 to 20 minutes at a time fine for a hotel or airport shuttle, in other words.
  • On the flip side, the cargo area seems rather commodious for shuttle or taxi-type service. With 48.4 inches of width between the wheel wells, 45.6 inches from the back of the seats to the rear doors and 47.2 inches to the roof, there should be room for the luggage of four extravagant packers.
  • There might be a case for private ownership of a City Wagon, too, should the individual in question regularly need to haul some pretty big cargo, or if they're generally looking for a civilized (and inexpensive) commercial/passenger hybrid type of van. It's nothing like as refined or family friendly as Ford's three-row Transit Connect Wagon, but it could do the trick for unfussy large-dog owners, or the like.
  • Ram's technology offerings are solid here. Specifically, the Uconnect 5.0 head unit can hold all the GPS navi, XM Radio, Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel controls you'll want to make the day-to-day driving painless.
  • Still, this is no pleasure barge. Fit and finish are of a workmanlike product, not a normal consumer one, and you'll have to live with cheap looking and feeling materials throughout the cabin if you make this your daily driver.
  • In both public and private hands, fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon city and 29 highway should be appreciated. Gone are the days of a thirsty V8 being part of the cost of van ownership. Those econ numbers, today's cheap gas, and a starting price under $25k means the ProMaster City Wagon is one of the best space-per-dollar values on the market now.

Overall, Ram has a credible competitor to segment-leader Ford with the ProMaster City Wagon. Its powertrain advantage should net day-to-day happiness in terms of drivability and slightly smaller fuel bills, at least.

Ford's three-row TC is still the most credible formulation for a family vehicle Ram is going to have to get into that space if it wants to take over the category but the City is quite strong on the commercial end of things. I'll be seeing this one incarnated as a Holiday Inn Express shuttle, I just know it.

http://www.autoblog.com/2015/01/20/2...-review-video/
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Old 01-21-15, 01:20 AM   #10
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Weak. Weak design and weak motor. This is not suitable for work duty in the U.S. The long snoot steals precious cargo space behind the cab. All this may work in compact Europe, but not here. There is nothing "pro", "master", nor "man" about this vehicle. All poor choices and another dumbing down move for American drivers.
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Old 01-21-15, 10:00 AM   #11
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Weak. Weak design and weak motor. This is not suitable for work duty in the U.S. The long snoot steals precious cargo space behind the cab. All this may work in compact Europe, but not here. There is nothing "pro", "master", nor "man" about this vehicle. All poor choices and another dumbing down move for American drivers.
The first gen Transit Connect, which had an ancient 2.0L engine with 136HP, proved that there is indeed a market for a lighter duty van for small businesses that didn't need high payload capacity and the resulting poor fuel economy. Deliveries around a city, etc. That's why there's a flurry of models in this segment now. So it is indeed working here. For heavier "man" duties people can option up the full size ProMaster, which has an even worse exterior design in my opinion.

Not everyone needs a full size Sprinter/Transit/etc, and tons of small businesses are snapping up these "euro" style compact vans.

Maybe there will be a market for people to swap on the Fiat Doblo front bumper which looks a little better?


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Old 01-21-15, 10:40 AM   #12
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I don't know anyone small business owner that garages their small vans, usually thats reserved something nicer.
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Old 01-21-15, 10:41 AM   #13
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I don't know anyone small business owner that garages their small vans, usually thats reserved something nicer.
You just need enough garage spaces
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Old 01-21-15, 11:42 AM   #14
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The first gen Transit Connect, which had an ancient 2.0L engine with 136HP, proved that there is indeed a market for a lighter duty van for small businesses that didn't need high payload capacity and the resulting poor fuel economy. Deliveries around a city, etc. That's why there's a flurry of models in this segment now. So it is indeed working here. For heavier "man" duties people can option up the full size ProMaster, which has an even worse exterior design in my opinion.

Not everyone needs a full size Sprinter/Transit/etc, and tons of small businesses are snapping up these "euro" style compact vans.

Maybe there will be a market for people to swap on the Fiat Doblo front bumper which looks a little better?


Click the image to open in full size.
I have not heard of the first gen Ford Transit Connect as being a success here in the U.S.. Ford massively discounted them, made quick revisions, and then redesigned them all within a few years. I see very few here on SoCal roads. I think U.S. manufacturers are being forced into this downsizing thing (against their better judgement) due to EPA and CAFE regulations. Other than flower shops and restaurant delivery services, the majority of American businesses, construction companies, and utility workers like heavy-duty full-size vans that have more capacity than a large SUV.
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Old 01-21-15, 12:03 PM   #15
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I have not heard of the first gen Ford Transit Connect as being a success here in the U.S.. Ford massively discounted them, made quick revisions, and then redesigned them all within a few years. I see very few here on SoCal roads. I think U.S. manufacturers are being forced into this downsizing thing (against their better judgement) due to EPA and CAFE regulations. Other than flower shops and restaurant delivery services, the majority of American businesses, construction companies, and utility workers like heavy-duty full-size vans that have more capacity than a large SUV.
They were redesigned "quickly" because it was at the end of its lifecycle. The vehicle had been out in Europe for several years already.

There are tons of flower shops and restaurants that need vans... Yes, construction companies and utility workers may need more space and capability, but there is indeed a market for the smaller size vans. I think you need to look around more, I see the vans everywhere with plumbing companies, cleaning companies, in addition to your flowershops.

Sales for the Transit Connect grew every year since launch, to ~44,000 last year, with fairly minimal incentives, Chrysler/RAM sold just ~11,000 of the Caravan Cargo Van, with even more incentives piled on. The Econoline sold ~100,000 last year, with the Express ~79,000. So yes the market for the larger vans is bigger, but it doesn't mean there is no market for the smaller set. Give people the options and they'll choose what fits them best. It seems apparent that not everyone wants/needs a larger, RWD large van with excess capacity.
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