When is a cargo van not a cargo van? Answer: when it's a nifty station wagon like the 2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT. It's part of a fresh lineup of Ram small vans that are not really all that small.
Small vans are all the rage now, and for good reason: They offer versatility and economy for tradesmen and others who need to haul a lot of small or large cargo in a weatherproof conveyance.
But they also can be outfitted as people movers. An example is the Ford Transit Connect, a small cargo van that now also is available as a seven-passenger minivan. The new Ram ProMaster City wagon is similar, offering room for five-passengers with a whopping 74 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row of seats.
Starting at $23,130, eight ProMaster City models are available: Base and SLT Wagons; three base Tradesman models, and three Tradesman SLTs trim levels. The Tradesman models are distinguished by whether they use opaque security panels, rear windows (only), or both rear and side windows.
Ram officials expect cargo versions will make up about 80 percent of sales. Main competitors are the long-wheelbase Ford Transit Connect, the Nissan NV 200, and the Chevrolet City Express (a rebadged NV 200).
The ProMaster City vans are modified for the U.S. from the Fiat Doblo, familiar in Europe with more than 1.3 million units sold. While they have attractive Italian styling that softens their utilitarian purpose, they feature minivan-style sliding side doors for ease of loading in tight places and side-hinged rear doors split 60/40. The doors swing out to 180 degrees for full access.
All ProMaster City models have front-wheel drive, which allows for a flat load floor and a low loading height. Power is provided by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine delivers 178 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque, with fuel consumption estimated at 21/29/24 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles.
As a cargo van, the ProMaster City boasts a cargo area of nearly 132 cubic feet behind the two front bucket seats. The Wagon's 74 cu.-ft. behind the three roomy second-row seats are more than the midsize Kia Sorento or Nissan Murano crossovers with all the back seats folded.
In practice, the Wagon could easily substitute for any number of compact and midsize crossovers. It's handsome, quick off the line, has a decent ride and car-like handling, tracks steady and solid on the highway, and is a quiet cruiser with plenty of sound deadening insulation.
That, of course, cannot be said of the cargo version, where the cargo area is bare bones with no insulation. That version delivers amplified road noise that can sometimes sound as if the passengers are sitting inside a drum.
Body-colored bumpers distinguish the tested SLT Wagon, with a base price of $27,650; the base model comes with bumpers painted flat black. Standard SLT equipment includes air conditioning, heated power outside mirrors, cruise control, premium cloth seating, power door locks, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with manual tilt and telescoping adjustments.
In addition, the tested ProMaster City Wagon had alloy wheels and fog lights, heated front seats, a rear camera, satellite radio, rear window wipers and defrosters, navigation and Chrysler's Uconnect multimedia system. With the options, the test van had a $30,440 price tag.
There's little question of the ProMaster City's prowess as a cargo carrier. But the Wagon also stands out as a desirable, affordable vehicle for anyone who needs extra cargo space
Copyright © 2015 Motor Matters
|Base price||$27,650 (as tested: $30,440)|
|Curb weight||3,695 lbs.|
|Engine type||MultiAir2 4-cyl. w/MPFI|
|Epa mileage rating||21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||16 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||178 at 6400 rpm|
|Overall length||187.5 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||174 at 3800 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger FWD compact wagon|
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