2016 Ram ProMaster City Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 20, 2016

The 2016 Ram ProMaster City aims at the needs of small-business owners, offering excellent cargo space and versatility paired with the driving attributes of a small car—including a low cost of ownership.

The 2016 Ram ProMaster City isn't quite for families, but it gears up in all the right ways for other uses. Like the Nissan NV200, Chevrolet City Express, and Ford Transit Connect, the ProMaster City aimed directly at small business owners and urban fleets—businesses like painters, florists, or plumbers, for instance that might need a delivery or cargo van, but not sheer size and heft.

Just like those other models, the ProMaster City is positioned to offer a smarter, more dollar-stingy alternative to full-size vans—with far better fuel efficiency, and far lower total operating costs.

In design, the ProMaster City looks like what it is, essentially: a boxy smaller van, mated with the front end of a tidy compact crossover—or simply a minivan with a larger snout—the ProMaster City is all business, but finished with some nice details.

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In front, the front-end look is rather bulbous—somehow the ProMaster City fits in, with its bulbous front end, alongside the seemingly disparate looks of the chiseled Ram 1500 trucks and the big, utilitarian ProMaster full-size vans. Its crosshair grille and big headlamp units keep the look rounded and assertive yet almost cartoonish, while inside it gets a nicer interior and instrument panel—one that was redesigned for the U.S. market to match up with those other Ram (and Dodge) models.

Mechanically, the ProMaster City is a reworked, redesigned version of the Fiat Doblo, a model that's long been sold in Europe and in other world markets. It's converted in Baltimore, Maryland, to work around federal import rules.

The ProMaster City packs some familiar U.S.-market motivation under the hood. Power is provided by the familiar Chrysler 2.4-liter inline-4, making 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It's front-wheel drive, with a 9-speed automatic transmission, and fuel economy ratings are an impressive 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined.

Ram says that these vans, unladen, can reach 60 mph in as little as 9.8 seconds, and tow ratings will range up to 2,000 pounds. In real-world city driving, the ProMaster City can feel nearly as responsive as a small car, crossed with some of the confident handling and great seating-position and sightlines that minivans used to sport. Approaching it from the other direction, the ProMaster City is far more nimble than the old full-size body-on-frame vans. For 2016, it also gets a tire upgrade, to Nexen all-season treads; and thicker carpet this year should help mute road noise.

The ProMaster City is offered in Tradesman and SLT (both cargo-oriented) and Wagon (passenger-oriented) body styles. The cargo models are essentially panel vans (with available windows), while the Wagon offers back seats and rear side windows. In both versions, the rearmost window area remains covered by metal. Although the Ford Transit Connect offers a choice between side-opening doors and a more conventional hatchback layout, the ProMaster City's setup brings 60/40-split rear doors; the doors can open to 180 degrees, and the smaller one opens to the curb side.

In back, there's 48.4 inches between the wheel wells allows loading a full-size pallet. The cargo width is a best-in-class 60.4 inches, and total cargo volume is almost 132 cubic feet. Wagon models offer seating for three across a 60/40-split bench in back, while each section can tumble forward. With the rear seats folded, there's almost 6 feet of cargo-floor length. And cargo models offer six tie-down rings, with a combined 1,000-pound rating, to help hold goods in a stable position

It's highly unlikely that there will be comprehensive occupant-safety tests on the ProMaster City, but there's no shortage of safety features; it's essentially equipped as a passenger car, with standard electronic stability control, front-seat side and side-curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag. You can also get a rearview camera system and parking sensors.

A 5.0-inch Uconnect infotainment touchscreen system is included in all models, while satellite radio and on-board navigation are optional. But the widest range of options pertain to utility; with Mopar options that allow special roof-rack systems, graphics packages, and towing accessories, you can customize the ProMaster City, to a degree, to suit different needs.

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