Review of: 2015 ProMaster City Wagon 4dr Wgn SLT
Review is from previous year 2015. Some details might be different.
2015 Ram ProMaster City: Could this be your next station wagon?
By Jil McIntosh
Sep. 19, 2015
Small purpose-built delivery vans have always been a mainstay in Europe, but it took a while for someone to try them here. Ford started the ball rolling with its Transit Connect, and then Nissan followed through with its NV200, which is also sold as Chevrolet’s City Express. Now there’s another contender, Ram’s ProMaster City.
A rebadged version of the Fiat Doblo, and tuned for North American tastes, the ProMaster City is available as a cargo van starting at $28,495 or, as my tester was, a five-passenger van that begins at $29,495. It replaces the Ram Van, a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan with its rear seats and windows removed, which is gradually being phased out.
Those prices are for the base ST, while I had the SLT, the only other trim level, which begins at $30,495 for the wagon. My tester was further embellished with numerous options, including a backup camera, aluminum wheels, navigation, and heated seats that brought it to $34,390 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Maneuverability
- + Driveability
- + Practicality
- - Hard rear seats
- - Styling
- - Price of options
The ProMaster City isn’t the prettiest vehicle on the road, but it’s a case of function over form. There are two sliding doors, while the rear doors can be opened 90 degrees. Tap a tab on the hinge and the doors then open 180 degrees. The right-hand door is the smaller one, making it easier to walk around during curbside loading. There is only one wheelbase length and roof height available.
The wagon has glass in its sliding doors and the cargo van has metal panels, while both of them have solid metal panels in the last third. An interesting note on the cargo van: U.S. versions have welded-in panels in their sliding doors, while Canadian trucks have integrated panels. It’s due to the “chicken tax,” a 1963 European tariff put on commercial vehicles in response to a duty the U.S. imposed on imported poultry. It’s cheaper for Chrysler to import the tariff-free passenger wagon, rip out the rear seats, and replace the glass. We don’t have the tax in Canada, so we import the vans as factory-finished.
One thing I discovered, after needing to lock the van after I’d handed back the keys, is that you can’t do it without the key fob. You can lock everything when you’re inside, but from the outside, you can only manually lock the front doors, and not the sliding or rear doors. It’s a standard feature on European vans to avoid drivers locking their keys inside. While that makes sense, Chrysler says it will be adding a locking feature to bring it in line with what North Americans have come to expect.
As expected, the interior is plastic-heavy, but it’s also good-looking and everything is well laid out, except for a seatback position dial that’s hard to reach.
Air conditioning is standard, as is the tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel and the carpeted floor. My tester had a $650 package of heated seats, second-row power windows and six speakers, along with $225 for the rear window defroster and wiper.
The front seats have some bolstering and are fairly comfortable, but the back bench seats are flat and hard. Those rear seats can’t be removed, but they fold and tumble forward to make room for longer cargo.
There’s a shelf above the windshield and a pocket above the glovebox, but small-item storage within the driver’s easy reach could be better. There are some cubbies, but they’re small and shallow. In the rear, though, otherwise wasted space above the wheel wells is taken up with storage compartments.
The standard features list gives you a small Uconnect screen with AM/FM and Bluetooth. My tester had an optional system that retained the same small screen but added navigation for $1,200. I also had add-on satellite radio for $325.
The navigation system worked well overall and was easy to use, but the map usually took a long time to load each time the vehicle was started. The system also included a USB port in the centre console.
The sole engine choice is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder with MultiAir, Fiat’s variable valve timing that uses oil pressure instead of a camshaft on the intake valves, and with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The engine makes 178 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque, and while it can sometimes get a little thrummy at idle, it’s a peppy little powerplant that’s a good fit here. As with other Chrysler vehicles that use the nine-speed, you never get up to that ninth cog, but unlike in some others, I never felt the transmission constantly shifting as it hunted for a gear.
It’s officially rated at 11.2 L/100 km in the city and 8.1 on the highway, while I averaged 9.5 L/100 km in combined driving and with no load in the cargo area.
While the ProMaster City is a work vehicle at heart, it drives like a minivan and is rather pleasant to pilot. Despite its height, it takes corners very well with much less body roll than expected, and even though it’s a box on wheels, it’s surprisingly quiet inside. It may be a work van at heart, but overall, it doesn’t feel like it.
The ProMaster City cargo van shares space with the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200, and Chevrolet City Express. But the City Express comes only in cargo, and the NV200 passenger van is sold primarily as a taxi, so for more than two passengers, Ram’s only competitor is Ford. The Transit Connect starts at $29,649, slightly above the ProMaster City’s base of $29,495.
But while the Ram starts off well, its options can get pricey. Part of that, no doubt, is the nature of the beast: fleets tend not to load up their models with options, and so it’s harder to make up for the lack of volume. Still, $1,200 to add an electronic map, or $700 for a backup camera, seems a bit stiff.
I’m not much of a fan of the full-size ProMaster van, with its uncomfortable seat and squeaky doors, but I sure do like its little brother. Not many people are going to be looking at the City as an everyday passenger vehicle, but in addition to being an excellent choice for many small businesses, it could conceivably take the place of a station wagon or even a small pickup truck for some consumers. You may not be the most stylish one at the campground, but you’ll certainly be the most practical.