By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
After decades of decades-old van designs, the American market is finally getting something new, modern and very European. Ram’s ProMaster City compact van for 2017 is actually known around the world as the Fiat Doblo, but it works just as well here. A real contender capable of taking on Ford’s Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200, the compact ProMaster City van delivers the best payload and cargo capacity in the segment. The ProMaster City is equipped with a fairly large cargo bay that can be configured to carry all forms of cargo or, unlike the NV200, three passengers. Powered by a 178-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, the ProMaster City is more powerful than the Nissan NV200 and Chevy City Express, but it also costs significantly more.
All that Fiat goodness comes at a price. Ram’s 2017 ProMaster isn’t the least expensive compact van you can buy, that honor goes to the Nissan NV200. Unlike the Ford Transit Connect, long-term reliability and resale have yet to be determined.
Changes for 2017 are relatively minor. The compact Ram ProMaster City van receives brighter illumination around its shifter and rear-door reflectors for improved visibility.
The 2017 Ram ProMaster City compact van offers big features in a small and very maneuverable package, or what Ram folk like to call “urban nimble.” While we...
... don’t hold the ProMaster City to the same performance testing standards of a sports sedan or even a small SUV, we were surprised to find this little van delivers an admirably smooth ride, tight 32-foot turning diameter and strong braking. The tall body does increase lean and sway, but that’s to be expected. From the driver’s seat the large windows and low hood make for good outward visibility and the seats are comfortable and supportive. Unfortunately, the poorly positioned steering wheel made it somewhat difficult for taller drivers to find a comfortable driving position. The Ram’s 2.4-liter engine delivers strong acceleration from a standing start and although the 9-speed automatic felt slow and jerky at low speeds, things improved once up to speed.
LOW LOAD FLOOR
Unless you’re an Olympic power lifter, the last thing you want to do is strain your back getting heavy cargo into your van. Thankfully, Ram’s compact ProMaster City van has a low cargo floor, a mere 21.5 inches off the ground, helping to minimize lift when loading and unloading.
INTEGRATED DOOR LATCH AND LOCK
One-handed operations are crucial for those who drive delivery vehicles, which is why the ProMaster City’s combined door latch and lock is so brilliant. To lock, simply push down on the handle. Pulling up on the handle unlocks, while pulling all the way up opens the door.
No utility van is going to be luxurious inside, but the 2017 ProMaster City compares well against the Ford Transit Connect, and feels notably upscale compared to the Nissan NV200. There's first-rate upholstery, and the comfortable seats are easy to get into and out of, important for delivery services. Like the Transit Connect, the ProMaster City has an overhead shelf above the windshield for stowing loose papers and small objects, and we like the combination lock/latch in the front-door armrests. SL trims are well equipped, although don't expect lots of rear-seat legroom in Wagon models.
The 2017 ProMaster City's design follows the practical-but-weird design aesthetic of this class of vehicle. It's tall (74 inches), has a droopy snout for good forward visibility, and the wagon and cargo models get slightly different front-end styling. Cargo-oriented Tradesman models can choose between the same, rear windows only, or no rear or side windows at all. On all ProMaster City models, the rear doors are split 60/40 and open 180 degrees to reveal a remarkably low step-in and load floor. The van rolls on 16-inch wheels, backed by disc brakes at the front, drums at the rear.
Bluetooth and thick carpeting are standard, as are air conditioning, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, power door locks, keyless remote entry, cargo area tie-down loops, and a limited version of Chrysler's Uconnect (3.0) infotainment system with 4-speaker AM/FM audio, USB port and auxiliary input. All the vans come with front airbags, a driver's inflatable knee bolster, front side-curtain airbags, front and rear curtain airbags (Wagon), and stability control.
The 2017 ProMaster City is far from hedonistic, but there are a few options to make work life easier. Primary among these is Uconnect 5.0, which adds a 5-inch color touch-screen media hub, TomTom navigation, USB port and auxiliary input. It also allows buyers to add Internet connectivity and satellite radio, the former being helpful in keeping in touch with the home office. A Popular Equipment group adds heated front seats and six speakers to Wagon models, and we strongly recommend the rearview camera group for models without rear windows, and the rear wiper/washer/defroster for those that do.
Like many Chrysler products, Ram’s ProMaster City compact van benefits from the company's 2.4-liter "Tigershark" 4-cylinder engine and 9-speed automatic transmission. It's essentially the same combo as in the Chrysler 200 sedan, albeit with a little less horsepower. The combination -- especially the 9-speed automatic -- helps the ProMaster City achieve best-in-class fuel economy and horsepower. Interestingly, the engines are assembled at Chrysler's factory in Michigan, and then shipped to the factory in Tofas, Turkey, where they're bolted into the van's unibody.
178 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
Work-oriented 2017 ProMaster City Tradesman models start with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) a little over $24,500; add another $1,500 of the more upscale SLT version that includes more equipment and body-color bumpers. Wagon versions add $1,000 to each of those totals. Load up on options, and you'll find yourself in the $30,000 range with an SLT Tradesman edition after you add the popular equipment group, including TomTom navigation, lights and aluminum-alloy wheels, rear windows and side windows, rearview camera, and a trailer towing package. Those prices roughly parallel the Ford Transit Connect and Transit Wagon, but it's about $2,000 higher than the cargo-only Nissan NV200. To see what others are paying for the Ram ProMaster City in your area, check out KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price. Since it's relatively new to North America, the van's resale value remains to be seen.