by Sebastian Cenizo
The Europeans have been fans of small cargo vans for a long time, and with ever-narrowing city streets, we have use for them too. Plus, not everyone needs a van capable of carrying an entire house's worth of furniture. That's where something like the Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van comes in. It isn't especially powerful, with its 2.4-liter four-pot only producing 178 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. However, its cargo-carrying credentials cannot be denied with up to 1,883 pounds of payload capacity. Alternatives like the Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van are less capable but also worth considering, so is the Ram the one to take or not?
The Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van range is carried over unchanged from 2019 when new styling made its way to the model lineup.
The Ram ProMaster City is a simple but attractive vehicle with enough curves to look car-like. Its front is dominated by a pair of halogen headlights below which an elongated grille with the RAM logo is featured. Base models get black plastic front and rear bumpers along with LED tailights, while the SLT gets body-colored mirrors and fascias, along with the option of front fog lights. 16-inch steel wheels are standard across both variants (the SLT's steel wheels get full-painted covers, though), with the top trim earning access to alloy wheels as an option.
The ProMaster City is typically tall and narrow, with width and height very similar. The former measurement works out to 72.1 inches (excluding the side mirrors) with the latter at 74.2 inches. The side mirrors are quite large, though, so when they are added, width works out to 84.6 inches. Length is 187.1 inches, a fraction longer than the Ford Transit Connect. However, the wheelbase is considerably longer by 7.2 inches, for a final figure of 122.4. Ground clearance measures 5.2 inches while curb weight is around 3,500 pounds.
Whichever variant of the ProMaster City Cargo Van you opt for, the same 2.4-liter four-pot is nestled under the hood. Dubbed Tigershark, it produces 178 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque, all of which is sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels. Power delivery and output are good, particularly when the van is unladen, but it's not particularly offensive when loaded up either. That said, getting off the line, up a steep hill, or past a large truck on the highway will require some abuse. Unfortunately, the powertrain's foibles are not helped out by the automatic transmission, as it seems to have been tuned by a chimp. At low speeds, it's jarring and clunky, and at highway speeds, it simply refuses to go into top gear. What's the point of a nine-speed if you can only ever use eight cogs? In terms of capability, the ProMaster City Cargo Van can haul up to 1,883 lbs or tow up to 2,000 lbs, which puts it high in the compact cargo van pecking order.
As with most vans, the handling is not what you'd call sporty, and corners lead to body roll that feels like it's going to cause the little Ram to topple over. Due to a tall profile, crosswinds can be treacherous too. Fortunately, a less-than-fun car is generally very comfortable, and this van is no different, absorbing cracks and small undulations well. Bigger bumps are less well dispensed with, however, and the ride can get crashy if you drive with no mechanical sympathy. In town, the steering is also tuned for the job, with minimal effort allowing for easy parking and traffic maneuvers. Braking is also adequate for the job, although we'd advise against playing chicken with the bottom of a steep slope if the van is fully loaded.
The ProMaster City Cargo Van, in both regular Tradesman and Tradesman SLT form, scores EPA figures of 21/28/24 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 16-gallon gas tank, this equates to an estimated mixed range of around 384 miles. By comparison, the Ford Transit Connect has a combined EPA score of between 22 and 25 mpg, depending on which engine you opt for.
As a cargo van, the ProMaster City Cargo seats two up front, while those looking for more passenger-carrying capacity can consider the City Wagon. The seats are easy to get into and are comfortable for either the driver or passenger. Plenty of headroom and legroom are on offer, and visibility out the front is good. Since the rear doors feature window panels rather than windows, the view out the back is nonexistent and you'll rely on the rearview camera for most back-up maneuvers. Alternatively, actual windows are available in this simple but spacious van.
The cargo bed of the ProMaster City Cargo is an impressive 87.2 inches long with 48.4 inches between the wheel wells and a height measurement of 51.8 inches. All this equates to a class-leading cargo bay with a volume of 131.7 cubic feet, in which you can carry items with a mass of up to 1,883 lbs. This makes it ideal for the small-business owner.
In the front, the door pockets are capacious and have recesses for water bottles, while the armrest on each door can hold keys. In the center console, a solitary cupholder resides, while a glovebox, a dash-top tray, and a recess in the dash can take supplementary items. There's also a small tray in front of the gear lever for loose change and an additional dash recess on the driver's side where one could store their phone.
Cargo vans aren't generally renowned for a long list of features, but this one misses out on some advanced driver aids that could be crucial for some buyers. What it does get is four-way manually-adjustable front seats, a manually-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, electronic roll mitigation, hill-start assist, and trailer sway control. You also get manual air-conditioning and a day/night rearview mirror. The SLT model upgrades include a leather-wrapped steering wheel with infotainment controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, and power heated wing mirrors as standard. The front seats also get manual height and lumbar adjustments, while the options list includes front fog lamps, LED cargo area lighting, heated front seats (SLT only), and rear parking sensors.
The infotainment system in the ProMaster City Cargo Van is the Uconnect 3, which includes a five-inch touchscreen display, four speakers, voice control, Bluetooth, and AM/FM radio, as well as the option of navigation. On the SLT, the steering wheel gets the aforementioned steering controls, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, although you can spec SiriusXM satellite radio. An aux jack is standard on both models, and the system is fairly easy to use but it's nowhere near as good as the MBUX system that you get in something like a Mercedes Sprinter.
The 2020 Ram ProMaster City van and its 2019 equal have been free of recalls, with the last issues to surface coming in 2018. In February, an incorrect tire label was found while March had a recall for a faulty steering rack and pinion.
A basic three-year/36,000-mile warranty is included with the sale of the Ram ProMaster City cargo van, along with a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance is included for the latter period too, along with a five-year/unlimited-mileage rust perforation warranty.
Commercial vehicles are generally not rated by the IIHS or the NHTSA, and the Ram ProMaster is no different. However, a decent complement of features is standard, with a rearview camera, seven airbags that include a driver's knee bag, traction and stability control, hill-start assist, trailer sway damping, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Rear parking sensors are also available.
Vans exist to do a job without excessive complication or unnecessary comfort features. That's exactly what the City Cargo Van is all about. It offers excellent payload and available towing capacities, as well as the most cargo volume in the segment. It's relatively comfortable, has numerous cabin storage options, and can be configured with additional comfort features like heated seats to make living with it easier. For the city slicker handyman or small-business owner, this vehicle is ideal, but those who demand smartphone integration or advanced safety features will not be particularly happy with the Ram Cargo van. The infotainment system is also not one of the best and body roll is rather overwhelming. Nevertheless, this van fulfills its mandate with aplomb and to ask anything more is to pay more.
The Ram ProMaster City cargo van starts at a base price of $24,430 before a $1,595 destination charge. The SLT variant starts a little higher, at $26,180. Fully loaded with all available options, this model can cost over $35,000.
If you want a comfortable van with lots of convenience features, you'll likely look elsewhere. However, the SLT variant is worth considering for its prettier body, heated mirrors, and available heated seats, although these can't be specced in conjunction with vinyl upholstery. We'd add this comfort option, and we'd also spec the rear parking sensors to make backing up easier. We'd also look at speccing the available navigation system and SiriusXM satellite radio, which helps make up for the shortcomings in terms of the infotainment system's lack of smartphone integration. We'd also add the LED cargo area lighting system for more convenience when rummaging through the back.
The original, big-boy Transit is one of the best vans on the American market, and the Connect is similarly impressive. Pricing starts just a couple hundred dollars below that of the Ram, and its 2.0-liter inline-four reflects that with only 162 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque. It's arguably less capable overall, thanks to its shorter body and wheelbase that make for a cargo area of 104.8 cubic feet. However, this model is available as a long-wheelbase variant - something the Ram doesn't offer. With the LWB model, cargo volume increases to a ProMaster City Cargo-beating 145.8 cubic feet (when the front seat is folded). In addition, the Ford is more modern in that it offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as better handling. For us, unless we needed the Ram's payload capacity, we'd opt for the Transit Connect.
Starting at a base price that is almost $2,000 lower than that of the Ram, the Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo Van is one of the most affordable compact vans on the market. It's powered by a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four-pot that is coupled to a CVT instead of an automatic. This is an asthmatic power plant compared to that of the Ram, producing just 131 horses and 139 lb-ft of twist. This does help it edge the City Cargo Van in the economy stakes, but it doesn't have a tow rating as a result. Payload capacity is lower too, at 1,480 lbs versus the Ram's 1,883 lbs. For us, we'd rather have the Ram. It's more capable, more spacious, and simply more of a van.
Check out some informative Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van video reviews below.