by Jay Traugott
Calling all small-business owners: if it's daily work-horse capability and practicality that you're looking for, then look to the 2019 Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van. With class-leading payload and towing capacities, city-slicker handling dynamics, and comfortable passenger space, the ProMaster City Cargo Van is an ideal daily runabout. Despite there not being many rivals, the segment is still competitive, and with rivals like the Ford Transit Connect and Mercedes-Benz Metris vying for top honors, the ProMaster City's lack of features and unrefined transmission may send buyers looking for alternatives. The commercial runabout is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with outputs of 178 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, all of which are dispatched to the front-wheel-drivetrain via a nine-speed automatic transmission.
For the 2019 model year, the Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van receives a totally restyled front grille featuring bold "RAM" lettering, carried over from Ram's pickup line. Unfortunately, that's all it gets for the new model year, and it's business as usual for the Promaster City.
The ProMaster City Cargo Van looks like the typical utilitarian cargo van; upfront, there are standard halogen headlights that flank the new "RAM"-badged grille, and it's fitted with manual sliding doors with vented glass on either side and 180-degree opening rear panel doors. The Tradesman is outfitted with 16-inch silver-painted steel wheels, manual remote mirrors, and molded-in-color fascias. The Tradesman SLT is equipped with the same wheels, but fitted with full silver-painted covers, it also gets power-heated mirrors and body-color fascias.
The ProMaster City carries dimensions typical of the compact van segment. Compared alongside the Ford Transit Connect, the ProMaster City measures only 0.8 inches longer at 187.1 inches. There's 7.2 inches more between the axles of the ProMaster City, though, with its wheelbase of 122.4 inches. Though the Transit Connect rides 0.9 inches higher off the ground with the ProMaster City having 5.2 inches of ground clearance, the ProMaster City is 0.5 inches taller with a height of 74.2 inches. With a curb weight of 3,509 lbs, the ProMaster City is around 300 lbs heavier than the Transit Connect.
A 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is the only engine available in the ProMaster City, coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission to drive outputs of 178 hp and 174 lb-ft to the van's front-wheel drivetrain. The engine is robust enough to deal with the van's heft and cargo-hauling capabilities, and power is sufficient and delivery instant. While the powertrain is peppy off-the-line and around town, it loses a lot of vigor when on the highway or even when the van is fully-loaded. At low speeds, the transmission's shifts can feel noticeably clunky on occasion, while at higher speeds the van is hesitant to shift into its top gear. It's otherwise smooth enough, though, and deals with the 2.4's power adeptly.
With the ProMaster City's sizable dimensions, there are some obvious adverse handling dynamics that it'll be subject to. Body roll, for instance, is exhibited extensively around turns made at any speed faster than nothing, largely attributed to its softly-tuned suspension. Because of the van's shape, it's also easily subject to crosswinds when on the highway. Fortunately, the steering effort is light and the turning circle tight, which means easy control and high maneuverability around town. Though the softly-tuned suspension results in some slight bobbing over undulations, and although unhelpful in mitigating body lean, it keeps the van suitably comfortable. The ride is smooth and most minor road imperfections are adequately absorbed. Sharper breaks in the tarmac tend to penetrate the cabin substantially, however.
In general, the ProMaster City's gas mileage estimates are reasonably good, but when compared to its core rivals, they seem pretty average. The EPA gives gas mileage estimates of 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined from the ProMaster City Cargo Van. Both the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 prove slightly more fuel-efficient in city conditions than the ProMaster City, both returning 24/27/25 mpg on the same EPA cycles. The ProMaster City's four-cylinder motor utilizes regular unleaded fuel only. With its 16-gallon gas tank filled to the brim, the ProMaster City is accorded with a total driving range of 384 miles.
With most of the van dedicated to the cargo bay, only two passengers will fit into the ProMaster City Cargo Van. The seats are fairly comfortable and supportive, and there's ample head and legroom for both occupants. The driver is positioned with a clear view of the road ahead, however, with the rear-most windows blocked out, rearward visibility is nill. Fortunately, the rearview camera does make things easier and there are vented and solid glass backdoor window add-ons available.
The ProMaster City Cargo Van's load floor spans 87.2 inches in length, it's 51.8 inches in height, and there's 48.4 inches between the wheel wells, altogether availing the cargo van with a class-leading 131.7 cubic foot cargo bay. Its maximum cargo bay payload capacity is also best in class, capped at a decent 1,883 lbs.
For the two occupants up front, there's a thick door side pocket capable of holding a bottle on each door, a small-item storage hole integrated into each door's armrest, a single center console cupholder, another small-item storage console ahead of the gear lever, a moderately sized dash tray, dash cubby, and passenger-side glovebox.
As a vehicle formed for function, the ProMaster City's standard specification levels are relatively low on both models, which is typical for vehicles within the segment. The Tradesman comes outfitted with a vinyl steering with a tilt/telescoping column, four-way manually-adjustable front seats, a day/night rearview mirror, power front windows, and carpeted front flooring. Remote keyless entry is also standard along with manual air conditioning, a rearview camera, trailer sway damping, hill-start assist, all-speed traction control, and electronic roll mitigation and stability control. There's not much more in the Tradesman SLT, with only a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated, power side-view mirrors, and cruise control included atop the base trim. The front seats in the Tradesman SLT also get manual height and lumbar seat adjustability. There are heated front seats and rear parking sensors available.
The infotainment setup in the ProMaster City is also relatively basic, with both models outfitted with a five-inch infotainment touchscreen display and AM/FM radio tethered to a four-speaker audio system. Both models are installed with the Uconnect 3 infotainment software which comprises integrated voice command with Bluetooth connectivity. Only the Tradesman SLT is fitted with a multi-function steering wheel which includes infotainment systems audio controls. Unfortunately, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are not included as standard, nor are these functions optionally available with any model of the ProMaster City. At least navigation and SiriusXM radio connectivity is optional for both models as well as RAM telematics - a web-based fleet management solution.
Official recall numbers have dropped significantly for the Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van with every passing year, the 2019 model not being the subject of recalls whatsoever. Ram covers the ProMaster City Cargo Van with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has evaluated any model of the current generation Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van. Fortunately, the standard features consignment is reasonable; there are seven standard airbags including a driver inflatable knee-bolster airbag, all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, trailer sway damping, hill start assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a ParkView rear back-up camera all featured as standard, while a ParkSense rear park-assist system is optional for the Tradesman SLT.
When it comes to purpose-built workhorses, the Ram ProMaster City is one of the best compact vans money can buy. It offers both the best-in-class maximum payload capacity as well as the best-in-class cargo volume. On top of that, when optioned correctly, the van also offers a joint class-leading towing capacity of 2,000 lbs. It's powertrain, while capable in terms of performance, is also reasonably fuel-efficient too. Around town, the ProMaster City proves peppy and nimble, it rides comfortably and deals with most urban streets well. There aren't many standard features in the ProMaster City though, and very little opportunity for extending feature specification. There's not much in terms of infotainment either, with only a small display and audio setup provided without any contemporary smartphone integration. The ProMaster City ticks just the right boxes as a commercial cargo hauler and nothing more. That said, most vehicles in the segment don't receive much in the way of specification anyway, which is why the ProMaster City Cargo Van is a great option, if not the best, from the segment.
Ram sells the ProMaster City Cargo Van in two trims, with the Tradesman being the cheapest of the two at a starting price of $24,380. Above that is the Tradesman SLT, which pushes the asking MSRP up to $26,130, excluding options, taxes, licensing, registration, and a mandatory destination charge of $1,595. A well-specced SLT model will see an asking price of up to $35,000 with all the trimmings.
With two available trims in the ProMaster City Cargo Van lineup, it becomes an either/or decision depending on your needs. The Tradesman SLT is the ProMaster City model we'd go for, though. Unlike the base Tradesman, it comes fitted with a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel and with added seat adjustability which simply improves overall comfort and convenience for the driver. The seats are also upholstered in premium cloth upholstery which also enhances comfort as opposed to the vinyl seats in the base model. We do recommend including the Lights and Wheels Package for the higher-quality LED lighting and aluminum wheel upgrades it contains. We also suggest optioning the van with either the available solid or vented rear door glass window options to mitigate the non-existent rearward visibility and blind-spots. The available ParkSense rear park assist system would be beneficial in this regard too. If towing will be required then the available Trailer-Tow Group will have to be optioned in.
The Nissan NV200 Compact Cargo is one of the cheapest compact cargo vans on the market, with a base price in excess of $2,000 cheaper than the ProMaster City. Its smaller 2.0-liter engine is 47 hp and 35 lb-ft down on the ProMaster City's outputs, and the CVT gearbox favors efficiency over capability, scoring 25 mpg combined to the Ram's 24 mpg estimate. However, the weaker engine means the NV200 isn't tow-rated, while the Ram is capable of towing up to 2,000 lbs. The weaker NV200 is also incapable of a payload capacity of more than 1,480 lbs, while the ProMaster City will carry up to 300 lbs more in its versatile cargo bay. The ProMaster City boasts a higher feature count, better infotainment, and seems a better put-together package. The only areas in which the NV200 is superior is a lower base price and a better warranty of five years/100,000 miles, but in every other aspect, the Ram is the better buy.
The Ford Transit Connect is arguably the ProMaster City's top contender. It's equipped with a less powerful engine than the ProMaster's 2.4-liter mill, though, with the latter having a more potent and competent engine that avails the ProMaster City with a better payload capacity by 200 pounds. There is more room in the cargo bay of the Ford though, with 145.8 cubic feet on offer, while the Ford also offers the same 2,000-pound towing capacity as the ProMaster City. Unlike the Ram, however, there's a variety of configurations, trims, and options available within Ford's lineup which may offer better opportunities for purposing the van. Android Auto and Apple Carplay functionality are also found in the Ford, which could make those long days on the road just a little easier. The Transit Connect is just a little nicer than the ProMaster City in that it offers the capability along with some passenger acknowledgments particularly in infotainment, which is why it's the van we'd opt for.