The Europeans have been fans of small cargo vans like the Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van 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 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 1,890 pounds of payload capacity. Competitors 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 has been left almost entirely untouched for the 2021 model year. On the Tradesman, customers can now spec more attractive aluminum wheels as well as fog lights. That's as far as the new updates go so if you don't need these features, a second-hand 2020 model is worth a look.
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The Ram ProMaster City is a simple but attractive vehicle with enough exterior 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 brake lights, while the SLT gets body-colored mirrors and fascias. On both models, fog lights are available. 16-inch steel wheels are standard across both variants (the SLT's steel wheels get full-painted covers, though) and each can be equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels.
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 shorter version of the Ford Transit Connect. However, the wheelbase is considerably longer by 17.6 inches (and 1.8 inches longer than the long-wheelbase version of the Ford), for a final figure of 122.4. Ground clearance measures 5.2 inches while curb weight comes in at just below 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. In our Ram ProMaster City review, we found that 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 1,890 lbs or tow up to 2,000 lbs, which puts it high up 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 2021 Ram 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 up to 25 mpg when running on regular gas, 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 Passenger Wagon which we review separately or, perhaps, a more comfortable minivan. 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 area length 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 an excellent cargo bay with a volume of 131.7 cubic feet, in which you can carry items with a mass of up to 1,890 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 not what can be described as class-leading.
The 2021 Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van has been recalled once for an issue where there could be internal damage to the ABS module. Of course, this can negatively affect braking performance. This same issue affected certain 2020 models. However, reliability otherwise appears to be good.
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 rust perforation warranty that runs for five years regardless of miles covered.
Commercial vehicles are generally not rated by the IIHS or the NHTSA, and the Ram ProMaster is no different - it has yet to be sent for crash reviews to either of these safety agencies. However, the most essential safety features come standard, with a rearview camera, a suite of 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. Unfortunately, driver-assist technologies like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning aren't available. This is a pity since many of these features are offered on the Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van.
Vans exist to do a job without needless complexity or unnecessary comfort features. That's exactly what the ProMaster 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 in the US, 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.
Prices don't change too much between the two trims. The price of the Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van begins at an MSRP of $24,730 for the Tradesman before a $1,595 destination charge. The SLT variant starts a little higher, at a cost of $26,380. Fully loaded with all available options, this model can cost over $32,000 in the USA.
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 at less than a 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. In the longer of the Ford's two configurations, cargo volume increases to a ProMaster City Cargo-beating 145.8 cubic feet (when the front passenger seat is folded). In addition, the Ford is more modern in that it offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as better handling and more safety features. 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, especially in city driving, but it doesn't have a tow rating as a result. Payload capacity is lower too, at 1,480 lbs versus the Ram's better specs of 1,890 lbs. For us, we'd rather have the Ram. It's more capable, more spacious, and simply more of a van.
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