by Adam Lynton
Smaller than the Ram ProMaster, the City variant still offers a lot of versatility and functionality. For a small van, it is still eminently spacious inside and presents buyers with an impressive amount of cargo space. Only five seats are available within the van, while the more customizable Ford Transit Connect can seat up to seven. The Ram van is also less technically advanced. But, its engine is slightly stronger than the base engine in most rivals, developing 187 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. With a similar price tag and fuel economy to leading segment rivals, the ProMaster is worth considering if you need to move both people and cargo around town.
No mechanical changes have been made for the new year, but the exterior has seen some minor touch-ups. The most notable changes are those to the grille, which has been redesigned to integrate the Ram-themed grille that is present on the manufacturer's pickup truck line.
The exterior of the van isn't overly impressive, with a short, stubby nose and a long tall body. The grille on the front is short and slim, with broad halogen headlights mounted above. Resting low on the edges of the bumper are the optional fog lights. Said bumper is black on the base Passenger Wagon trim, and body-colored on the SLT variant. The rear doors are hinged with glass panels and there are sliding doors on either side of the van for passengers. It rides on 16-inch wheels as standard, with optional roof racks and rails available.
While not as big as a full-size van, the city wagon is still quite large, measuring in at 187.1 inches long and a teetering 74.2 inches high. The wheelbase is similarly long at 122.4 inches, although no alternative wheelbases are offered like they are with similar vans. It's relatively slim, however, at 84.6 inches wide with mirrors. The van also doesn't weigh too much, with a total curb weight of only 3,635 lbs for the top SLT trim.
Eight colors comprise the palette for the ProMaster City, with Bright White, Broom Yellow, and Bright Red coming standard. For an added $200, you get access to the metallic palette, which includes Black, Quartz Grey, Silver, Blue Night, and Deep Red.
With a 178-hp four-cylinder engine under the hood, the passenger wagon performs quite well. It isn't athletic, but that's to be expected from a tall, bulky vehicle designed to move larger groups of people and cargo around town in a timely and safe fashion. To this end, the ProMaster has enough power, especially if all you're moving is people. When fully laden with five people and their luggage, the powertrain strains a little more. Ram predicts that the passenger wagon can get up to 30 mph from a standstill in 3.7 seconds, while independent testing has shown that it takes around ten seconds to cross the 60 mph threshold. While not specifically designed for towing heavy loads, there are packages available to maximize the Ram's capabilities. Its maximum towing capacity is 1,867 lbs.
Powering the passenger van is a 2.4-liter Tigershark inline four-cylinder engine, which develops 178 hp and 174 lb-ft for the front wheels only. No all-wheel-drive option is offered, although that is quite normal for passenger vans. Rowing the gears for the Ram is a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The powertrain supplies enough pep to get the hefty van around town, but it expects you to drive with some reservation. You will have enough low-end acceleration to get up to a comfortable town cruising speed relatively quickly, but if you want to go any faster, you will have to wait a bit. Merging on the highway will require you to be aware of your surroundings, and passing is not advised with a full load.
This is a box on wheels, a particularly tall one at that, and it handles as such. Going around bends will require you to slow to a crawl, as there will be a lot of lean and roll involved. Packing the van with people and cargo lowers its center of gravity considerably, giving it a more grounded feel on the road. But, then, you will need to drive even more cautiously, as the ProMaster isn't exactly flush with advanced safety tech.
The steering centers well, but it's weighted for town driving. Don't expect much resistance, nor any communication about what the wheels are doing. It does allow for relatively nimble maneuvering around town though, where this small van thrives. The brakes are strong enough to stop the weighty vehicle well in emergency situations, but you should never be going fast enough to really put them to the test.
The seats could be more comfortable, but this is a passenger wagon, not a limousine. They are fit for purpose and work in tandem with the slightly stiff suspension to keep most road disruptions out of the cabin. Wind noise is well managed but road noise can intrude a bit. The engine isn't overly aggressive, so it keeps to itself, for the most part.
While the engine under the hood of the ProMaster City may be slightly stronger than that found in similar smaller vans like the Ford Transit Connect, it manages to remain competitive on the mileage front. The Ram van is capable of achieving an EPA-estimated 21/28/24 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. This combined fuel economy is only one mpg less than the Transit with its base engine. With 16 gallons of fuel on reserve inside the tank, the ProMaster is capable of covering up to 384 miles between gas-station visits.
The interior of the van fits what you'd expect from a vehicle designed to move people efficiently and smoothly. It is spacious and easy to maneuver in, but it doesn't focus too much on exorbitant luxury or excessive convenience. The seats are comfortable with plenty of head- and leg-room, but they are upholstered in basic cloth and offer very little adjustability. The list of features is quite sparse, but the controls are laid out for easy access. The standard infotainment system can be upgraded for better coverage, but it never offers the modern conveniences of smartphone integration or Wi-Fi. Overall, the interior is all about utility, and little more.
Without customization, the ProMaster seats five passengers. This number can be reduced down to two seats in the front, if you so desire, but then you may as well opt for the cargo van. The seats are comfortable enough, but by no means luxurious. The adjustability of the driver's seat is extremely basic on the Passenger Wagon entry-level trim, with manual height adjustment and lumbar support being provided on the SLT. Regardless, headroom is good all around, although legroom is a little less generous in the back than we'd prefer in a passenger van. Despite the poor adjustability of the seats, forward visibility is good and rear visibility is manageable with the rearview camera, although the optional rear parking sensors are highly recommended.
The interior makes no show of being more than it is. Built for durability and functionality, the dash and door panels are lined with hard plastics, while the hard metal floor is lined with carpets by Mopar. As standard, the seats are upholstered in basic cloth, while premium cloth comes with the SLT trim. Premium vinyl is also available at an additional cost. The color palette for the interior is uncompromising, with black being the only option. The patterning on the seats does provide a little embellishment to otherwise bland decor. On the plus side, the van boasts superior build quality, to ensure comfort and safety.
There is a surprisingly large cargo area behind the rear seats, as the van only seats five. This leaves a total of 74.1 cubic feet of space for luggage, wheelchairs, or other large items. The mini cargo bay can accommodate items of up to 48.7 inches in height, while the maximum width between the panels is 57.6 inches. If this still isn't enough room for whatever you need to transport, then the rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split to increase the total area to 101.7 cubic feet. However, if this is going to be a regular occurrence, you may want to consider the cargo van derivative, which offers a further 30 cubic feet in this configuration.
Small-item storage is equally generous, at least for those up front. The glove box is larger than average, and the driver gets a large storage tray of their own. There are two cup holders in the center console and a large storage bin in the dashboard. An overhead storage compartment is present in the front of the cabin, as well, allowing all passengers to stow their larger items.
Favoring utility over frivolous comforts, the ProMaster comes sparsely equipped straight out of the factory. Standard features comprise cloth upholstered seats, basic air conditioning, keyless entry, power front windows, two 12-volt power outlets, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a rearview camera, and an overhead storage bin. Moving up a trim level sees the addition of upgraded cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver's seat with manual lumbar settings, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, and privacy glass. Available add-ons include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and rear parking assist.
The infotainment suite on the Ram passenger wagon is absolutely bare-bones, comprising only a five-inch touchscreen interface and a four-speaker sound system. This suite comes standard with AM/FM radio, while you can play your personal playlist via the USB port or the Bluetooth interactivity. No smartphone integration is available at any level. SiriusXM, navigation, and an additional two speakers are available as part of the optional packages.
The ProMaster has not been independently rated for dependability, but there have been very few recorded complaints. The vehicle has only been subject to a few recalls. In 2019, it was recalled because the fire extinguisher may not function correctly, and because the seatbacks may not remain upright during a crash. Ram offers a 36,000-mile/36-month basic warranty, while the powertrain warranty and roadside assistance are valid for 60,000 miles/60 months.
The passenger wagon has not been rated for crash-testing by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.
Standard safety features comprise ABS, traction and stability control, a rearview camera, and seven airbags: front, driver knee, front side, and side curtain. A rear parking assist system is available as an optional add-on.
The compact van market may not be particularly crowded, but it is highly competitive, with each manufacturer trying to optimize the balance between form and function. This is particularly tricky when it comes to passenger vans, as people require at least a little more consideration than cargo. The Ram ProMaster does a pretty good job on this front, but it still leaves a lot to be desired, especially when compared to more refined rivals like the Ford Transit Connect. The Ram is extremely spacious inside, and since it only comes equipped with seating for five, a lot of space is left over for cargo, making it an ideal van for family trips or taxiing people who are likely to have plenty of luggage, such as tourists.
However, the van doesn't offer much in the way of modern amenities, with no smartphone integration, a lack of diverse charging ports, or even a CD player. And the four-speaker sound system is quite lackluster. On top of this, no advanced driver-assist or safety features come standard, and only rear parking assist is offered as an optional upgrade. For a vehicle designed to move people safely, this is a poor showing in the market.
On the plus side, the van is price-competitive and offers decent fuel economy. It also comes equipped with a stronger engine than most rivals, meaning you will get around town that much faster.
If you need to balance between people and cargo, and don't really need all the modern tech that a lot of buyers are starting to expect on a new purchase, then the Ram ProMaster might fit the bill for you. But, with a little customization, many vans offered by competitors can meet the same requirements without making so many sacrifices. Thus, it is hard to consider the Ram ProMaster as anything more than serviceable, and certainly not one of the better buys.
You can start hauling your passengers around town for as little as $26,195, though you may want to tweak the base vehicle with a few extra add-ons to suit your specific needs. The SLT trim adds a slightly more upscale interior with a handful of extra features, all for an extra $1,650. Again, you may want to customize the van a bit, but it's quite unlikely that you will need to pay more than $30,000 for the passenger van you desire. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, or Ram's $1,595 destination charge.
Two trims comprise the ProMaster City collection: the base Passenger Wagon and the Wagon SLT. Each model is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, producing 178 hp and 174 lb-ft, directed to the front wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive is not available.
The entry-point Passenger Wagon rides on 16-inch steel wheels and is equipped with halogen headlights. Standard features comprise keyless entry, air conditioning, and a rearview camera. The infotainment suite includes a five-inch Uconnect display and a four-speaker sound system. AM/FM Radio is available, while a USB port and Bluetooth open up more music choices.
A few more features are unlocked when you upgrade to the SLT. A height-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support and a leather-wrapped steering wheel give an added sense of comfort, while an auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control enhance the limited convenience features. Power-adjustable heated mirrors and body-colored bumpers are equipped to the exterior.
The features on the base Passenger Wagon, and even the higher-tier SLT, are quite limited. Luckily, several packages, and a host of standalone options are presented to help customize the van to meet your needs. Among the noteworthy packages is the Popular Equipment Group ($525) for the SLT, which comprises a six-speaker sound system, heated front seats, and sliding passenger doors with power windows. The Lights and Wheels Group ($575), also for the SLT, swaps out the steel wheels for alloys, and installs fog lights and wheel center caps. A few standalone options to consider are the roof rack rails ($315), a full-size spare tire ($250), or the rear parking sensors ($345). If you will be towing regularly, you may also want to consider the Trailer-Tow Group ($495), which add a four- and seven-pin wiring harness along with a Class III hitch platform.
With very little price difference between the two trim levels, there is little reason not to splurge and get the SLT. It may not add many extra features, but what it does add is welcome. The extra adjustability for the driver's seat is much-needed, and the upgraded cloth upholstery and leather-wrapped steering wheel add a sense of comfort to the spartan van. We also suggest adding the optional rear parking sensors for a little boost in confidence when parking the bulky van.
With a 162-hp four-cylinder as standard, the Ford Transit Connect is a little bit weaker than its Ram rival, and its slightly higher curb weight doesn't help it move any faster. However, it is moving faster than the ProMaster when it comes to updating its features. With available tech including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring, the Transit is leaps and bounds ahead of the old-fashioned Ram passenger wagon. And while the ProMaster may have more cargo capacity as standard, the Ford van can be configured with a long wheelbase that nullifies this advantage. It can also seat more with the longer body. With similar price tags and fuel efficiency, it's clear that the Ford Transit Connect is the more versatile passenger van.
Powered by the same engine and sporting the same dimensions, the only difference between the two vans is the interior. Where the City Passenger Wagon has five seats as standard, the Cargo only gets two. However, even with five seats, the Passenger Wagon supplies an impressive amount of cargo space: 74.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 101.7 cubic feet with the seats folded down. By comparison, the City Cargo delivers 131.7 cubic feet. So you need to ask yourself, is an extra 30 cubic feet of cargo space worth sacrificing the dual functionality of the Wagon? The same features are offered on both sets of vans, with even the trim levels sharing the same names. So unless you need every square inch of space you can get, it may be worth considering the City Passenger as a work van than can double up for family road trips or carpooling for soccer club.