by Deiondre van der Merwe
As the smallest van offered by Ram, the ProMaster City Wagon needs to pack a lot into a minor-league size vehicle. It manages to include the bare minimum in many aspects but does exceedingly well at being a frugal fuel-sipper. Not only does it save you money on gas, but it also keeps a couple of thousand dollars in your pocket compared to rivals like the Ford Transit Connect and the Mercedes-Benz Metris. It does well for its asking price, even if it's a little bare-bones in terms of convenience and tech. The wagon offers an admirable amount of space, but its pragmatic nature results in a functional, yet vapid experience that's further emphasized by its lackluster 2.4-liter engine, providing just enough power to get the job done, but not enough to excite.
As a carryover model from 2019, the 2020 model has no updates to speak of.
We wouldn't call this passenger van attractive, but it's not terrible, either. It's as interesting as an affordable passenger van can possibly manage, and halogen headlights flank the Ram grille and ensure that the lunch tin is visible from a distance. Daytime running lights are optional on both trims, and SLT models get black body side moldings with color-coded bumpers. The rear features 180-degree opening doors and the van sits on a standard set of 16-inch wheels.
The Ram is slightly smaller than both the Mercedes-Benz Metris and the Ford Transit Connect. Total length measures at 187.5 inches and the wheelbase is 122.4-inches, this lineup doesn't offer any extended wheelbase options. The van stands 74 inches tall and an overall body width of 84.6 inches including mirrors means it's rather slim for the segment. Both trim levels share a curb weight of 3,509 pounds.
A total of seven exterior paint options are available for the Ram, and two of these are standard. While the other five are nice enough, we don't see the average shopper splashing out the extra $200 for them given that this vehicle is of a utilitarian nature. The two no-cost options include Bright White and Bright Red and our personal favorite would be the last one, but most hauler-focused shoppers will end up choosing Bright White. The five metallic hues are inclusive of Deep Red, Blue Night, Silver, Quartz Gray, and Black.
The capable 2.4-liter engine found in the Ram provides enough steady power to haul its occupants around without running out of breath, and performs sufficiently when fully-loaded. The ProMaster can't lay claim to real athleticism, which is to be expected from an entry-level van, and it becomes slightly sluggish when passengers bring their luggage along for the ride. Only one drivetrain is available, and both trim levels drive power to the front wheels. A maximum towing capacity of 1,914 pounds is offered by the ProMaster City Wagon, and the wagon manages a payload capacity of 1,760 pounds when properly equipped. You can expect to get to 60 mph in around ten seconds according to independent testing, which is adequate for an affordable carryall. You could fling a small toaster across the kitchen much faster, but it can't carry five human beings the way this big one can, so it's about picking your battles. The Mercedes-Benz Metris outshines the Ram in terms of power, but also comes with a debt-inducing price tag. The ProMaster City manages to best the Ford Transit's power offering, even if only by a small margin.
The beast of burden is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that manages power outputs of 178 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, Ram also has enough confidence in the engine to call it a "Tigershark", but the engine is as threatening as a ladybug. It falls behind the Mercedes-Benz Metris' 208 hp and 258 lb-ft, but manages to be ahead of the Ford Transit Connect's 150 hp and 144 lb-ft in base form. The Ford does a 2.5-liter unit available that develops 169 hp and 171 lb-ft. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard for the van, though only eight of those gears are truly used thanks to its schmaltzy attitude. Navigating gears smoothly is a challenge for the ZF-sourced transmission, and though it wouldn't be the bane of one's existence, it's subpar at best. Low-end acceleration is good enough for trips around town, and merging on the highway is a relatively easy task. Attempting to overtake other cars on the highway with five occupants inside is slightly more difficult at higher speeds, but the van will manage.
Essentially a very large Tupperware container on wheels, pushing the Ram around a corner at an eager speed will result in some wobble, but if you keep to a reasonable pace when tackling the bends, it'll fare just fine. The cornering motto of the Ram ProMaster City wagon is "thou shalt lean, and roll we shall," but other than that, the van isn't all that bad. Putting the maximum number of passengers inside results in a lower center of gravity and mitigates the floaty feeling one experiences when it's a one-man affair. Steering is a mixed bag, and it allows for enough maneuverability for a quick trip around the city, which is what it was made for, to be fair. You're just not likely to know much about what the wheels are doing, thanks to pretty much no resistance and very little response. What it does accomplish, though, is a comfortable ride compared to a select few rivals and less engine noise making it into the cabin than expected.
Choosing your ideal passenger van is all about finding the right balance, and while the ProMaster City Wagon may seem a little on the slow side, it's reserved when it comes to fuel economy. In fact, it delivers EPA estimates of 21/28/24 mpg. These figures are far better than the Mercedes-Benz Metris' offering of 19/23/21 mpg, but falls behind the Ford Transit Connect's 24/29/26 mpg. When its 16.1-gallon fuel tank is at full capacity, the Ram offers just over 380 miles of range.
Discounted practicality is the main focus of the ProMaster City's cabin environment, and it actually does rather well for the segment in terms of its interior proposal. While the features list doesn't read long, the ones that are included are useful and easy to use and locate. The van delivers everything you'd expect from a vehicle in the segment, and space is abundant whether you're the driver or a passenger. Ram took a no-fuss approach to the ProMaster City's infotainment system, though it can be upgraded for a slightly better suite of features. It lacks the likes of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but offers a list of features that can be lived with.
A merit for the van would be its comfortable seats, though no hint of luxury is present. The lack of adjustability for the driver's seat is a slight let-down on the base model, but lumbar support is added to the SLT trim along with manually-adjustable height. Heated front seats with manually-adjustable lumbar support are optionally available for the SLT trim, and the addition of premium vinyl-clad bucket seats can be opted for on both trim levels. The Ram's interior seating space falls considerably behind the Metris and slightly behind the Ford Transit. Ingress and egress into the five-seater are relatively easy feats thanks to wide door openings and the right height.
As expected, the entire cabin is brought to life via economical cloth and hard plastics, but the Ram is no worse off than most rivals, although products from Mercedes and Ford justify the increase in price with nicer materials in general. While the materials used for the inside may not be luxurious, they are durable and functional, making it easier for the van to do what it was intended for. Yet another reason to be forgiving of the discounted materials would be that they're solid and dependable, so comfort and safety are bolstered. Black is the only color choice available for the cloth upholstery that comes standard on both trims, but vinyl upholstery can be had for an additional cost of $325 on the SLT trim.
Thanks to its maximum capacity of five passengers, the Ram offers a more than manageable amount of space behind the back seats. 74.1 cubic feet of real estate is on offer by the rearmost part of the van, and that's more than enough space to accommodate a large suitcase for every occupant if all five of them were going on a two-week holiday. If you run into a situation where extra space is needed, the rear seats fold down to allow a total cargo capacity of 101.7 cubes which surpasses the Metris. The cargo bay allows for items with a maximum height of 48.7 inches and a maximum width of 57.6 inches. Front occupants enjoy a decent amount of in-cabin storage thanks to a cavernous glovebox and a larger than average tray in the dashboard. Deep door pockets in the front allow for even more space, and an overhead storage compartment accommodates larger items, too.
A rudimentary suite of features accompanies the ProMaster City, which doesn't come as much of a surprise given the main focus of the van is of a utilitarian nature. Keyless entry grants access to the inside of the van, and a multifunction tilt and telescopic steering wheel and a manually-adjustable driver's seat. Manual air conditioning is standard, along with two 12-volt power outlets. The SLT only adds a minimal number of extra features and these include front seats with manually-adjustable height and lumbar support, and a privacy window. Also added to the list is cruise control along with an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Heated front seats are optional along with two-way adjustable lumbar support and rear park distance control. Standard safety features are inclusive of a rearview camera, brake assist, electronic stability control, hill start assist, and trailer-sway damping.
Only core tech features make their way into the ProMaster City, though slight upgrades can be made if you need a little more from the van. A five-inch touchscreen is standard, and it enables audio through a four-speaker sound system. The infotainment system only enables audio through Bluetooth streaming or via the USB port. Opting for the navigation system adds $525 to the final asking price and SiriusXM is additionally available for an additional cost of $195. Ram Telematics can be opted for if you've purchased the van as a fleet vehicle and want real-time data about its location, productivity or fuel consumption. Neither of the trim levels allow for smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The 2020 model has not suffered any recalls thus far, and the 2019 model hasn't been the victim of any recalls either. Ram offers a basic warranty for three years or 36,000 miles along with a drivetrain and corrosion warranty that is valid for either five years or 60,000 miles and roadside assistance is valid for the same time period.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA have rated the 2020 Ram ProMaster City for safety.
Only the most fundamental safety features make it onto the ProMaster City, and these include a rearview camera and a seven-way airbag system that includes a driver knee, front, front side and side curtain airbags. Also standard on the van is hill start assist, brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, and trailer-sway damping. Not much is made additionally available and the only standalone option is rear park-assist.
The key point to consider when deciding if the ProMaster City is a good passenger van or not, is its affordable price tag. Ram's smallest van offering does extremely well in terms of space and bests its rival from Merc in both seating space and cargo space considerations. It delivers impressive fuel economy figures that beat both of its mentioned rivals, and though not the most attractive, the interior offers more comfort than a few rivals in the segment. A few of its downfalls would be its clumsy transmission and the engine's penchant for underperforming on the highway. When we consider performance, it's nowhere near as refined as the Ford Transit Connect, even if it's more powerful. Another flaw of the van would be its bare-bones suite of safety features, given that it's targeted at buyers who aim to carry multiple passengers at any given time. Also diminutive is its list of standard features, but at the risk of sounding repetitive, the price tag must yet again be considered when we're evaluating standard-fitted indulgences. If you're willing to skimp on tech and safety features in the name of frugality, this is the passenger van for you, but rivals offer a lot more for a small price increase.
One thing the ProMaster City does well is its pricing strategy, and you can own Ram's smallest passenger van at entry-level for the price of $26,330. Moving up one trim will result in a higher MSRP thanks to a few added features and the final asking price of the top-level SLT trim is $27,930. A hefty $1,595 destination and handling fee is applicable to your purchase of a 2020 ProMaster City.
Two trim levels make up the 2020 Ram ProMaster City passenger wagon lineup and they are the base trim and the SLT trim. One engine comes as standard on both models, which is a 2.4-liter four-pot and it drives power to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard across the range, and no AWD option is available.
Standard exterior features at base-level are inclusive of halogen lighting and 16-inch wheels. Convenience features include keyless entry, a multifunction tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and a manually-adjustable driver's seat. Basic air conditioning is standard, and the SLT trim adds the likes of height adjustment and lumbar support to the front seats as well as cruise control and a privacy window. A five-inch touchscreen enables Bluetooth streaming and one USB port is standard, but SiriusXM is optionally available. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are absent altogether.
The standard safety features suite makes way for a rearview camera, hill start assist, ABS and trailer-sway damping, while the rear park-assist system is optional.
Plenty of packages are made available by Ram for the ProMaster City, and the most notable one is available for the SLT only. The $575 Popular Equipment Group that adds heated front seats, a six-speaker sound system, and sliding doors for driver and passenger. For the exterior, the Lights and Wheels Package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and adds center wheel caps for $575. This package is also exclusively available for the SLT. Roof rails can also be added for an additional $315 along with rear parking sensors for $345. A Class 3 hitch and four and seven wiring harness can be had for an additional $495.
Given that there's such a small price difference between the base model and the top trim, you may as well just opt for the SLT trim. It adds valuable extra features like cruise control and front seats that are more adjustable than the ones found on the base trim. We'd opt for the Popular Equipment Group as it adds a six-speaker sound system and heated front seats as well as sliding doors for passenger and driver. Rear parking sensors should also be opted for to bolster the safety suite. This build will cost you under $31k, with a nice exterior color and navigation thrown in.
To start with, the Ford has a less powerful engine than the Ram at base level, and given that it's heavier, it stands to reason it'd be noticeably slower. What the Transit does manage to do, though, is offer a much better suite of technology and safety features, so power may not be everything and if you need the extra power, Ford makes a 2.5-liter engine optionally available that improves outputs slightly. The blue oval badge makes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available and offers blind-spot monitoring and lane keep assist to bolster safety features significantly, something the Ram wagon is missing. Notably, the Ford offers better fuel economy figures and more space, but the second advantage doesn't really count considering that the Transit is available in an extended wheelbase version. Though the Ram may be slightly more affordable, the Ford is worth the extra thousand dollars or so.
Nearly $17,000 separates the prices of the ProMaster City and the Sprinter, and the only thing these two have in common is that they're both passenger vans. The Sprinter offers more power from its engine and a whole lot more space thanks to its bigger size. The two are worlds apart when we consider the inside, given that the Sprinter offers a far better infotainment system that enables features like smartphone integration and SiriusXM, and while the inside may not be the lushest, it's an improvement by leaps and bounds compared to the ProMaster. The Merc does everything better, and with more comfort and less discount. This is to be expected though, especially when we consider the large price hike over the Ram. If you have some extra money lying around, then go for the Merc, but we're willing to bet you're looking at the Ram due to budget constraints.