Many beasts rival and even exceed man’s ability in instinctive intelligence or physical strength.
But no animal has mastered using tools to accomplish tasks their paws, flippers or arms cannot complete.
On that note, the right tool for the job can be the difference between hours of back-breaking labor vs minutes of snap-complete solutions.
In a similar way, using a full-size truck all the time can feel a bit like using a sledge-hammer to fix a pair of eyeglasses. To do the job right, you need a wieldy and precision set of tools that are far more specialized.
Getting the job done is only half the battle in the work-van business. Using a right-sized tool for the trade can be the difference between profit and loss for a one-man shop all the way to a massive commercial fleet.
Such a revolution in productivity is coming to the work-van segment. Re-established in the US market by the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200, the compact-van segment has two new players for 2015: the Chevy City Express and the Ram ProMaster City. All share a similar template of efficient front-drive platforms, powered by four-cylinder engines to deliver productive, profitable work trucks.
In this new segment of commercial vehicle, the right size tools for the trade are more nimble, more affordable and more comfortable than ever before.
Great in theory — but how about in the real world?
How did the ProMaster City stack up in a week of testing?
Read on to find out!
Headings are the normal Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary — with a bonus HD drive video directly below.
HD Drive Review
Among the buying criteria for work-vans, style is typically near the bottom of the ranker. Functional, useful designs are the best possible option.
Despite this, the Ram ProMaster City is actually pretty handsome. A retro-fitted Ram crosshair grille is about the only forced aspect of the design. The rest of the PMC (ProMaster City…) feels fairly organic to its purpose of being the largest, most-useful compact work van.
The nose has a short overhang with a bottlenose style to the hood and bumper surfacing. The rounded aesthetic helps the PMC feel as modern as it is, while making slight nods to its Ram branding.
The SLT Cargo test model is the upgraded trim level from the base Cargo model: including painted bumpers, alloy wheels and the optional foglamps. Rough-wearing black plastic rub strips on the doors and rear load bumper help keep the PMC safe from nicks and scratches, which can be a big issue for hard-working trucks.
In profile, the PMC has a real modern flair in its surfacing. The rising beltline of the painted window blanks is fairly tasteful, as its the contrast-black of the A-pillar and the extra-large windshield glass.
This SLT Cargo ProMaster City has the optional Towing group and the Roof Rack group — both of which are well worthwhile for their added usefulness on job sites.
In back, twin swing-out doors have a standard 90-degree opening detente in the hinges, but can be flipped free to open a useful 220-degrees. Handily, even when the hinges are in wide mode, the doors can be slammed shut without an extra hinge fiddle.
Inside, the Ram ProMaster City is a comfortable and well-equipped mobile office.
Fully adjustable seats and a fantastic, leather-wrapped steering wheel have little Euro quirkiness in their adjustments, and all the controls and switchgear have been thoroughly overhauled for US duty.
At times, Euro-imports like this and the Ford Transit Connect can have funky seat controls, odd lighting and wiper controls, and myriad other oddities that make you aware of the car’s home-country.
In the case of the Ram PMC, you can tell that Chrysler has worked really, really hard to make the PMC as easy to use inside as any standard Dodge or Ram truck.
The SLT Cargo upgrade of the trim here brings a five-inch Uconnect touchscreen with SiriusXM, TomTom navigation and USB inputs. An aux-in cable jack is also present for easy phone/media hookups, while dual 12-volt power outlets are mounted in the center console.
Roominess is a non-issue in the front cabin leg and headroom.
Where the Ram PMC feels small is in the lack of a center console for files and misc pocket junk. Armrests are attached to the seats, so comfort is good. But you will be rubbing shoulders with the front passenger during winter-coat season.
To make up for the lack of center console, there are storage cubbies almost everywhere else. The doors, dash-top and glovebox are all large and ready to hold phones and chargers easily. Above your head, there is a giant storage area that runs the width of the van and is deep enough for standard file folders.
In back, the load bay is a gigantic 130-plus cubic-feet. Payload and total cargo space in back are best-in-class —- and pre-configured for numerous storage solutions.
The load bay of this SLT Cargo has cargo hooks built in and a plastic liner as well. The liner is fairly easily scratched, by dog nails in our case. But not a big deal and not impacting capability.
The flip-side of some European van converts having weird cabins is that they can, at times, be pretty fun to drive. As the Ram PMC washes all quirks away for its US duties, it also loses most of the fun-driving character in its translation from Fiat Doblo to Ram PMC.
This is not a bad thing, really, just something to be aware of.
Besides the smooth and comfy suspension tune, the Ram PMC is actually a technological tour de force. Its 2.4-liter four is the very-modern Tigershark II unit, paired with a class-exclusive nine-speed automatic. This transmission should, ideally, improve sprint performance as well as overall efficiency.
In this Ram PMC tune, the engine and transmission combo are heavily focused on comfort and efficiency. Not much in the way of big power on full throttle. As you can watch in the video above, the Ram PMC shuffles up its gear range smoothly and quietly — but not exactly quickly.
One place the Ram PMC really scores from its Euro roots is high-speed stability. Unlike almost any other work-van, the Ram PMC is rock-solid and stable at highway speeds. It is eager and willing to cruise happily at 80-mph-plus.
There is one down-side we noted in urban driving: the turning circle of the Ram PMC is not very tight.
On the plus side, the nine-speed is able to tow 2000 pounds without denting reliability. The Nissan NV200 and Chevrolet City Express with their CVT automatics are generally not tow-ready.
The Ram PMC is priced from just above $24,500 for the SLT Cargo model here. A base price of $23,000 gets you in the door of the base Cargo model, while both trim levels are offered in a Wagon configuration with second-row windows and seating. Still a work truck, but with more seating.
With the options as tested, the Ram PMC is out the door at around $27,000 and feels well worth it for its 25-mpg efficiency combined with haul-it-all space and payload. The official 21-mpg city and 29-mpg highway ratings feel very do-able in the Ram ProMaster City.
Huge, easy and super smooth at all speeds?
The Ram ProMaster Cargo has not just been translated to US needs. This is a thorough interpretation of US needs, and adaption of the hard-working Fiat Doblo base to suit buyer needs.
The all-new engine and transmission setup is the most advanced in the work-van segment, while the ease of use and tech features are also class-leading at these prices. The Chevy and Nissan cannot compare with this tech suite of Uconnect in the SLT models, and to have a Ford Transit Connect with sat-nav costs at least $3,000 more than this Ram PMC.
So will the Ram PMC be the right tool for getting your crew’s jobs done on-time and on-budget? For everything that does not require heavy hauling abilities, the ProMaster City is best toolkit for profitable, safe and efficient work-van jobbers.
It might even be smart enough to elevate man a few more notches above nature’s animals…!
Check out the colors and custom options for the ProMaster City over at Ram.com
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.