With strong competitors jostling for position in the compact van segment, the 2015 Ram ProMaster City looks to edge out the Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200, and the Nissan’s Chevrolet City Express twin. At Chrysler’s new products event at its Chelsea, Michigan, proving grounds, we heard from Ram’s top execs about what to expect from the 2015 Ram ProMaster City.
Although the Ram ProMaster City doesn’t arrive in the U.S. for roughly six months, the van has seen plenty of time out on European roads as the Fiat Doblo. “This platform is a proven performer,” Ram CEO and President Reid Bigland said at the vehicle’s unveiling. Still, there were a few minor changes that the ProMaster City underwent to meet U.S. specifications.
“Rougher road conditions in the U.S. mean the vehicle’s coil springs, spring rate, and ride height were all beefed up,” Mike Cairns, head of Ram engineering told Automobile. “We also slightly reinforced the vehicle for side impact collisions. Pedestrian safety wasn’t as big of a deal, because nobody walks here in the U.S.”
Because the 2015 Ram ProMaster City is targeting at small business owners in urban areas, Ram focused on making its commercial van inexpensive to own and maintain. One significant change was made on the front end, where the headlights moved above the bumper. Low-speed collisions on the front bumper are bound to happen in the city, but keeping the headlights clear of impact helps keep repair costs down. Also crucial to low ownership costs is fuel efficiency, and although the EPA won’t evaluate the ProMaster City until later this summer, Ram is eyeing best-in-class fuel economy. Currently, the Nissan NV200 gets 24/25 mpg (city/highway) while the Ford Transit Connect achieves 22/30 mpg.
For the U.S., the 2015 Ram ProMaster City can be ordered in either five-seat passenger wagon form or two-seat cargo van form. Both versions come equipped with a 178-hp 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine making 174 lb-ft of torque, mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission.
While one of the Fiat Doblo’s diesel engines could help with fuel economy and provide ample low-end torque for comfortable city driving, there are no plans to bring it here just yet. “The 2.0-liter diesel with the manual [transmission] is one of our favorites, and it’s surprisingly fun to drive,” said Cairns, “It just doesn’t make sense for demand reasons.” Down the road, however, a 2.0-liter diesel with an automatic transmission is possible, “if volumes are good enough.”
Ram also sees a lot of potential for the 2015 Ram ProMaster City to be used in taxi service, given its relatively nimble driving character and ample 4 feet of luggage space behind the rear seats. We’ll have to wait and see until we drive it ourselves, but Ram says that the compact van drives more like a passenger car than the larger, more truck-like ProMaster van. Given how similarly the Ford Transit Connect drives to the Ford Focus on which it is based, the bar is already fairly high. Check back for fuel economy and pricing details leading up to the car’s debut.