Ram ProMaster City to take aim at Ford Transit Connect

The ProMaster City's headlights and taillamps sit high to avoid damage. Large wraparound front and rear bumpers are intended to absorb low-speed bumps with minimal damage.

CHELSEA, Mich. -- When it arrives in dealerships early next year, the 2015 Ram ProMaster City will give Chrysler Group dealers a small commercial van to compete with the Ford Transit Connect.

The 2015 ProMaster City is based on the Fiat Doblo but designed for North America.

The front-wheel-drive vehicle will be powered by the same 2.4-liter inline-four engine and nine-speed transmission used in versions of the Chrysler 200 sedan and Jeep Cherokee. Instead of inexpensive leaf springs, it has a coil-link rear suspension to improve driving dynamics.

The compact commercial van is intended primarily as an urban delivery or service vehicle, similar to the Transit Connect.

ProMaster City “allows us to compete in the [small] van segment with a true commercial van,” said Bob Hegbloom, director of the Ram brand. Hegbloom said there are over 1.3 million Fiat Doblos worldwide, meaning efforts to adapt it to North America used a “platform that’s been proven in the marketplace.”

There are two cargo versions of the Transit Connect. The long-wheel-base version starts at $23,995, including shipping. In 2013, Ford sold 39,703 Transit Connects in the United States, while Nissan sold 4,619 of its new NV200 compact vans, which went on sale in March 2013.

The ProMaster City, manufactured in Turkey, will come in two basic configurations: a two-seater for cargo and a five-seater for passengers.

Like the larger Fiat Ducato-based ProMaster, the ProMaster City’s headlights and taillamps sit high to avoid damage. Large wraparound front and rear bumpers are intended to absorb low-speed bumps with minimal damage.

The van’s rear doors open in a 60/40 split to ease loading and unloading.

The van’s interior comes in either black or gray, with cloth seats. The shifter is mounted below the radio and climate controls in the center stack.

An available Uconnect entertainment system features a 5-inch screen, satellite radio and navigation, as well as Bluetooth connectivity and a backup camera. Designers added a large flat bin atop the center stack and a recessed shelf above the glove box.

In its cargo area, the ProMaster City has 48.4 inches of room between its wheel wells, allowing space for pallets or 4-foot sheets of plywood. Above the wheel wells, width increases to more than 60 inches.

The cargo area has nearly vertical walls and about 52 inches of interior height to accommodate storage racks. There is more than 7 feet of room between the rear doors and the back of the front seats in the cargo version.

Ram says the ProMaster City has cargo capacity of 131.7 cubic feet as measured under an SAE International standard. Payload capacity is 1,883 pounds. The floor has six recessed tie-down clips to secure loads.

Neither fuel economy ratings, curb weight nor pricing were released. The ProMaster City is expected to be in dealerships in the first quarter of 2015.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett



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