2015 Dodge Ram ProMaster “City”

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Minivans started off as inexpensive, economical, hugely versatile alternatives to both cars and things a lot bigger. But today’s minivans are not-so-mini and rarely economical – either to buy or to drive. Some cost over $40,000 (the 2015 Chrysler Town & Country starts at $29,995) and all of them drink gas like Sam Kinison drank Jack Daniels.'15 PM lead

Which may explain the growing popularity of little jitney bus things like the Ford Transit Connect (first to market), the Nissan NV200 (second) and now the 2015 Dodge Ram ProMaster City.

If you check the stats, you’ll discover these units are about the same size, footprint-wise, as minivans used to be before they bloated up to automotive Oprah proportions – and much smaller (on the outside) than current minivans – but nearly as roomy (and much more versatile) on the inside due to their tall roofs and almost infinitely configurable cabins.

They’re also much less expensive. All three of the above start around $23k or less.

And they use a lot less gas.

So, it’s no wonder people who’ve noticed these useful – and cheap – vehicles are buying them in growing numbers and as an alternative to traditional (and no longer very mini) vans and expensive – and even more thirsty – SUVs.

WHAT IT IS'15 PM side view

The ProMaster City is a compact-sized/tall-roofed van that can be ordered to haul cargo and tools – or people – or both.

Like its main rivals – the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200 – the ProMaster is built on a car-type, front-wheel-drive chassis and is powered by a small, four-cylinder engine to deliver adequate A to B power and very good gas mileage.

All three can be ordered with spartan, bare-bones interiors (just a driver and front seat passenger seat with an empty metal box behind them to do what you want with) or with a second (and even a third) row of seats (and side windows) and be transformed into a jitney bus, minivan or even a small-scale RV.'15 PM top down

Base price for the ProMaster City is $23,130 vs. $22,330 for the the Ford Transit $20,720 for the Nissan NV, which is the least expensive of the lot.

On the other end of the scale, the ProMaster’s price tops out at $25,655 for a Tradesman SLT trim – vs. $29,185 for  Titanium-trimmed Transit.

The Nissan NV is still the least expensive, even in top of the line SV trim – just $21,700.

It’s also the most “commercial” of the three – offering fewer amenities and a more UPS experience overall.

WHAT’S NEW'15 PM silver side view

The ProMaster is the newest of the Small Three – at least, in the U.S. market. In Europe – home market for Fiat (which owns Chrysler and so, Ram trucks) the same basic vehicle is sold as the Doblo.


Highest payload rating of the three (1,883 lbs.)

Most cargo capacity of the three (131.7 cubic feet).

Strongest standard engine; standard nine-speed automatic transmission.

Independent/coil spring rear gives better ride/handling than leaf-sprung NV200.

Utilitarian – but not Soviet.


Ford Transit’s nicer, feels less Soviet.

Nissan NV200’s cheaper.

Nine speed automatic surges sometimes.


Thirty-something years ago, the first-generation of minivans – the ’84 Dodge Caravan being the archetype – were propelled by get-the-job-done four cylinder engines driving the front wheels.

It was sufficient – and that was plenty.

Same deal here.'15 PM engine 1

The PM and its rivals all come standard with four cylinder engines, all but one of them (the Ford Transit’s optional turbo four) being simple, boilerplate units meant to get you from A to B. Not necessarily quickly, but definitely efficiently.

Pop the PM’s hood and there it is: A transverse-mounted (this is a front-wheel-drive, car-based ride, remember – not a truck-based SUV) 2.4 liter unit that produces 178 hp. It’s not a lot of engine for a vehicle with a curb weight of 3,512 lbs. empty. But it gets the job done.

If, that is, the job is defined as capability – and relative to its rivals. The PM can haul more deadweight inside its cargo area; up to 1,833 pounds vs. 1,710 for the Ford and just 1,480 lbs. for the Nissan. The PM can also pull up to 2,000 lbs. – as much as the Transit Connect and 100 percent more than the Nissan NV200, which isn’t rated to tow anything at all.


But, understandably.'15 PM engine 2

The NV is the most under-engined of the bunch. Just 2.0 liters and a puny 131 hp to haul its 3,260 lbs. around. Asking that already over-taxed engine to pull something in addition to that would be Abu Ghraib level mechanical abuse and probably a warranty nightmare for Nissan, too.

However, the NV200 does deliver best-in-class city mileage: 24 MPG vs. 21 for the PM and the Transit Connect. Once moving at above stop-and-go speeds, however, both the Ford and the PM pull away, posting 29 MPG on the highway (vs. 26 for Nissan) which helps them score higher average numbers.

Acceleration is what you’d expect – adequate. Actually, it’s pretty good for a vehicle like this. One that weighs about the same as a current Camry sedan but has the aerodynamic slipperiness of two Camrys stacked on top of one another. The PM can make 60 MPH in just under 10 seconds, which for the record is quicker than a current Prius hybrid and in the same ballpark as many current-year compact economy cars.'15 PM hauling

And you can’t haul your motorcycle inside any of those.

The Ram’s 2.4 engine is paired up with a nine-speed automatic – vs. the six-speed automatic in the Ford and the CVT automatic in the Nissan. Fiat – which owns Chrysler (which owns Ram) – has been seeding this new box throughout the corporation’s offerings, including the new Chrysler 200 sedan and Jeep Cherokee, among others. This additional gearing is advantageous in terms of leverage – getting the vehicle up to speed with less energy (i.e., gasoline) required.

It is one of the reasons for the PM’s strong highway MPG number.


You don’t expect a pig to sing, so when it happens, it’s pretty impressive – even if it’s a little off-key.

The PM is like that in that it actually drives – even handles – not half-badly. Once you’re in it, it feels pretty much like a medium-small crossover wagon.'15 PM road 1

Better, in some ways.

The view ahead and to your immediate right and left, for instance, is exceptionally good because of the very large (and very tall) glass used for the windshield and door glass.

It’s not so great to your rear, of course – due to the “tunnel vision” of that big empty box behind you and the big “I” beam in between the rear glass. If you order rear glass. It’s not included with the base Cargo trim. Neither are windows for the sliding side doors. They’re also extra. But the side mirrors are big – and feature double mirrors, like an RV has – and for the same reasons. You learn to use – and rely – on them.

Relative to its rivals – and to cars, generally – the PM sits very low to the ground: 5.1 inches of clearance vs. 6.5 for the NV200 and 6.3 for the Ford. This confers two meaningful advantages. First, the center of mass is closer to the road and this noticeably decreases the top-heavy feeling that would otherwise almost certainly be an issue for a vehicle that stands 74 inches off the pavement (vs. 72.8 for the Ford and 73.7 for the Nissan). I’ve driven all three extensively in my home turf of rural SW Virginia – up in the Blue Ridge Mountains – where wind buffeting is an everyday thing. The PM is the least unsettled by sudden gusts of the three, despite being the tallest of the three – perhaps because it’s got less air gap under its skirts and that helps it maintain its footing.'15 PM road 2

It also makes it feel less industrial getting in and out. Step in height (21.5 inches) is car-like, not van (or truck) like.

Also not-industrial is the PM’s dashboard and general layout. Very car-crossover like.

Like the Transit’s.

Unlike the Nissan NV’s, which is very much a commercial space.

The PM’s standard nine-speed automatic keeps cruise RPM really low, too. At 60 on level terrain the engine will be turning just under 2,000 revs, which helps save fuel and also makes the thing feel (and sound) less busy. The top three gears are invisible in that you don’t really notice the transitions up and down – and even when you attempt to manually go up and down via “+” and “-” tapping of the gear selector, the computer mostly keeps you in whatever gear it decides is right for the situation. It won’t go up to 8th or 9th in manual mode, for example, if your speed isn’t high enough (to avoid lugging the engine) even though the display says you’ve moved to 8th or 9th.'15 PM 9 speed

One thing that Fiat-Chrysler needs to fine-tune a little is the transmission’s tendency to impart a sensation that the vehicle is surging forward when going downhill.  It jumps up a gear or two – when probably it ought to hold the gear it’s in, or even drop down one to provide an engine braking effect rather than an accelerating-without-touching-the-gas-pedal effect. I’ve noticed this same issue in other Fiat-Chryslers with the nine-speed box.

 It’s a little unnerving.

The engine is a strong point – literally.  It makes sufficient power (vs. the Nissan’s marginal power). The Ford is good on this score, too – but the PM noses ahead because of its greater cargo-hauling capacity.'15 PM chassis

The PM’s longer-than-rivals wheelbase (122.4 inches vs. 120.6 for the Ford and 115.2 for the NV200) is an inherent stability-enhancer and its independent rear suspension delivers an impressively smooth, controlled ride. Also noteworthy is the PM’s much tighter turning circle relative to its rivals: 36.3 feet vs. the Transit’s 40 feet.

The Nissan’s 36.7 feet is comparably tight but the rest of the vehicle is much clunkier and clumsier feeling. It’s the go-to one if you want the least expensive one of the bunch, but it’s a case of getting exactly what you pay for.

And, didn’t.

AT THE CURB'15 PM curb 1

Let’s put things in perspective – in proportion.

A 1984 Dodge Caravan was 175.9 inches long and rode on a 112.1 inch wheelbase. The 2015 Chrysler Town & Country – linear descendant of the ’84 Caravan –  is 202.8 inches long and rides on a 121.2 inch wheelbase.

It is huge – and it is expensive.

Thirsty, too (17 city, 25 highway).

Now the PM.

It’s only seven inches longer than the ’84 Caravan – and 15.3 inches shorter overall than the ’15 Town and Country. It’s also 6.6 inches narrow through the hips (72.1 inches vs. 78.7 for the ’15 T&C). The ’84 Caravan was, interestingly also just 72 inches wide – virtually  the same as the ’15 PM.'15 PM rear 1

Point being, the dimensions of this van are – with the exception of height – very close to those of the original/first-generation minivans. It is much more svelte than the dimensions of modern minivans like the T&C – which really ought to be be called vans at this point… not minivans.

Another commonality – already touched on – is the simple/functional/space-efficient layout. Despite it being a smaller package on the outside, the PM has nearly as much room inside as the much larger-on-the-outside T&C: 131.7 cubic feet vs. 143.8 for the not-so-mini van. And the PM arguably has more usable real estate because of its tall roof, low load height, dual outward swinging (and 60/40) rear doors (vs. the minivan’s one-piece upward folding liftgate). And, of course, the fact that it can be ordered with just two seats (drive and front seat passenger.'15 PM rear 2

Apples to apples-wise, the PM’s got more cargo capacity than the Transit (128.6 cubic feet) and the Nissan NV (122.7 cubic feet). But the main point is any of these is more in keeping with the idea behind the first-wave minivans of the early-mid 1980s than the current crop of not-so-mini (or cheap) vans.

The PM is less commercial in demeanor, design, cabin layout and general feel than than very bare-bones Nissan NV but not quite as   – well, luxurious may not be the right word – but something along those lines, relative to the Ford. Which can be ordered with stuff like a peppy turbocharged engine, adaptive headlights, heated leather seats, rains sensing wipers, a full-length panorama sunroof and a longer-wheelbase version with three rows of seats (PM offers just the one wheelbase and one or two-row seating layout).'15 PM dash 2

But, the PM can be ordered with a good stereo (with USB connector and very tactile knob inputs that have just the right amount of drag built into them to make precise, incremental adjustments every time) and a touch-screen GPS LCD screen.

It may not offer heated leather seats like the Transit, but the heater is excellent. Cranked to the hottest setting, it outs out air that feels almost warm enough to melt the plastic vents. That’s the ticket on an 18 degree day in a vehicle with a lot of interior volume (and much of it not insulated, if you order the basic Tradesman (cargo-hauling) trim.

The Ford is good on that score, too. But the Nissan NV is a cold-hearted bitch. Dress warm.     


One very cool – because useful – design aspect of the PM that is unique to the PM is the width between the rear wheel-well humps inside the box. It measures 48 inches, which just happens to be exactly the clearance you’d need if you wanted to slide a pallet in there. And with 51.8 inches of vertical (floor to ceiling) space, you can transport a motorcycle inside – out of the weather. And – trust me on this – it’s a lot easier to roll a bike into something like the PM than it is to push it up into a standard-sized van… much less a pick-up truck (and then your bike’s out in the weather, too).'15 PM cargo 3

The optional second-row is a tumble-forward/fold design similar in concept to what you’d find in a standard minivan like the current T&C. They’re easier to move out of the way than either the Ford or Nissan’s optional second row.    

One thing none of the vehicles in this segment have that they really ought to at least offer is a diesel engine option. Not only for MPG reasons but also to give ’em more grunt – more pulling and hauling capability.

And – guess what? Fiat offers not one or even two but four diesels in the essentially identical European-spec. Doblo (read here and weep). Euro buyers can select a 1.3 liter or 1.6 liter or either of two 2.0 liter oil-burners.

Equipped with the 1.3 “Multijet” diesel engine, the Doblo delivers 56.5 MPG on average.'15 PM last

But not for us – because U.S. regulatory rigmarole, especially regarding particulate emissions, is so expensive, so difficult to comply with, that most European manufacturers no longer even make the attempt.

Meanwhile, the politicos in DC bray about fuel efficiency… .


Any of these is a good choice for an economical to buy and operate hauler of stuff and of people. The PM’s the best choice, though, if you need to haul the most stuff (and fewer people).

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  1. Eric,
    Well written article. I’ve been researching these PM’s for about a month and toying with the idea of buying one. This article is pushing me a little more towards that direction. Any hesitations before buying one?

    • Hi Camo,


      The only hesitation I’d have is the long-term reliability of the nine-speed automatic. Now, as far as I know, there haven’t been any reliability issues with it so far. But it’s a complex unit and very “new.” I’m conservative as hell when it comes to equipment and like proven (and simpler) designs when I have the choice. I wish Fiat (we, Chrysler) would offer the PM with a conventional manual transmission.

      On the other hand, they have been selling this same basic vehicle in Europe for some time now and the track record indicates it’s a good (reliable) vehicle.

  2. Funny how a car model starts out small, then gets bigger over time, eventually with a new model that is considered *small* when it was the same size as the original!
    Corolla – Yaris, Sentra – Versa, Cavalier/Cobalt/Cruze – Spark, Focus – Festiva, Mazda3 – Mazda2.

  3. After years of being out of the market in Australia, Fiat has reentered the market with some fairly ugly cars. Any car with the Fiat name is just junk. They were in the 70s and from what I’ve heard nothing has changed. OTOH, the Lancias are much better cars to drive. Buying Italian can be worse than buying chinese junk.

  4. I have never for the life of me be able to understand the car industry’s penchant for gradually inflating their model line sizes.

    I recently rode in a friend’s car. When I looked at the tag I was shocked. It was a Nissan Sentra!

    “While previous Sentras were subcompact cars, the Sentra has grown over the years, and now the Nissan Versa has replaced the Sentra in the entry-level area… ”

    To me, this is a Sentra.


    • Bevin, back in ’09 we had a Sentra rental car while our Blazer was in the body shop via a trash truck that didn’t see it in the fog and rain(won’t find that often in Odessa, Tx.). It had a cab light that raised holy hell the entire time even with me spending a couple hours working on it while my wife drove. Everything about that car was noisy and obnoxious. A couple months ago we had another. It was much better but a long way from being a comfortable Texas car.

      A new friend from overseas recently commented we have a different way of expressing distance here. We don’t think in miles, just time. Oh, it’s about 4 hours away.

      I sometimes visit a friend who lives east of New Braunfels. It’s about a 7 hour drive with the hammer down and using I-10 with an 80mph PSL. When people speak of smaller cars, my eyes glaze over thinking about a point A to point B trip. I realize this would be a multi-state trip in the NE, a long trip for most. For us, it’s just down the road. But we hate to be out there for that distance with every rev and turn of the tire and small seats reminding us. I used to buy mid-size cars(rare did we have a car)that are now “luxury” size. We just looked at a couple new “cars” we can use. Fairly new Duramax one ton crew cab long bed 4WD pickups with black windows. We’ll use it to yank a gooseneck trailer with too. It wouldn’t fit on foreign roads for the most part. When in Rome…….

      • Dear 8sm,

        I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I think car makers should simply go ahead and introduce another larger, more deluxe model if they want to make their cars larger to meet market demand.

        If the smaller model lines are selling because they are too small for road conditions, just phase them out.

        I dunno. Just my 2 cents.

        • Bevin, I agree somewhat. Every year the automakers get as much feedback as possible from customers. A new model is all new everything so that’s expensive. Survey says: a little more room, a bit quieter and a tad more power(although power probably isn’t really what most people want but they’ll check that box anyway). They probably don’t even need to publish the figures for the designers except for an odd recurring complaint here and there.

          The sport segment is obviously a very small segment for most makers and since they basically know what people want every year, more room, quieter cars, they’ll just add a little insulation where it’s most effective and cheapest, bulge the whole car a bit and customers are saying how much nicer it is than the previous year. Almost everyone wants a larger car, they just don’t want to pay more money and don’t want added insurance costs or fuel costs. Nothing sells better than something for nothing and sometimes, that even happens even if rarely. I think most people know the next year model is going to be slightly more expensive since every other damned thing is so a few bucks more and a larger, quieter car and they’re happy enough to talk up that new model. And so it goes. Everybody would like that Mercedes feel and ride but don’t want to pay that much for a car.

          After several years of a growing car, that same model fits another niche and since it has a good rep, introduce a new model that’s smaller, lighters, cheaper etc. When models get long in the tooth, often a redesign is cheaper if they stick with the same type engines and trannies.

          I haven’t looked at Mitsu’s bottom line from when they tried too many new models in the same year. GM and Ford can get away with it but they don’t need to. The make the most profitable vehicles(light trucks) in numbers that assure their bottom line.

          • Dear 8sm,

            Yeah. I kinda see your point.

            It is fortunate that they make up for that gradually bloating policy by introducing new models at the bottom end to meet the needs of buyers who want really basic, no frills transportation.

            Actually, what the car makers do in response to the market is seldom too objectionable.

            The real problem arises when the government gets in the act, sometimes with car maker complicity, and rams all the mandated crap that Eric has rightly complained about so often.

    • Hi Bevin,

      Yup! Did you catch my review of the newest Mini Cooper? It’s getting less “mini” all the time!

      So, why does happen?

      Part of it is market demand; or rather (as in the case of Mini) to expand the appeal of a given model beyond its original target demographic, in the hope of “capturing” more buyers. Of course, the peril here is that you may alienate the original target demographic, which wanted the small car.

      • Dear Eric,

        Yes. I absolutely did catch your excellent article on the new Jumbo Shrimp “Maxi-Mini.”

        You nailed it. The key to the appeal of the Mini is its smallness, which has very real advantages, including nimbleness and ease of parking. There is even an aesthetic appeal to it smallness that is obviously lost once it is made bigger.

        You’d think they’d realize that. Especially since the car was named the MINI for a reason.

        • “The key to the appeal of the Mini is its smallness” – that must be the case with the “Smart” as well, as it has nothing else to recommend it, not a low price nor even good mileage.

          • The Smart is idiotic – in my book. It’s next to useless as a car because it only seats two (acceptable in a sports car, but that’s not what this is) is marginal for highway/road trip use and has nil cargo-carrying capacity. It’s basically an enclosed motorcycle without the fun, the low price, the great performance or the good gas mileage.

            The Mini, on the other hand, is a viable car. Tight back seats, true – but it has back seats. And can be used to tote groceries and so on. Not expensive, if you avoid the S and are careful with options. It’s highway/road-trip viable. Very good gas mileage (better than the “smart” car) and a hoot to drive.

            • If you’re so smart, why ain’t you good lookin’?
              The small size is the ONLY thing it’s go going, and that’s not always an advantage.

              • Hi Phillip,


                If it cost $11k, say – and got 60 MPG – I could see it.

                But it costs about as much as real cars like the Mini… and it doesn’t get better mileage than they do.

                Plus, it’s ugly!

            • eric, Tx. doesn’t seem to be a place to sell Smart cars since I’ve never seen one here. I admit I avoid cities except for interstates that go through those areas.

              You can imagine my disbelief when I saw one in real life….in Mexico. It looked about 100 times more dangerous than any two wheeled conveyance I can remember. I’d be hard pressed to believe it had either heater or a/c. Seems like a fairing would beat hell out of that little windshield that would most likely fry your butt in hot weather.

              I must be missing something or is the entire point “look at me” and as an aside “Look at me but don’t consider what a fool I am with money”.

              The guys in it in Mexico could speak English and gave me directions. I almost asked if they’d like to take a free trip 300 miles south to near Guatemala. 4 of us could easily have set it down in the back of my pickup, thrown a strap over it(or not) and hauled ass.

              Hhhmm, that gets me to thinking. How about one of those little foldup motorized scooters to fit under the rear seat that comes as an option? Not to replace a spare tire. Not sure how they’d market it and not make themselves look unreliable.

                • PtB, at least Elio is standing pat on $6800 for their base model that isn’t a stripper and supposedly gets 84 mpg although they don’t say at what speed that happens. I take the Elio newsletter just to stay up with what they’re doing. Of course adding options is rapidly expanding. I have yet to see at what speed that 84mpg is based on.

                  Imagine having one of those get in a line of trucks…..or don’t.

                  • Eightsouthman,

                    I assume that the 84mpg is at about a steady 55-70 mph on level ground.

                    A realistic combined mpg rating would be about 60mpg although YMMV.

                    If it performs similar to other cars I have owned, I would expect about 75 mpg through mixed driving and about 90mpg on the highway.

                  • Well, I am going to have an opportunity to experiment, looks like. The wife’s moving out. I’m letting her have the truck. I keep my Trans Am, the bikes. But I’m gonna need something to haul stuff (and me) on the rainy/cold days. My friend – similar situation – has an early ’90s Chevy 1500 2WD with a 350/five-speed combo that’s looking might fine. But I’m also mighty broke at the moment. A bedroll and the ’83 GL650 might be in my future…

                    • Dear Eric,

                      Sorry to hear the bad news.

                      Not much one can say when something like that happens.

                      I suppose it’s a confession of a child-like world view. But I’ve always reacted with indignation when bad things happen to good people and bad people seem to get away with murder.

                    • Thanks, Bevin.

                      It’s rough. I’m trying to keep on an even keel; hoping for the best. But it’s a really difficult time.

                    • As Mr. Bill would say (but I mean it) I feel your pain. I’ve been there. Now at 25 years on my 2nd marriage, but it still hurts.

                    • eric, I wish the best for both of you. I can tell you those early 90’s GM pickups may be THE longest lived vehicles ever. A friend had a ’93 half ton ext cab with a 350 and auto, bought it with 125K or so on it, been pulling a GN horsetrailer most of it’s life. He eventually puts a new tranny in it after another 100K or so. At about 380K it began to run real rough. The distributor was worn out so he replaced intake gaskets and put a new distributor in it. last I knew 10 years or so ago, it had over 500K and it’s still going, with what sort of odo reading I don’t know. Another friend had a similar GMC. It has over 500K with fairly worn valve guides but ran fine with a hint of oil smell in the exhaust and on it’s second auto tranny. Think Energizer Bunny. I know a lot of people who’ve just worn every single part out on those trucks and worked the whee out of them their whole lives. I’d buy a new one if I could. They’re ridiculously easy to work on and seem to be overbuilt.

                      I can tell you the key to making one seem new in some aspects is new door bushings and gaskets, tighten em up like new.

                      It may seem like a tired cliche but I can attest there’s truth to the old adage, It’s darkest before dawn. Good luck.

                • Phillip the Bruce,

                  If the Elio makes it to market as promised, I think it will sell well.

                  The Low MSRP (<$7000) and high mpg (49cty/84hwy) make this car well suited for:

                  (A) people that want inexpensive transportation without extra people/luggage capacity.

                  (B) people that need to commute to/from work.

                  (C) people that need a 2nd car in addition to family car without extra people/luggage capacity.

                  When I worked 40miles from home, I traveled 25k miles just commuting per year.

                  • Mith, I too did that for years, one reason I bought a baby pickup, a Nissan short box 4WD that got 16mpg. If I had waited a year they would have had FI and been more economical. Couda shoulda woulda I kept threatening to get another bike but seemed like I was always hauling something. We had 2 big 4WD pickups, that Nissan, an El Camino and a hotrod and a 67 Impala during part of that. We felt stretched thin after mandatory insurance. We had them all insured anyway(except the hot rod)but like all things mandated, the price went up. All those other vehicles besides the hot rod and the Impala we sold were needed. A bike just seemed like overkill although I would have enjoyed it and the wife would have hated it for no other reason than I would have enjoyed it. I was supposed to be growing up and everybody’s still waiting.

            • Ha! Maybe if the Smart car had the “golf bag” option, to put two golf bags on the back, they’d sell a few more! Then I wouldn’t have to rent a cart at the course!

            • I’ve only seen a handful of Smart 4 2 cars. Nothing about them seems very smart. Remarkably, all had morbidly obese women driving them. Clown Car 4 2 only seats one. Reminded me of an old Honeymooners episode where Carney soaked Gleason with olive oil to work him free of some tiny foreign car.

              • Hi CC,

                I don’t “get” the SmartCar, either. It’s fairly expensive, doesn’t get particularly good gas mileage, can’t carry more than one passenger and is iffy on the highway due to its very short wheelbase/tall profile (subject to wind buffeting) and modest power/performance.

                Yes, it’ll fit in tight spots/doesn’t take up much room in the garage. Neither does a Fiat 500 or Mini Cooper, but those cars perform much better, can carry 3-4 people (not comfortably, but it can be done) and they get better mileage/cost less than the Smart!

                • Dear Eric,

                  Re: Smart Car


                  Why would anyone choose one over a Fiat 500, Mini, Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta, or Honda Fit?

                  Just because it’s a Mercedes?

                  From a car buff perspective, it just doesn’t add up.

                  I’m guessing it’s being marketed as a haute couture fashion accessory for the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy set on the basis of perceived cachet rather than functional merit.

          • Dear Phil,

            The top of the line MINIs do give one sticker shock. Way too much money for such a small car.

            But the entry level and slightly above models are pretty reasonable optimizations of performance, fuel economy, ease of parking.

            When hot box prices start to climb, I always remind myself that the entry level V6 Mustang is priced in the mid 20s. Always a good alternative to keep in mind.

            And it actually performs better than the original Shelby GT-350!

            • “And it actually performs better than the original Shelby GT-350!”
              So is Carroll rolling in his grave, or applauding?

              • Well, the current Shelbys perform even better, so it’s no reflection on Shelbys.

                It’s just an interesting fact about performance then and now.

                Eric covered that in a couple of deliberately provocative articles about how “muscle cars were slow”.

                It’s merely a way to feel good if all you can afford is the V6 Mustang.

                • Yeah, but I’m too practical. Even if I could afford, say, a Golf R, I doubt I would get one. Maybe my puritanical upbringing.

  5. This is a very practical type of vehicle. Even has a “cool factor” for SUPers, surfers, kayakers and/or bikers. After the crash, will make an excellent conveyance for all those who also will be living in their car.

    But I share CC’s sentiments………”No Fiats here, thank you.”

  6. Chrysler/Fiat is now dead last in Consumer Reports reliability ranking. The more some things change, the more it stays the same. Fix It Again Tony. Just saying.

    • Yeah… but (to be fair) CR is notoriously biased and their methodology is questionable. I’m not arguing that Fiat-Chryslers are Toyota-esque (or even Kia-esque). Just that people take what CR says with a grain of salt….

      • Fiat has a world renowned reputation for building functional crap riddled with problems. Alpha Romeo and Maserati aren’t any better since being under the Fiat umbrella. The last Fiat to grace America was the Yugo. In an undeserved defense of CR, Fiat recently axed the chief quality officer and reorganized their vehicle safety unit for North American production in an effort to stem growing issues with recalls and such. Color me unimpressed.

        • Guy walks into parts store. “I’d like a new rear-view mirror for my Yugo.” Proprietor says, “OK, that sounds fair.”

  7. You mentioned the 4′ floor width between wheel wells, but I did not see a mention of the length. I don’t suppose you could lay sheets of ply or drywall in there?

  8. I once towed a massively-overloaded trailer containing everything I owned in the world all the way across the continent with a ten-year-old Nissan Altima. Good times!

    That said, whatever benefits it has, the Dodge Ram ProMaster City has a truly horrifying name. That is a name that was clearly designed by not one but *several* committees.

    • Yeah, it’s a mouthful!

      And the “committee” now includes American and Italian ones… oy vey.

      Of the three, I think the Ford has the best name. Transit Connect. It’s short, easy on the ears – gets the point across.

      • True enough. Though I must confess a bit of fondness for Mazda’s car names — Mazda 2, Mazda 3, and so forth. Short and to the point, and (to the best of my knowledge!) actually helpful, since they go in ascending order of “beefiness.”

      • At first reading(of the name)I thought it was a parody. Then I realized, it really was a parody. The joke is on anyone who’d buy it. Chrysler has a rep for building “crap” that’s over the top. Think of all those winged things with wild names, paint jobs and ridiculous exhausts, like the pickup(Little Red Wagon….for god’s sake). Overweight powertrains with the sophisticated suspension the Sooners would have loved. Creak pop groan rumble…….and cornering to die for…..literally. Great a/c’s….briefly. Great power steering….if you’re strong enough. And that wonderful ride with accompanying noises and somehow, through decades, the inability to not choke you out on dirt roads. Those engines were great though, hooked to the nat gas line and pumping water. Holiday Rambler was the best thing to ever happen to those powertrains…..4 mpg in virtually anything and that oh so distinct sound of that air-cooled starter lighting off that 440…..repeatedly on a cold morning.

        When I lived in a dorm I’d hear the same tunes every morning. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…rrrummmppp…..eeeeeeeeeee….rrummpp, over and over till it would finally run albeit with throttle going up and down and coughing and choking. Same for Ford’s, just not that same starter sound. And the VW’s with their badly adjusted valves that didn’t have to be. The rub was 20 degrees outside….and inside.

        A friend bought a Super Beetle ragtop, -73. Oh yeah, says he, they got that heater thing all worked out. He had it a year and a half and the only time I was warm was in the summer. He traded a Fairlane ragtop in on it. I would have fixed the Fairlane(if possible, typical cooling problems and slushomatic antics cold and hot). Winter: Hey, I think your tranny is dead. No, it’ll engage soon. In the summer. Hey, I think your tranny is dying. No, just let off the gas and it’ll shift.

        • Anybody else remember Marcus Welby, MD? Opening credits he’d get a call in the middle of the night, go out to his Imperial (Chrysler was a sponsor) and drive it off. The first season we got to hear that Mopar starter whining. After that they edited it out.

          • PtB, to be honest, the name barely rings a bell. Ok, I looked it up. Nope, I didn’t want tv in those days or if I did, I’d catch something like Laugh In when I could.

            Along about ’66 or so, I was sitting watching tv with my parents and whatever it was that was on just went all over me. I can almost guarantee it was a pig or doctor show. Since those were about the only shows on network tv back then and network tv was all we had, I had burned out on both before that time.

            I remember jumping up and telling my parents I’d had a lifetime of doctor and pig shows(My mother admonished me for saying pig, my dad said nothing)and I was having no more of them or stupid shit like all those westerns that were statists out the wazoo(ceptin for Have Gun Will Travel) and walked out the door. I may have grabbed a six before heading out the door to my pickup. It was a nice summer night and I don’t recall much else about it. That was fairly much it for me and tv till the 80’s when I quit trucking for many years and did other things that had me home some nights. I did several years of shift work and a friend got me started watching Alls My Chilluns. We’d get high and drink and laugh our butts off at the ridiculousness of it all.

            A few years back my wife picked up one of those multi-movie DVD’s in the bargain bin. We put it on and damned if the star wasn’t Tad. I’ll be damned. He looked the same although it was an old movie.

            I always hated David Canary’s professional high points occurred in that show. He was a great actor. I guess it was better than playing bit parts on westerns and certainly paid a lot more.


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