The 2016 Ford Transit Connect, 2016 Nissan NV200, 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris and 2016 RAM ProMaster City commercial vehicles all are kinda funky to look at. But if it’s time for a new commercial vehicle for your small business, or maybe to help with household projects or hobbies, you may want to check out these revolutionary, small commercial-personal vans. Widely referred to as “Euro-vans,” the quickly emerging new breed is nimbler, more refined and way more efficient than the lumbering old-school vans they’re replacing.
But their enhanced maneuverability and carlike driving manners don’t come at the expense of utility. For the most part, the new small commercial vans simply hold more cargo and accommodate passengers more effectively than the vans we’ve known for decades. It’s all down to improved packaging. The new vans’ low floors and higher roofs mean you can carry more freight or make the rear section more comfortable for people.
Ford started the revolution with its Transit Connect. Nissan was quick to follow with the NV200, as was FiatChrysler’s RAM brand with the ProMaster City. The newest option is the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris, which rolled into the luxury brand’s showrooms in the fall of 2015.
All four vans share a certain funky-chic design similarity dictated by the priority of efficient packaging, and their cargo areas are designed to be professionally “upfitted” for specific businesses or tasks. But there are variations in their generally similar size and footprint — as well as more noticeable differences in how these vans get the job done. Most have available rearview cameras — a very useful feature for this kind of vehicle — and broadly comparable safety and technology features. So we’ve boiled it down to a quick comparison of the vans’ key dimensions, utility aspects and some other notable characteristics.
2016 Ford Transit Connect
The Transit Connect started the trend towards European designed commercial vehicles for the United States and remains the compact commercial van that offers the most options. You can get it as a cargo van or passenger-carrying “wagon.” There are standard-wheelbase or long-wheelbase lengths, two trim levels and two 4-cylinder engine choices, a 2.5-liter or a plucky turbocharged 1.6-liter.
Nimble and easy to park, the front-drive Transit Connect probably is the van that drives most like a car or small pickup — particularly if you choose the standard-wheelbase layout, which also is a snap to park. The 2016 Transit Connect presents plenty of utility, including a choice of dual-hinged rear doors or a lift gate and a rearview camera is available, as is Ford’s programmable MyKey that enables certain driving-function limitations and tracking. Creature comforts include the MyFord Touch driver interface for audio, phone and other controls, navigation and a large 6.5-inch touchscreen.
Fuel economy is a strong point: the Transit Connect with the 1.6-liter engine will net you 25 miles per gallon combined. The base 2.5-liter engine is decent but not overwhelming in terms of power or efficiency.
Pros: Easy to see out, handles like a car, solid payload capability, variety of configuration options.
Cons: Base 2.5-liter engine best for light duty only.
Wheelbase (inches): 104.8 (standard)/120.6 (long)
Length (inches): 173.9/189.7
Width (inches): 72.2
Height (inches): 72.5/72.8
Turning radius (feet): 36.1/40
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 103.9/128.6
Payload (lbs.): 1,620
Towing capacity (lbs.): 2,000
Horsepower/Torque: 2.5-liter: 169/171; 1.6-liter: 178/184
Combined fuel economy: 2.5-liter: 22 mpg; 1.6-liter: 25 mpg
2016 Nissan NV200
Nissan takes a little more of a minimalist approach with the 2016 NV200. It’s available only as a cargo van with a single wheelbase and two trim choices. Like its rivals, though, the NV200’s cabin is loaded with thoughtful storage spaces and the cargo area bristles with tie-down points. A sliding door on each side is standard.
The 2016 NV200 is on the smaller side of the compact commercial van spectrum; it has the lowest payload rating and its cargo area is smaller than all but the short-wheelbase version of Ford’s Transit Connect. The NV200 also is noticeably narrower than its rivals, which may cause a pinch if you plan to often use the van with a driver and a passenger. That narrowness does have an upside however: the NV200 slides into parking spaces just like your family car.
The NV200 is front-wheel drive. It’s engine, at 2.0 liters and just 131 hp, is the thinnest feeling on the road and you may not immediately cozy up to the NV200’s continuously variable transmission, which helps deliver admirable fuel efficiency but makes groany noises. The interior has a good bit of hard but durable-looking plastic, but the driver is treated to a 6-way adjustable seat and the optional driver-interface system features a 5.8-inch touchscreen, the largest in any small commercial van. A rearview camera is optional and there are clever touches such as a “mobile office” center console and a passenger seat that folds down to become a table or desk.
Pros: Simple to buy, Nissan’s reputation for reliability, handles standard loading pallets.
Cons: Not many configuration choices, stark interior, not rated to tow.
Wheelbase (inches): 115.2
Length (inches): 186.3
Width (inches): 68.1
Height (inches): 73.7
Turning radius (feet): 36.7
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 122.7
Payload (lbs.): 1,450-1,480
Towing capacity (lbs.): N/A
Combined fuel economy: 25 mpg
2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris
Okay, the Metris clearly is the “luxury” choice among small commercial vehicles. But beyond that, the Metris breaks the mold by being noticeably larger than its competitors while still being “garageable.” The Metris is a foot longer than the long-wheelbase version of the Transit Connect and the Metris has the longest wheelbase of all compact vans.
So what you get is a “larger-than-compact” commercial vehicle with utility aspects — payload, towing and cargo capacity — that far exceed those of other small commercial vans. The Metris can haul 880 pounds more than the Transit Connect, 1,000 pounds more than the Nissan NV200. And if you need your van to tow, the 2016 Metris clearly is your van: it can yank up to 4,960 pounds, compared to the maximum of 2,000 pounds for the others.
And man, that turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is creamy. It might feel even more so because the Metris is the only one of these small commercial vans to drive the rear wheels. It makes for a definitive premium sensation, although if you live in a foul-weather state, you might reasonably consider the Metris’ rear-wheel drive a drawback. That premium engine means premium gasoline is recommended (though you can use regular) and the extra power, combined with the Metris’ extra size, results in lower fuel economy than the other commercial vans. But it’s not much lower.
The 2016 Metris steers with the determination of a luxury sedan, and its interior has an evident high-quality look and feel to its trim, seats and other touch points. And Mercedes doesn’t skimp on the latest electric-safety features, either: you can get a parking-assist and lane-keeping system, a low-speed collision-avoidance system, blind-spot warning and, of course, a rearview camera.
Pros: Refined and powerful engine, vast cargo capacity, mighty towing ability, Mercedes’ durability.
Cons: Pricey, larger size impacts fuel economy.
Wheelbase (inches): 126
Length (inches): 202.4
Width (inches): 75.9
Height (inches): 75.2
Turning radius (feet): 38.7
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 186
Payload (lbs.): 2,502
Towing capacity (lbs.): 4,960
Combined fuel economy: 22 mpg
2016 RAM ProMaster City
The front-wheel-drive ProMaster City is based on FiatChrysler’s European Doblo. There are four trim choices, two each for the cargo version or the passenger-configured wagon.
The only available engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. Running through a sophisticated and efficiency-enhancing 9-speed automatic transmission, its 178 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque feels robust out on the street. The ProMaster City is marginally larger than all its competitors except the newly-available Mercedes-Benz Metris. So the ProMaster City’s cargo area can swallow standard pallets or up to seven occupants when configured as a passenger wagon.
Pros: Sweet steering, good fuel economy, roomy driver area, standard Bluetooth connectivity.
Cons: Cargo version is loud at highway speed, optional navigation system is horrid.
Wheelbase (inches): 122.4
Length (inches): 187.5
Width (inches): 72.1
Height (inches): 74
Turning radius (feet): 42
Cargo capacity (cu. ft.): 131.7
Payload (lbs.): 1,883
Towing capacity (lbs.): 2,000
Combined fuel economy: 24 mpg