Car News

Canadian Truck King Challenge: Cargo Vans

Full-Size Cargo Vans
CTKC Winner: Ford Transit Top Pick: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x2

Small Cargo Vans
CTKC Winner: Mercedes-Benz Metris Top Pick: Ram ProMaster City

It wasn't until the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, a little over a dozen years ago, that North American buyers had a van expressly designed for working needs. Until then, they made do with crude cargo vans that were little more than pickup truck with boxes crudely welded to their frames.

But the Sprinter changed all that, and spawned a new segment that soon saw the emergence of the Ford Transit, Nissan NV and Ram ProMaster.

Small vans were a familiar sight on Europe's narrow streets, but they were a novelty here when the Ford Transit Connect arrived in 2009. The segment has since exploded, and joining the Transit Connect are the Nissan NV200, Ram ProMaster City and Mercedes-Benz Metris.

Over a 20-km drive loop incorporating highway and downtown streets, we tested the vehicles back-to-back both empty and with a 900-kg (2,000-lb) payload for the large vans, and 450-kg (1,000-lb) for the smaller rigs.

"The Challenge represents an excellent opportunity to see how well the Sprinter, the Sprinter 4x4 and the Metris will perform against their main competitors in their respective segments. The results will certainly contribute to making potential buyers more aware of each entry's unique attributes." said Miki Velemirovich, National Manager, Mercedes-Benz Vans.

Last year's reigning Ford Transit was able to hold on to its title as the full-size cargo van winner. Judges praised its "strong diesel engine, solid driving dynamics, versatility, and great sightlines."

The full-size Ram ProMaster was an interesting entry with its heavy duty diesel engine, but the automated manual transmission earned it comparisons to early Smart Fortwos for its hesitant lurching between gears.

And while my own choice in small vans, the Ram ProMaster City, won me over with its nimble utility, the judges preferred the Metris's refined powertrain, comfortable interior and solid handling.

Its low price was a big factor in the Nissan NV200's overall win last year. Returning this year with slightly more content, the NV200's higher price, coupled with the strained performance of its noisy CVT left it out of the running for top spot.

Quick Specs
Full Size Cargo Vans
2015 Ford Transit 250 HR Van
Base Price $39,449
Price as tested: $53,453
Engine: 3.2L inline-5-cylinder diesel
Power: 185 hp, 350 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

2015 Ram ProMaster 136"
Base Price: $33,495
Price as tested: $43,915
Engine: 3.0L inline-4-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 174 hp @ 3600 rpm, 295 lb-ft @1400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automated manual

2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x2
Base Price: $41,900
Price as tested: $45,880
Engine: 3.0L V6 turbodiesel
Power: 188 hp @ 3800 rpm, 325 lb-ft @1400 rpm
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic

2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4
Base Price: $51,900
Price as tested: $57,900
Engine: 3.0L V6 turbodiesel
Power: 188 hp @ 3800 rpm, 325 lb-ft @1400 rpm
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic

Small Cargo Vans
2016 Ram ProMaster City
Base Price: $28,995
Price as tested: $30,840
Engine: 2.4L inline-4-cylinder
Power 178 hp @ 6400 rpm, 174 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic

2015 Nissan NV200
Base Price: $23,648
Price as tested: $24,098
Engine: 2.0L inline-4-cylinder
Power: 131 hp @ 5200 rpm, 139 lb-ft @ 4800
Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)

2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris
Base Price: $33,900
Price as tested: $34,530
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 208 hp @ 5500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @1250 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic