What Car? says...
The Peugeot Rifter is the French firm's MPV with SUV pretensions, designed specifically to dispel the notion that you have to forget about style if you want to combine the passenger-carrying versatility of a traditional people carrier with the load capacity of a small van.
A replacement for the popular Partner Tepee, it has a more adventurous and distinctly beefed-up look, aided by a short front overhang, a sharp vertical front end and further rugged styling touches that add an element of SUV desirability to proceedings.
In addition, while there is a commercial vehicle variant (otherwise known as a van), the Rifter was designed from the ground up to carry people and not just cargo – much like the latest Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life with which it shares its underpinnings.
Practical touches include sliding rear doors, roof bars, back seats that fold easily and a large rear tailgate with virtually no loading lip. There’s even the option of a stretched version with seven seats.
To further the Rifter’s hopes of attracting SUV buyers, it's available with the same sort of interior luxuries as these cars. Plus, it gets more sophisticated driver aids than its predecessor, including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
In this review we'll look at everything from what the Rifter is like to drive, to how family-friendly it is and which versions make most sense. Then, if you do decide it's the car for you, take a look at our new car buying section to see how much you could save without the hassle of haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Rifter shares its engines with the Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life. The diesel range starts with a 74bhp 1.5-litre (Blue HDi 75), which doesn't really have enough power for such a sizeable vehicle. Getting from 0-62mph officially takes more than 16sec and it feels very slow on the road, even before you've loaded the car up with passengers and luggage.
For spritelier performance, you'll need to go up to at least the 99bhp (Blue HDi 100), but the 128bhp (Blue HDi 130) is the best of the diesels and will suit those who regularly drive with family and luggage, thanks to plenty of low-down grunt. Its optional eight-speed automatic gearbox may hesitate slightly when pulling away from the traffic lights or merging onto a roundabout, but it shifts quickly once you get going and allows you to change gear manually by using the paddles behind the steering wheel.
It's a petrol – the 109bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged Puretech 110 – that's our favourite engine in the range, though. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, it pulls solidly from low revs and has enough mid-range torque to suit the five-seater models (although you're better off with the torquier BlueHDi 130 for the seven-seater). It also fells peppy enough, if you’re prepared to rev it hard. The manual ’box shifts fairly smoothly, too, even if it isn’t as slick as the gearboxes you’ll find in a Volkswagen Touran or Ford S-Max.
Overall refinement is impressive, with little road noise echoing around the spacious, lofty interior and only a tad too much wind noise disturbing the calm. The ride is mostly comfortable, although the bigger 17in alloys on GT Line models can make it a bit crashy so we'd stick to the lower trim levels with their smaller wheels.
The Rifter adopts the small octagonal steering wheel found in other Peugeot models and, while the steering isn't quite as darty as it is in those, it’s still reasonably responsive for this type of vehicle. We suspect many will prefer the larger wheel found in the Berlingo and Combo Life, however.
The interior layout, fit and finish
It’s a set-up that has attracted controversy before; the small, low-set steering wheel and high-mounted instruments can sometimes make the instruments difficult to see, depending on the driver’s height. Fortunately, this isn't the case in the Rifter, and it's easy to get comfortable, thanks to a height-adjustable seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for both reach and rake.
All-round visibility is good, too, as a result of a large glass area. Plus, the reasonably high-set driving position combines with a short front overhang to make it easy to judge the car’s front extremities, while rear parking sensors are standard on mid-range Allure models and up (front sensors are optional). It's just a pity that sensors aren’t available with entry-level Active trim, even as an option.
The dashboard is big, chunky, eye-catching and quite logically laid out, with minor controls that are easy to find and operate. Material quality is better than in the Partner Tepee, although there’s still plenty of scratchy stuff around, including some hard and rather utilitarian plastics lower down the interior. Durability, rather than a luxury feel, is the dominant sensation here.
Pleasingly, unlike in other Peugeot cars that use i-Cockpit, the Rifter's ventilation functions can be controlled with physical buttons rather than through the infotainment touchscreen. However, certain sub-menus don’t have quite the simplicity found in rival systems from the Volkswagen Group, for example, and some of the graphics on the screen are rather small and hard to decipher, especially while you're driving.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Presumably, if you’re thinking of buying a car of this type, the section of the review in which we discuss space will be of considerable interest. And as far as the Rifter goes, you’ve just arrived at space central.
With its tall roofline and height-adjustable seats, it has more than enough up front, even allowing for the aeroplane-style overhead stowage compartments. There’s also plenty of shoulder room for the driver and front passenger. What's more, the centre console between them provides lots of additional storage, the door bins are large and there are two gloveboxes in front of the passenger seat.
Move back a row, and sliding rear doors make access easy, even in tight parking spaces. Once inside, passengers will find three identically sized seats that each provide colossal head room and sufficient leg room for a six-footer to sit behind another in the front. The only disappointment inside five-seat versions of the Rifter is that the rear seats can't be slid back and forth, reclined or tumbled forward in the way possible in many conventional MPVs.
You need to opt for the seven-seat XL model if you want this flexibility. As well as a more versatile second row, it also provides third-row passengers with generous head room. However, taller adults will probably wish they had a bit more knee room.
The boot is a decent size, even when all seven seats are in place and, when not needed, the rear two can be removed to leave a space that's quite simply massive. In truth, though –even if you go for a five-seat model, you're unlikely to be disappointed by the amount of luggage you can squeeze in.
As a bonus, the front passenger seat folds completely flat on all but the entry-level Active variant, so you can use the full length of the car if you need to carry a long load. Meanwhile, the second-row seats are 60/40-split-folding unless you go for the GT Line, which features three seats that fold individually.
The huge and somewhat heavy tailgate opens up to reveal a very low loading lip, or you can open the rear screen independently to toss lighter items in without opening the tailgate at all.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Insurance group ratings that vary from 10 to 18, depending on power output and trim level, help keep costs low, too. Meanwhile, the Rifter should prove economical: the 1.5 Blue HDi 75 manual returns an official average fuel consumption figure of 68.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 109g/km. Even the top-spec 1.5 BlueHDi 130 GT Line manages 65.7mpg and 114g/km of CO2 when fitted with the optional automatic gearbox.
Active, Allure and GT Line trim levels are available and the Rifter is well equipped by the standards of this class. Mid-spec Allure looks to be the pick of the range, though; it packs an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen plus air conditioning and rear parking sensors. GT Line pushes the price up but only really adds a handful of mildly sporty cosmetic flourishes.
Peugeot has, impressively, equipped the Rifter with a number of active safety systems, including cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. It gets only a four-star EuroNCAP rating, though, partly due to a poor pedestrian protection score. Oddly, on the security side, an alarm is available only as an optional extra.
In the 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey, Peugeot finished a disappointing 24th out of 31 manufacturers. It's too early for specific data on the Rifter, but it does come with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, which is average for the class.
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|RRP price range||£26,230 - £37,300|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel, electric|
|MPG range across all versions||51.8 - 54.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£66 / £2,029|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£133 / £4,059|