The Rifter shares its engine range with the Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life, starting with a 109bhp 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine or a 128bhp variant that comes exclusively with an automatic gearbox. There are also three 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel engines with 74bhp, 99bhp and 128bhp respectively. All diesel engines come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, but the most powerful diesel is also available with a new eight-speed automatic unit.
So far, we’ve only driven the top-of-the-range diesel with an automatic gearbox and the mid-spec diesel with a six-speed manual. The 128bhp engine is a surprisingly smooth and punchy performer, never emitting more than a background hum around town and even fading into the background completely at higher speeds. It’s a flexible engine that pushes the Rifter around with ease, seeing off the 0-62mph dash in just 10.4sec in manual form and 10.8sec in automatic form. Just don't expect blistering performance, especially with a full load on board.
The 99bhp diesel, meanwhile, is also worth considering if you're no speed demon. Like its more powerful relation, it's quiet and smooth, and despite being around two seconds slower from 0-62mph, it's still a nice torquey engine that pulls well from low revs.
We're yet to try the other engines, but it's likely that the entry-level diesel will prove to be frustratingly slow. If you want petrol power, the 109bhp 1.2-litre Puretech engine impressed us when we drove it in the Berlingo and should offer similarly impressive flexible performance in the Rifter.
Overall refinement is impressive, with little road noise echoing around the spacious, lofty interior and only a tad too much wind noise to disturb the calm. On top of that, the ride is comfortable as well. It does feel a little fidgety around town, but things smooth out nicely up at motorway speeds. The bigger 17in alloys on GT Line can make the ride a bit crashy, so we'd stick to the lower trim levels that get you 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 Rifter corners reasonably well, too, although there is a fair bit of body roll through corners, and grip soon runs out if you push it too hard. Moreover, you will always be conscious of the car’s relative height. That said, when cornering, it feels more like a competent compact SUV than a small pseudo-van. Even so, a Volkswagen Touran is noticeably better in the twisties. Still, the Rifter does score brownie points for having a commendably tight turning circle.