The Peugeot Rifter is ideal if you’re looking for a spacious and practical family car but don’t want to pay for an expensive SUV – just don’t expect it to be in any way sophisticated
The Peugeot Rifter is a boxy shaped family car that gives you loads of interior space and a huge boot, as you would expect from a car that’s based on a van. But if you’re expecting the Rifter’s interior to have the pizzaz of the Peugeot 3008 SUV’s cabin, you’ll be disappointed because there’s none of that car’s smart design or use of eccentric fabric trims.
No, in the Rifter you get loads of hard plastics with the odd flash of colour to stop things looking too miserable. The small steering wheel and instrument binnacle that sits above it are nods to the i-Cockpit style design you get in other Peugeot cars, as is the infotainment system that sprouts out the top of the dashboard in all but entry-level Access models.
The touchscreen’s prominent position and decent size make it fairly easy to use even when you’re driving, and the sat-nav’s directions are easy enough to follow. You even get separate ventilation controls so you don’t have to go hunting through menus just to turn up the fan, as you do in a Peugeot 308.
There are more compelling reasons to choose the Peugeot Rifter over a 308, though, and the most obvious is its generous interior space. You get loads of room up front and all models offer adjustment to ensure you get a comfortable driving position, whether you’re tall or small. It’s just a shame the seats themselves aren’t very supportive.
A similar accusation could be made of the back seats, which have loads of head and leg room but feel a little too upright to be comfortable for your passengers on long journeys. Mind you, the rear sliding doors give you great access, plus its width and flat floor mean you can carry three adults without anyone feeling short of elbow or foot room. Wait until 2019 and you’ll also be able to choose a seven-seater model, which really does have space for seven tall adults.
Whichever model you choose, interior storage is also very impressive. The Peugeot Rifter gets the door bins and cup holders you’d expect of any family car and to those it adds handy features such as a deep cubby between the front seats – big enough for several two-litre bottles of water – train-style overhead storage and a large lidded box on top of the dashboard in addition to the regular glove box.
The Peugeot Rifter is like an SUV that’s had all the desirability squeezed out of it
The practical theme continues when you get to the boot – its huge opening, boxy shape and lack of a load lip make it simple to pack and it should easily swallow a family’s luggage for a fortnight away.
Head onto the road and you’ll find the Rifter’s boxy shape doesn’t just make it practical, the raised driving position also gives you a decent view out – although the large pillar around the windscreen can hide cyclists when you’re pulling out of junctions. Parking isn’t an issue, though, because mid-range models and above come with reversing sensors as standard. Automatic emergency brakes are also standard and, if you do lots of town driving, it is also worth considering the smooth-shifting optional eight-speed automatic gearbox.
It suits the relaxed way you tend to drive the Peugeot Rifter, which suffers from plenty of body roll in bends. Slow steering – despite the tiny wheel – doesn’t exactly encourage spirited driving but, if you feel the need, the Peugeot goes where you point it and has plenty of grip.
Surprisingly, it’s actually on the motorway where the Rifter’s van DNA is at its most obvious – at a cruise there’s quite a lot of wind and engine noise, and no models could claim to have an excess of horsepower for fast motorway overtakes.
Having said that, the 110hp Blue HDi diesel is quick enough for most people’s needs and should happily return fuel economy of more than 60mpg. The 110 PureTech petrol’s nippier performance makes it a better bet if you’ll mostly drive it in town and it will be more frugal than a petrol SUV of a similar size.
In fact, the Rifter’s low price and huge interior mean it’s arguably a better family car than any SUV for the same money, but only if you can live with its boxy looks and stodgy image.