Peugeot Rifter MPV review
"The Peugeot Rifter is an unpretentious family workhorse that takes everyday tasks in its stride"
- Low running costs
- Comfortable ride
- Colossal boot
- Wayward handling
- Try-hard styling
- Plasticky interior
In an age where nothing seems allowed to be merely a car, but an extension of your lifestyle and personality, the Peugeot Rifter is a breath of fresh air. The Rifter, along with its sister models the Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Life, make no apologies for their simple, utilitarian nature. They're based on small vans, designed to suit the needs of independent traders, delivery companies and other businesses.
For these buyers, practicality is a must, with durability, value and fuel economy similarly important. These factors are appealing to families, too, and the Rifter – which replaces the Peugeot Partner Tepee – adds a welcome touch of style to that mix. There's more than a hint of SUV muscle to its stance, with grey cladding to its sills and wheel arch surrounds, as well as a metallic section to the lower front bumper in the style of a rock-guard.
In truth, it was always going to be a bit of a stretch to apply SUV style to what's essentially a van, but the Rifter is actually a handsome enough machine to be accepted in its own right. The body surfaces are nicely sculpted, with feature contours above each wheel arch, and a side window treatment that could have been more forgettable than it actually is. Peugeot's latest corporate nose treatment looks at home, too, and hangs together well with the Rifter's 'smiling' bumper intake and slatted lower grille.
The Rifter is nominally front-wheel drive (a four-wheel-drive version may join the range later), but that SUV-style garnish isn't just for show – in fact, it could well prove one of this practical family car's greatest assets in taking on the rough-and-tumble of urban life. The grey plastic parts should shrug off dings from car doors and errant shopping trolleys and its impressive ground clearance means city potholes shouldn't cause drama. Both the standard and long-wheelbase versions can be specified with five or seven seats; we'd only recommend the longer car if you frequently have large cargo loads to shift.
Rifter buyers can choose a petrol or diesel engine, each with two power outputs, that are familiar from other models in the Peugeot and Citroen ranges. An electric e-Rifter version is also coming later in 2021, with a 171-mile range and fast-charging capability.
With its commercial-vehicle origins, safety will be a higher priority than active driver assistance – so don't expect semi-autonomous technology. Euro NCAP awarded the Rifter four stars out of five.
MPG, running costs & CO2
A few years ago a car like this would most commonly have been sold with diesel engines but the petrol is worth considering here too, especially if you’re not a high-mileage driver. The 108bhp petrol manages 45.8mpg and the more powerful version is barely any less economical.
Both the diesels manage 57mpg and, unusually, they’re a bit cheaper to buy in the first place. The 99bhp BlueHDi 100 engine is quite sluggish, though, and the more powerful diesel is only available on top-spec GT models.
The forthcoming Peugeot e-Rifter will be the cheapest to run if you can regularly plug it in at home, although we expect it’ll be the most expensive to buy. It’ll also offer free VED and the lowest Benefit-in-Kind rate for business users.
Other running costs are unlikely to be ruinous, either – Peugeot offers service packages that make it easy to keep track of your car's annual maintenance needs. Tyres, brakes and other consumables need to be affordable to please small businesses, too – pricey parts erode profits, which is the last thing a Rifter's commercial operators want. Peugeot's UK warranty runs for three years or 60,000 miles and can be extended as long as that mileage limit isn't exceeded.
Insurance groups are very similar to the Partner Tepee's – the Rifter starts in group 10 for the entry-level diesel, rising to 16 for the most powerful petrol in top-spec GT form.
Engines, drive & performance
You can probably get a reasonable idea of how the Peugeot Rifter drives simply by looking at it – it's clearly not going to respond in corners like a sports car. Maintain realistic expectations, though, and the Rifter is thoroughly enjoyable to drive. It may be a beast of burden designed with commercial drivers in mind, but it certainly isn't all work, no play.
Only the most powerful of Rifter engines – the 128bhp BlueHDi 130 diesel or PureTech petrol of the same power – offer enough grunt to really expose its handling limits. If you do overcook things, the front end will run wide a little untidily, but all drama evaporates if you simply lift off the accelerator. Full power is best reserved for when it's really needed, such as when joining fast-moving motorway traffic or overtaking tractors on a country road.
With a body that leans noticeably in corners, there's little point in pushing the Rifter too hard on country lanes anyway. Refrain from mischief, though, and you'll find the steering to be rewardingly accurate and with a real sense of connection to the road; the overall roadholding is just as sound as any other model that shares the Rifter's chassis – the EMP2 platform that can be found under the Citroen C4 SpaceTourer and impressive Peugeot 508 hatchback.
Compared to the BlueHDi 130 diesel, the 109bhp PureTech petrol engine feels rather less happy under the weight of the Rifter, although the 128bhp version might be different. The latter comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox in place of the six-speed manual offered on others.
Of all the versions we've driven, the diesel automatic impressed us the most, so it’s a bit of a shame it’s no longer available. Picking an auto avoids the rather vague gearshift of the manual cars, while the 128bhp diesel pulls more convincingly than the ponderous 99bhp version. The heavier engine also seems to improve the Rifter's ride quality – the diesel is less prone to bobbing up and down on uneven surfaces.
Interior & comfort
Considering its 'van-with-windows' origins, the Rifter is remarkably comfortable inside. Cruising at motorway speeds is surprisingly quiet, with a roar of wind all that reminds you of just how slab-sided and tall this car is. The ride is comfortable, too – both on motorways and on slower urban roads.
It's also plush enough inside to have you considering a career driving vans. Although the Rifter is better-equipped than its commercial stablemate, the dashboard and interior design are shared between the two and all is comfortable and easy to use. Taking pride of place in the dashboard is Peugeot's i-Cockpit digital instrument panel, and we reckon the Rifter's iteration is the most successful yet – particularly as it seems tailored to suit a high driving position and tall dashboard design, which gives you a clear view over the steering wheel.
It's also pleasing to see physical controls for the heating and air-conditioning, rather than having to navigate through infotainment sub-menus in order to control the interior climate. The only disappointment is a choice of interior plastics that are clearly designed with commercial use in mind – the shiny, hard materials seem durable, but you won't enjoy touching or looking at them. Still, they might be just the ticket for dealing with the abuse that active family life can bring.
Now the base-spec Active has been dropped, the range consists of Allure, Allure Premium and GT trim levels. Even the cheapest model gets air conditioning, rear parking sensors, fog lights and an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio and smartphone mirroring. Allure Premium adds electric and tinted rear windows, a reversing camera, alloy wheels and the ability to open the rear windscreen. Top-spec GT brings keyless entry and start, multi-zone air con and more flexible rear seats.
Practicality & boot space
The SUV-style garnish that adorns the Rifter's exterior isn't the most convincing, but Peugeot's bulky MPV does actually offer certain features that are beloved of 'Chelsea Tractor' drivers. The high driving position is one and the panoramic view of the road is another. This comes thanks to a big windscreen and narrow pillars, which make it easy to judge the Rifter's width on narrow roads. And, thanks to having a far shorter nose than most SUVs, the front end's easy to keep track of, too. Indeed, even the long-wheelbase version only becomes a challenge when reversing into an awkward space.
It's clear that the Rifter was designed with long periods behind the wheel in mind – there's no shortage of places for drinks bottles – in fact, the door pockets can handle several at any one time. There's also a huge box in the dashboard, which can be cooled in some models and has ample room for a laptop computer, while rear-seat passengers get an airline-style locker that drops down from the ceiling. In total, there's 180 litres of interior storage for odds and ends.
Both lengths of Rifter have five seats in standard form, with an optional third row to bring total capacity to seven. The extra space of the long-wheelbase model is all aft of the third row, so it has little bearing on passenger room. It has a colossal effect on load space, though – in five-seat mode, the standard Rifter has a 775-litre boot, but the long-wheelbase version extends this to a huge 1,050 litres. Drop the second row and a truly van-like 4,000 litres of load volume is unlocked, compared to a still-enormous 3,000 litres for the standard model.
Reliability & safety
Standard safety equipment is generous, with all cars getting several driver assistance packs. Autonomous emergency braking is included, alongside lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and a system that spots when you’re not paying attention.
The Rifter's predecessor, the Peugeot Partner, and its near-identical Citroen Berlingo sister, could only manage a three-star rating when tested by independent crash experts Euro NCAP. However, the Rifter was given a four-star rating in tough 2018 tests. A score of 91% for adult occupant protection is impressive, but it missed out on a five-star result because its performance in the vulnerable road users category was held back by a tall bonnet and stiff windscreen pillars, while the autonomous emergency braking system is unable to detect cyclists.
It's tricky to make a judgement on owner satisfaction. Too few Partner TePee owners have participated in our annual Driver Power survey for the Rifter's predecessor to have been scutinised, but results for that car might have been different to the latest model, anyway. Peugeot's performance as a brand, though, leaves little to be desired – it took eighth place out of 30 brands in the 2020 survey. Only 12% of owners reported faults in the first year of ownership, while the Peugeot 3008, which uses the same platform as the Rifter, came second out of all the cars in the survey.