Has Peugeot's van-based Rifter compact people carrier sold out and gone a bit posh and less LCV-like? Don't worry. Behind that sleeker looking front end and all that talk of flashy multimedia systems, glass roofs and radar-based city braking functions, you can still buy a basic one that's as useful as the old Partner Tepee model used to be. It's just that you're getting a bit more sophistication this time round.
You might expect a couple of petrol engines and a diesel to be offered, but the Rifter weighs in with no fewer than five Euro6-compliant engines. So what's on offer? The petrol options open with a 110PS 1.2-litre PureTech three cylinder unit - with a 130PS version of the same powerplant also available. From there on in it's all diesel. Propping up the range is a 75PS 1.5-litre BlueHDi unit, then there are 100 and 130PS versions of much the same engine, all with Start and Stop fuel-saving technology fitted. The 130PS 1.5 diesel and the 1.2 130PS petrol models are available with automatic gearbox options.
There's also another innovation that will be of interest to UK buyers, namely Advanced Grip Control. This is a system that provides enhanced traction on roads or tracks with low grip surfaces, allowing the vehicle to continue to make progress in a situation where a normal two-wheel drive vehicle would struggle. It's combined with a generous ground clearance of 15cm with Mud & Snow tyres. It adapts to the conditions encountered by acting on the front driving wheels. At any time, the driver can choose to allow the system to operate automatically in Standard mode, or can switch it into 'Snow', 'Off-road', 'Sand', or 'ESP Off' modes by using a dial on the dash centre panel.
This Rifter model, like its Citroen Berlingo design stablemate, sits on the PSA Group's latest EMP2 platform. As with the old Partner Tepee, there are two wide sliding side doors and they feature electric windows. There are two body styles - 'either Standard Length (with five seats) or Long Length (with seven seats). At the wheel, this model uses the innovative 'Peugeot i-Cockpit' design familiar from the brand's other models.
Peugeot claims even more interior versatility this time round and storage solutions abound under every flap and in every crevice with more ingenious inclusions as you ascend the range. There are three individual seats in the rear that can be folded down with a simple movement using the 'Magic Flat' controls in the boot. Combined with a folding front passenger seat, this feature provides a perfectly flat floor and a load length of up to 2.70m for the 'Standard Length' version and 3.05m for the lengthier 'Long Length' model.
A huge tailgate makes loading easy and there's a class-leading boot volume, increased by 100-litres to 775-litres for the 'Standard Length' model. The boot is easily accessible thanks to the opening rear window in the tailgate and two different height positions for the luggage cover. Around the cabin, there are 28 large and ingenious storage spaces such as the new-generation Modutop multi-function roof that also lets more light into the interior. The 'Top Box' glove box is unique to the segment thanks to the 'Airbag in Roof' system.
Commercial-based MPVs have genuinely come of age. The Peugeot Rifter, and indeed its sister vehicle the Citroen Berlingo, is proof positive of that. But as these vehicles have become more sophisticated, the prices have quietly crept up. Also, the way we perceive and use such cars is subtly different. This Rifter can be had with a slick multimedia system and a ritzy glass roof. It's no longer the sort of thing you'd chuck a couple of muddy mountain bikes into the back of without worrying about the upholstery.
So has the Peugeot lost its way in that regard? Not really. The Rifter's available in a range of trim levels, with the French company looking to cater at the foot of the range to those who want something no-nonsense, while at the same time offering up-spec models to those who want car-like features but more space in the back. The bottom line is that this is still one of the most versatile vehicles that sensible money will buy.Click here to find out more about our Peugeot Rifter range