David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Rifter, Peugeot's latest MPV, is based on a commercial van. That's no bad thing if space and practicality are your priorities. But how well does it tow?

Overview

Peugeot offers the Rifter with a choice of petrol and diesel engines. The 109bhp PureTech petrol is probably best for everyday driving, but for towing, we'd plump for one of the diesels.

The BlueHDi 130 is the most powerful and best suited to hauling a caravan. That's the model we have on test, in GT Line specification.

Practicality should be a given with a van-based MPV, but is it? And do those origins compromise the driving experience?

Towing

The BlueHDi 130 is the heaviest model in the Rifter range. With manual or automatic gearbox, it has the same kerb weight of 1505kg (including 75kg for the driver not included in Peugeot's published weight).

That gives an 85% match figure of 1279kg, comfortably within the 1500kg legal towing limit. Maximum nose weight is 74kg - broadly, what you would expect from a vehicle this size.

Although the most powerful model in the range, the Blue HDi 130 isn't especially strong in absolute terms, with 129bhp and 221lb ft of torque. Would that be enough to tow?

To find out, we matched the Peugeot to a Sprite Major 6 TD with a MiRO of 1342kg, an 89% match for the Peugeot.

From the first moments out on the road, it was clear that we wouldn't be going anywhere in a hurry, but acceleration was steady rather than strained.

On country roads, we needed to work the six-speed gearbox hard to maintain speed uphill, but so long as we weren't lazy with our selection, we could keep up with traffic.

The Peugeot took a similarly steady approach to the hill start. In dry conditions, the Rifter pulled away without wheelspin, but it took its time getting back up to speed.

Out on the motorway, the Peugeot would hold 60mph in sixth gear on the flat, but on gentle inclines or going into a headwind, we needed to drop to fifth or speed ebbed away.

We can live with leisurely performance so long as a car is stable. On country roads, the Rifter felt composed and firmly in charge of the caravan. The same was mostly true on the motorway, but when overtaken by high-sided vehicles or caught in a crosswind, we could feel the caravan gently tugging at the back of the car.

It was more of a fidget than a pronounced wobble, and the car was less prone to jiggling when driven at 55mph rather than 60mph. In fairness, the Sprite Major 6 TD is very long, so there was a lot of caravan for any crosswind to get hold of.

When we arrived at the site, we found the Rifter easy to manoeuvre. We backed on to the pitch with no complaints from the clutch, and good over-shoulder visibility helped us see what we were doing.

Hitching up again was also straightforward, aided by the reversing camera, which gives a clear view of the towball.

The fold-down 13-pin socket was tucked under the bumper, but there was good clearance around the ball.

The Rifter makes a solid tow car. Performance is steady and we would prefer a more secure feel in crosswinds, but for a relatively small and light MPV, the Peugeot tows acceptably.

Everyday driving

You might not expect much from a car that's based on a van, but it would be wrong to dismiss the Rifter too quickly.

It's a likeable everyday drive, with light and easy controls, fair performance and good comfort.

Freed from the burden of pulling 1342kg of metal, GRP, furniture and white goods, the Blue HDi engine does a fair job. It's quiet, and although there's some wind and road noise at speed, the cabin is hushed enough for quiet conversation.

The Rifter has an unusually small steering wheel, a feature of Peugeot interiors in recent years. It suggests a sportiness that's at odds with the car's practical brief, but the steering is direct and accurate by MPV standards. It would be a stretch to describe the Rifter as fun, but it's not as bland or boring as you might think.

The ride is on the firm side, to which the 17-inch alloys and low-profile tyres fitted to GT Line models must contribute. Colleagues who've driven other models with smaller wheels report improved ride comfort.

The Rifter's tight turning circle and compact size make this an easy car to drive around town or manoeuvre into a small parking space. However, the front windscreen pillars are very thick, which can obscure the driver's view at junctions.

Space

This is what cars like the Rifter are all about. It really is very practical, and as well as the five-seater tested here, there's also a seven-seat model.

Van-based MPVs often have plenty of space, but lack the design ingenuity of the very best people carriers. In the Rifter, there's evidence of both.

Much effort has gone into offering excellent storage in the cabin. Door bins are large, and there's a huge covered storage area between the front seats, and a tray for small items under the driver's seat. There's more storage under the floor in the back of the cabin.

Still need somewhere for all those knick-knacks? GT Line models have what Peugeot calls the Zenith roof. Beneath the glass sunroof sits a 'floating' arch with a further 14 litres of storage. At the back of the car, the arch leads to an aircraft-style locker, which can hold items weighing up to 10kg.

Very few cars come close to the Rifter's luggage capacity - it will take some effort to fill the 775-litre boot. It's easy to load, as the floor sits low to the ground, the opening is wide and there's no load lip.

With rear seats folded (the front passenger seat also folds), the total capacity increases to 3000 litres. But with the back seats lowered, rearward travel of the front seats is restricted.

The driver sits high, even with the seat on its lowest setting. However, raising the seat a bit helps gauge where the front of the car ends, as the bonnet quickly slopes out of your view. We found it simple to find a comfortable position, although the seats offer little support when cornering.

Sliding doors make it easy to get in and out of the back of the car, even in a narrow parking spot. In GT Line cars, vents between the front seats blow chilled air at those in the back, and there are fold-out picnic tables on the back seats. However, legroom is tight.

Running costs

The Rifter range starts from £20,240, and even the high-spec model we're testing costs less than £25,000.

That's before you start haggling. According to our colleagues on What Car?, some gentle persuasion should drop the price to around £23,319.

Your money buys dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button starting, touchscreen sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a DAB radio, panoramic glass sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control.

There's also a long list of safety kit - the car scored four stars from Euro NCAP.

Running costs should be modest. Under the WLTP test regimen, the car achieves 45.2 - 50.1mpg on the combined cycle. The Rifter was frugal while towing, returning 31.3mpg. Insurance should be reasonable, as the car is in group 15E.

Sell it after three years and 36,000 miles, and you can expect about 41% of the original list price. That's good rather than great, but the Rifter is a sensible and cost-effective buy.

Technical specs

Engine size1499 cc
Kerbweight1505 kg
85% KW1279 kg
Towball limit74 kg
Maximum towing limit1500 kg
Power129.0 bhp
Torque221.0 lb ft
Official MPG50.1 mpg
Towing MPG31.3 mpg
CO2114 g/km

Verdict

If there were no such thing as fashion, a good many more of us would drive cars like the Peugeot Rifter.

It might not be as stylish as a crossover or an SUV, but it ticks a lot of boxes as family transport. If you don't give two hoots for admiring glances on the school run or at the campsite, it could be for you.

As a tow car, the Rifter has its limitations. Even with the most powerful engine in the range, you'll need a heavy right foot to shift along at a lick. And when the wind picks up, the car tends to fidget slightly, rather than tow dead straight.

However, it stays the right side of being underpowered, and those slight movements on the motorway never really had us worried.

The Rifter is an easy car to drive everyday, thanks to the light controls, its compact size, and respectable performance. It handles fine for a van-based MPV, and the ride is firm but still comfortable.

But the Peugeot's strengths really lie elsewhere. Aside from modest rear legroom, this is a supremely practical car. The boot is bigger than some sheds, and the cabin is packed with clever storage solutions. It's affordable to buy and run, too.

Peugeot hasn't been greedy in setting the price, especially when you consider the kit that comes as standard. And we were highly impressed by the Rifter's fuel economy while towing.

So it's not the kind of car to make your friends envious, or inspire you to take the long way home. But it's a thoroughly sensible and practical MPV.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Easy everyday car
  • Very large storage capacity
  • Very practical

Cons

  • Car fidgets when towing in a crosswind
  • Not particularly stylish